Google Glass Software Update Nets Longer Battery Life, New Features

The latest Google Glass software update gets Glass running on Android KitKat and brings other improvements.

Google Glass devices are slated to receive a new software update this week that brings Android KitKat, improved battery life and myriad other improvements and new features to Glass devices.

The updates were unveiled April 14 in a post on the Glass Google+ page. "You've been asking us when the next round of updates were coming," the post states. "Well, they're coming later this week! We know it's been a little while, but this is a big one and we think it's well worth the wait."

The inclusion of KitKat for Glass is a big change, according to the post, because it will bring a wide assortment of built-in upgrades, including improved battery life, increased reliability and easier future updates. "And now that Glass runs Android Kit Kat, developers can write Glassware using the latest Android SDK (Software Development Kit) goodness, along with new features from our GDK (Glass Development Kit)."

Also new to the update is a feature that allows Glass users to more easily organize their photos through Glass using "Photo Bundles," the post states. "This one has been a long-standing request from our Explorers: now when you scroll through your timeline, your photos, videos and vignettes from each day will be organized in bundles so that you can swipe less and see more."

Also added are new ways for Glass users to send photos while using Google Hangout messages. "The next time someone asks 'what's up,' tap 'Reply' and then take a photo to show them. (If you already took the perfect photo, you can still tap to 'Send' it in a Hangout chat.)"

Sending feedback about Glass to Google is also easier under the new update, according to the post. "Tap on the device info card in Settings and tell us what's on your mind. If you need help, you can still send us an email, call us, or post in the Explorers Community."

For users who like using voice commands with Glass, another improvement is aimed directly at them to help them better sort their voice commands. "With new features and Glassware, your voice command menu has grown pretty long," the post continues. "When you tap or say 'ok glass,' voice commands are now sorted by [how recent they are] and frequency, making it easier to see the commands you use most often and faster to access them from the touch menu."

One feature being removed from Glass under the new update are video call capabilities, which have not yet been working as Google had planned, the post states. "We hold ourselves to high standards for the features that we build, and video calls aren't living up to these standards. Explorers have told us so directly, and fewer than 10 percent of them use video calls. For this reason, we've made the hard decision to remove video calls from Glass until the experience is better. We don't know when that will be, but in the meantime, keep an eye on MyGlass as more Glassware is built and released—we're already seeing the developer community work on other video streaming services. We've always said that feedback from Explorers shapes Glass, and this is no exception."

The latest Glass update follows another big update that arrived in November 2013, when Google added helpful improvements that allowed easier setup and new capabilities for Glass users to access their personalized Google Calendar appointments and upcoming events while using Glass.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first arrived in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development, at which it was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.

Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.