Could Google's inescapable Glass specs really be the next iPhone?

Whether you like it or not, there will likely be tens of millions of Google's Glass on the streets within the next few years and one analyst believes its impact will be as great as Apple's iconic smartphone.

If analysts are on the money, it will be near impossible for people to avoid the Glass gaze in future — and Google's networked specs could be the next iPhone.

There could be millions of networked spectacles worn on the streets and in workplaces in coming years if numbers from analyst house Forrester's recent Glass survey are realised.

Canvassing the opinions of 4,600 adults in the US, the analyst firm found that 12 percent of Americans (21 million people) would be willing to wear augmented reality glasses if they come from a trusted brand.

"We have no doubt that in time, Glass will be the next iPhone — the next great platform for engaging consumers and workers," writes Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps.

Exactly when, she doesn't say, but BI Intelligence recently predicted Glass sales will climb from 831,000 in 2014 to 21 million devices in 2018, with prices to fall to $600 by 2016. That could mean as many as 40 million Glass devices in the wild within the next five years. 

So far, Glass has been limited to Explorer developers and is being rolled out to about 8,000 winners of the #ifihadglass competition, so most respondents to Forrester's survey are likely have never worn the product or seen the reaction from others who perhaps don't want their image and location uploaded to Google's servers.

Still, the survey is a sign there could be enough early adopters who are willing to normalise the socially-challenging device, which Google is aiming to sell to the public at large by the end of the year .

Epps is betting Glass has a much bigger impact than less invasive wearables like smartwatches, pointing to its potential in media, banks and retail as a platform to engage with both customers and workers. On the other hand, the analyst also notes that consumers could reject it for the same Bluetooth headsets are not particularly popular. 

Respondents to Forrester's survey were also less keen on wearing networked glasses than a wrist device like a smartwatch or something clipped to clothing (29 percent), like Memoto's always-on life-logging camera .  

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Image credit: Forrester. Source: North American Technographics® Consumer Technology Survey, 2013.


According to Epps, half the early adopters are expected to be Gen Y or Z, while others will be doctors, construction workers and farmers, who see a benefit in having a handsfree device. A company called Dito recently claimed to be working a series of enterprise Glassware apps , including a 3D site simulator for a construction company. 

Adding to Glass' potential is the Glass Collective, a group that includes VC firms Andreeson Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and Google Ventures, which are looking to seed hardware and apps for the enterprise and consumers. 

It's not a question of "if" Glass takes off, but "when", Epps reckons.