Skip to main content

What it’s like to tour one of Google’s hidden, strange Glass stores

Google Glass Store sign
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

 I was interested in Glass, but Google didn’t seem interested in me.

One day in the not too far future, you’ll be able to walk into a store and buy Google Glass. It probably won’t be a Best Buy, but a dedicated Google-run showroom. Following Glass’ debut in the UK, Google opened up just such a store in central London. We paid it a visit to see exactly what it will be like for someone to buy one of the most controversial pieces of tech in the past few years.

This is the fourth store we know of, for the record. It’s siblings are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City.

Google Glass Store ExteriorMuch like ordering a Glass until recently, getting inside the store is something of a mission, which begins even before you step foot outside your front door. Google really wants you to make an appointment, something which is mercifully easy to do online, but almost impossible any other way. The Glass store isn’t located on a busy high street either; you have to search to find it.

Approaching it along a quiet street takes you past some of London’s coolest architecture, a university, a funky restaurant, and the River Thames. There’s no fanfare once you reach it, though. Unlike Apple’s stores, which make their presence known, there’s no massive Glass display stand in the window, and definitely no glass staircase. Just to make sure the shop isn’t filled with riff-raff, the homeless, or too many curious tech journalists, there’s even a doorman. A burly security guard presses a button to open the door, and you’re directed to a reception desk.

I was prepared for the sales onslaught

As I entered the store, I was ready to resist the inevitably skilled sales people, keen to make this month’s commission quota. I was a fish-in-a-barrel, and they were armed with AK47s. The guard was the only one, aside from me, not wearing Glass, making us look like outsiders. Walking across the polished wooden floor was my Glass consultant. She started out by asking me if I was there to buy, or simply curious.

We hadn’t talked about tech at all. It was like buying a pair of jeans.

This took me by surprise. Hold on, you’re happy to spend precious time on someone who isn’t prepared to buy? This wasn’t what I expected at all. Shocked, I told her I may be interested, and that I had used Glass before, but never with the new spectacle frames. I wear glasses most of the time, so if they made me look like a moron, I wouldn’t be interested. After all, Glass itself was going to do a good job of that on its own.

Related: Watch The Daily Show make fun of Google Glass

At this point, my consultation turned into a conversation about fashion, and my preferred choice of colors. We hadn’t talked about tech at all. It was like buying a pair of jeans. However, the store itself isn’t like a branch of American Apparel, or even a high class glasses store. It’s more like a classroom. The ceiling is all exposed heating ducts and low hanging lights, and the majority of the floor space is taken up with large desks, either with portable mirrors on them, or pushed up against huge wall mounted ones. Glass is confined to one small display area, where examples of all the colors and designs can be found, and another, more artistic, section showing the various sunglass attachments. If you didn’t know, you’d be hard pressed to know what was on sale at all.

Still no tech talk

With my choice of color and frame type chosen, we sat down and tried them on. I was already 15 minutes into my appointment, and Glass still hadn’t been turned on. I then spent another 10 minutes staring at myself in the mirror, unsure whether I preferred the Thin or the Bold frame types. Buying Glass, I was discovering, wasn’t some techy, geeky process. It was something for the vain.

Google Glass Store Interior and Andy
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Finally, we got into demoing Glass. We ran through how to use the touch panel, the voice commands, and I gave the GPS and messaging a try. I had wondered why foreign language magazines were dotted around the desks, and it turns out they were to show-off the very cool Translate app. I asked if Glass was really only suitable for keen developers right now, and not for posers and/or geeks, but was assured it would soon become an integral part of my life, programming skills or not.

Related: See more Google Glass designer frames up close

Almost everyone around me was wearing Glass, and I was happily messing around with the camera on my demo pair, so it quickly began to feel very normal. So normal, and so much fun, that I was tempted to hand over my money right then. Except the heavy sales tactics never came. I wasn’t even asked if I was interested in buying it, and repeatedly told there was no pressure at all. Even if Alec Baldwin himself was there yelling to the sales team to Always Be Closing, his advice would have fallen on deaf ears. These people didn’t seem to know they were working at a store at all.

No sale

When I was finished — I had been left on my own to play with Glass — I asked a couple of the staff about business. Naturally, the responses were guarded, but I was told the store saw some foot traffic, and if they were free from appointments, they would happily give a demonstration. They had been very busy, and both the store and the UK release of Glass had been a considerable success. As I asked questions, the corporate machine suddenly whirred into life. I was told that I couldn’t take pictures inside — only of the display stands — and warned that any in-depth questions would go unanswered.

I left feeling like I’d seen the future, but that Google wasn’t sure it wanted me as a customer.

My time was up, so I made a vague appointment to come back the week after to finalize the sale, but nothing was written down, making it all felt very noncommittal. Almost like they didn’t want to take my money.

I thanked everyone for their time, and left feeling like I’d seen the future, but that Google wasn’t sure it wanted me as a customer. Perhaps if I’d looked a bit more “Google” (a well-manicured beard, some shorts, a hoody, and a backpack perhaps) my second appointment would have been taken seriously, or maybe I’d picked the least cool frame and color combination, singling me out as someone unsuitable to wear Glass in public.

Google Glass is controversial for several reasons, one of which is the perceived threat of our privacy being invaded by its face-mounted camera. Shopping in-store for Glass couldn’t have been less threatening if the staff were dressed up like characters from Winnie the Pooh. The push I needed to hand over my £1000 never came, which is typical of Google’s hippy-ish approach to life.

If this no-pressure approach didn’t generate a sale from me, someone open to the tech and ready to buy, it’s unlikely to work on the general public. The trouble is, that’s exactly who will need the most convincing when Glass goes on sale. Google Glass may have more hills to climb than we think.

Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
Google is making it easier for you to find and download Android apps
Google Play on the Oppo Find N2.

Google announced a wide range of features for Android phones at the I/O 2024 developers conference earlier today. However, the event was not all about user-facing changes. The company also revealed a handful of new tricks for developers to showcase their apps effectively while maintaining a vigilant eye on safety.

Among the most important changes -- one that is also going to make life easier for users - is support for more payment options. The most notable of these is support for installment subscriptions, which has already yielded positive results for developers in the early access phase.

Read more
Google has no idea what it’s doing with the Pixel Tablet
The back of the Google Pixel Tablet.

With its latest move to try and encourage you to buy a Pixel Tablet, Google has unfortunately indicated it still has no idea what to do with its most recent return to tablets.

Its big plan to sell more tablets is to take away the best thing about them, which then gives it an excuse to charge a bit less. Reducing the price is a good thing, but in the case of the Pixel Tablet and Google's solution, there’s sadly no longer any reason to buy it at all.
Google's new plan for the Pixel Tablet

Read more
Apple’s folding iPhone could launch as early as 2026
Concept render of foldable iPhone.

If you’ve been wanting a folding iPhone, then you might not have that much longer to wait. According to a report from Digitimes, it seems that Apple is working on a foldable iPhone that could debut as early as 2026. This would be a significant development for Apple, as it would be the company’s first foray into foldable display technology and also mark a significant step in the evolution of the iPhone.

We expect the iPhone 16 lineup in just a few more months this year, and next year will be the iPhone 17 series, where we may even see the first iPhone Ultra. But as we look even further ahead, the iPhone 18 family could introduce a foldable iPhone.

Read more