Google Glass, VSP deal promising, but not wearable big bang

Google gets distribution for Google Glass, a viable sales channel and an insurance push, but mass market acceptance and pricing isn't a slam dunk.

prescription google glass

Google and VSP Vision Care, an insurer for eye care, have reportedly reached a deal that will offer prescription frames and lenses for Google Glass, those pricey Internet connected specs.

The big win here for Google is that its Google Glass will be embedded into the health care system and subsidized to some degree. The general theme in a New York Times story is that Google will get a lot of distribution and every person will ultimately have Internet connected specs. Meanwhile, Google upgraded frames so Glass doesn't stick out in a crowd as much. Hooray, wearables will go mass market. Earlier:  Google puts prescription lenses in Glass' frame

Not so fast.

Sure, Google via VSP will get access to a fifth of insured Americans, but as a veteran of vision care plans I'm willing to bet that the Google Glass price points won't fall enough to go mainstream.

The Times noted that Google will have a consumer version of Glass frames for $225. VSP will reimburse members based on their prescription plan for an average of $120 plus the cost of the lenses. VSP won't subsidize Glass.

However, the real math for Google Glass expenditures gets tricky. Here's how eye-care insurance works today.

  • You get frames subsidized and lenses.
  • Anything additional will cost you. 
  • You get a small selection of frames that'll make economic sense.
  • If you also wear contacts there's a good chance you won't get reimbursed for frames too.
  • Toss in that VSP isn't subsidizing the computer portion of Glass and you're still paying up for lenses, frames and the high-tech part of Glass.

Generally speaking, lenses and frames will run you about $225 with insurance if you keep extras to a minimum. Toss in Glass and it's not a stretch to figure something in the $400 to $500 range all-in. That price tag is certainly cheaper than the $1,500 developer version of Google Glass, but let's not get carried away with the mass distribution theme. Glass is still going to cost you. 

Here's a breakdown of VSP individual plans. VSP plans through corporations can be tweaked, but they rhyme with this price schedule.

vsp plans


And finally, the VSP coverage also doesn't exactly nullify the privacy worries and the overall cultural issues. Unless you're at Google I/O you still feel like a tool wearing Glass (I'll refrain from going the Glasshole route for now).

Forrester analyst JP Gownder said:

Let's remember that Google already has a lot of baggage to overcome -- even before Google Glass has been formally released as a product. Social stigma and privacy concerns (for both bystanders and for wearers) bedevil Glass at every turn, creating a suboptimal cultural environment for launch. Google still has a lot of work to do in terms of fashion (which they are working on already), privacy, and social customs to make Glass viable as a consumer product.