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Five tips for a Google Glass newbie

Becoming a Glass Explorer is an exciting time. Just as with any new device, there is a learning curve. Here's five tips to make you feel less like a n00b.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

When Google provided Glass Explorers with the option to invite three friends to join the program, many users were very excited, and rightfully so. This time around Google isn't requiring new Explorers to make the journey to pick up Glass, where they would have received a hands-on demo of the headset. Instead Google is shipping Glass directly to the nominated Explorers and offering a 45-minute tutorial session through a Google+ Hangout.

Without the hands-on time with a Glass Guide sitting next to you, there are sure to be some questions after the Hangout is over. Below are five of the most common questions I see in both the Glass Community forums along with in various Google Glass Explorer groups across Google+.

iOS vs Android

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Easily the biggest question for new Glass Explorers is whether or not an Android device is required to use Glass. The short answer is no, an Android device is not required.

Glass users who carry around an iPhone will be able to take advantage of most features offered by Glass, but there are some pretty big holes left in the functionality. iPhone users will not be able to take advantage of SMS messaging and forgoing the tethering requirement to a paired device.

A recent update to Google Glass, along with the imminent release of the MyGlass app for iOS, has given iPhone users the option to screencast, get directions, and send messages via Hangouts.

iPhone users will be able to use any app that simply relies on a data connection, so long as Glass is connected to Wi-Fi or an iOS device with a tethering plan. For a more complete run-through of the experience of using Glass with an iPhone, be sure to read my post here.

Glass Explorers with an iPhone should use the Google Search app to better manage the Google Now content shown to them on Glass. With Google Now you can set reminders, view sports updates, weather, traffic alerts and so much more.

Android users will need to install the MyGlass companion app to take advantage of features iOS users can't. The biggest advantage of using an Android device over iOS that's not often talked about is the fact that a tethering plan is no longer required to use Glass when Wi-Fi isn't available. Google updated the MyGlass app, adding the ability for the app to handle all data throughput through the app, instead of through Bluetooth tethering. This feature alone can potentially save Glass Explorers from having to switch data plans, or spending some extra cash every month just to use Glass.

For iPhone users who are thinking about giving Android a try with Glass, I recommend picking up a Nexus 5. At the price point of $350 for the base model, and the fact that it's an an unlocked device without a contract, you can't really go wrong. The return period of two weeks is more than enough time for you to judge whether or not making the switch is worth it. For those who want to give it a try but are on Verizon, any Android device running Android 4.0 and above will work.


Jason Cipriani/CNET

This is one of my favorite features of the camera app on Glass. A couple of months ago the ability to take a photo and have a screenshot from Glass placed in the top-right corner of the photo was added. The feature is called Vignette and is super simple to use; you just have to remember to follow a certain order when taking a photo.

To apply the Vignette effect to a photo, the screen on Glass needs to be on. It doesn't matter which app or service you're currently viewing, it just needs to be on with information present.

Next snap a photo using the physical button on Glass itself. You will see the screen change to the camera and hear the shutter sound. Instead of swiping down to back out of the camera, tap on the touchpad to bring up the menu. The first option will be Vignette. Select it and watch as Glass takes your photo and applies the screenshot.

Vignettes are the perfect way to express what it feels and looks like to wear Glass at different times, completing different tasks. Get creative with it.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Google has officially named apps on Glass Glassware. There are two different types of Glassware: Web apps or native apps. The former are what powers Google Now, Twitter, Facebook and a lot of third-party apps currently available. Native apps aren't readily available, and require you to side load the app using the command line. Google is prepping to roll out native apps in a big way, making it easy to install and manage them, but it's not quite ready yet.

When you first set up Glass you were able to activate Glassware using the MyGlass Web site. There is a healthy list of Glassware on the site, all of which is officially approved by Google. But for those who want to use some apps and services currently being developed, there are some more options.

Once in a while, give Glass-Apps.org a visit and browse through the Glassware listed on the site. Some apps are the official apps Google has already provided you access to, while others are third-party apps. Keep in mind that the current restrictions placed by Google on developers and use of the Mirror API (used to power Glassware) is pretty tight, so not all apps will work as expected (and some won't work at all due to hitting API limits).


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Glass, of course, has Google+ social integration built right in, with the option to activate Twitter and Facebook (along with Path and Tumblr). Each service can be enabled or disabled via the MyGlass app or site.

When it comes to what tweets you'll receive on Glass, you can expect to receive any mentions and direct messages, but there's more to it than that. You may also notice you're receiving random tweets from brands or people you follow. The reason is because you have mobile alerts enabled for that particular account. With mobile alerts turned on you'll have every tweet the person sends sent directly to Glass.

You can manage this setting on an account-by-account basis by visiting the user's profile page on Twitter.com and clicking on the profile icon next to the Follow button. There you'll find an option to turn mobile notifications on or off.


Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

When I first started using Glass I had a lot of issues getting my Gmail account to actually send e-mails to Glass. It took some tinkering and asking my fellow Explorers what was going on, but I finally figured it out.

Any e-mails marked as important in your Gmail (or Google Apps) account will be sent to Glass.

If you're having trouble getting your messages on Glass, make sure they're being properly marked as important.

A key resource in helping you learn more about Glass and its little nuances is the Glass-Community Web site. Here Glass Explorers and Guides come together and talk everything Glass. There's a ton of information available there; be sure to take advantage of it. Any new Glass Explorers feel free to leave a comment below with other questions you may have or your initial thoughts after receiving and using Glass.