On Tuesday, Google released its latest firmware update to Google Glass. Bringing the software version to XE12, a long list of features were included in the update. Full Hangouts support, a lock screen, YouTube uploading, and the ability to snap a photo by winking are all pretty big features. But there's one feature that's sure to make many Glass Explorers, and would-be Explorers, happy: iOS compatibility.
In the past Glass owners who refused to switch over to Android were forced to give up two pretty big features of Glass. The first was the ability to send text messages using Glass, the second turn-by-turn navigation.
The limitations, according to Google, were due to how restrictive Apple is with its operating system. There's some truth to it, as Apple doesn't currently offer an automated method for sending a text or iMessage without the user explicitly tapping Send on the iOS device. That alone is reason enough for Google to skip adding iOS messages support to Glass.
With the release of XE12, along with the official MyGlass app for iOS, iPhone users can now get more out of Glass. The MyGlass app itself isn't available in the App Store yet, but it will be by the end of the week, according to Google. But as Google pointed out when it announced XE12, there was a mix-up and MyGlass was made available for a brief time before it was eventually pulled.
I was lucky enough to grab the app before it was pulled. With that said, let's take a look at what iOS compatibility means for Glass Explorers who prefer the "other" platform.
The MyGlass app on iOS has a slide out menu where you can find a list of options from which you can manage Glass.
The first item is Device, which not only shows you the connection status of Glass to your iOS device, but also lets you add a Wi-Fi network to Glass.
You're also able to add contacts to Glass through the app, view your currently active Glassware, add new Glassware from the official gallery and screencast.
Screencasting Glass to an iOS device requires your iPhone and Glass to be on the same Wi-Fi network, or for your iPhone to have Bluetooth and Personal Hotspot enabled. One feature missing from this capability when compared to its Android counterpart is the ability to actually control Glass from the iPhone. Android users can now only screencast, but by using gestures on an Android device, Glass can be controlled remotely. I haven't been able to get this same feature to work on iOS.
For the first time, iOS users with Glass will be able to use Google's turn-by-turn navigation. The process for getting directions and starting navigation is identical to Android, but you might encounter a few bumps along the way.
I've found that the connection between my iPhone and Glass seems to be intermittent. If I haven't recently launched the MyGlass app on my iPhone, the app no longer recognizes that Glass is still connected via Bluetooth. To fix the issue, and in turn force Glass to recognize navigation is available, I have to relaunch the MyGlass app. Perhaps a fix is forthcoming and this is the reason behind Google pulling the app from the App Store.
Since sending a message isn't a seamless process for third-party apps on iOS, your only alternative is to enable Hangouts in the Glassware section of the MyGlass app. By turning this service on you're able to send Hangout messages to your contacts who also use Hangouts. This only requires a data connection and is handled by Glass, regardless of the device you're connected to. It's not iMessage or text messaging, but it's a close second.
You can even take photos on Glass and share them directly with a Hangout contact or group, which wasn't previously possible on Glass.
It's a start
In the end, MyGlass on iOS is a terrific start to bringing Glass to another platform. The added abilities of contact, Glassware, and Wi-Fi management, along with navigation, are welcomed by all. I do wish the connection between MyGlass and Glass was more consistent and one that didn't require as much maintenance, but I'll take it for now. Hopefully an update in the future addresses the issue.
If you have Glass and were quick enough to grab MyGlass from the App Store yesterday, what's your experience been so far? Those of you new to Google Glass can find some helpful tips for getting started with it here.