Glass wants to use Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy, Android doesn’t make it easy

We now know that Google Glass is Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (BLE) capable. If you’re not familiar with BLE, it’s a special subset of Bluetooth 4.0 which provides considerably reduced power consumption than older Bluetooth devices. In the wireless world that we live in,  battery life is a hot commodity.  BLE ensures communication between Bluetooth devices (Glass in this case) and your smartphone is power efficient.

Now that Google I/O 2012 Glass Explorers are starting to receive their devices, we’ve heard at least one case where Bluetooth pairing was a little difficult, thanks to Android. Robert Scoble recently spoke on the Gillmore Gang about his experiences thus far with Glass. Scoble noted that it took him about an hour to get his Glass up and running thanks to Bluetooth issues he experienced.  He mentioned that Glass should use Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (BLE). Without it, your battery will die faster. He was told that sometimes the Android Bluetooth stack is sometimes a bit wonky. In fact, he was told by a Googler:

If it doesn’t work on your phone, you might want to switch over to your iPhone. iPhone has a really nice Bluetooth stack

The iPhone has supported BLE since the 4S was released in October 2011. From the looks of it, Robert was using an HTC Droid DNA, this just so happens to be the same phone I’m currently using. Our devices are Bluetooth 4.0 capable. In fact, HTC specifically mentions that the Droid DNA is supported while providing information about their API to developers.

The problem is Android at its core level, AOSP, doesn’t support BLE at this time. This hasn’t stopped OEM’s from trying to get it to work such as  Samsung, Motorola or HTC, in this case.  All of these OEMs have various problems with various devices on their flagship phones with Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy. Some have gotten around this by selling their own accessories, known to work with their own API. Third party gadgets, such as Glass, are stuck trying to support multiple BLE implementations. This is most likely where Robert’s Glass Bluetooth issues arose.

It is worth mentioning that Scoble and other Glass owners received a Glass OTA update which did resolve Bluetooth issues and the MyGlass app was updated to fix Bluetooth issues as well.

Right now, many iPhone Glass Explorers are considering switching to Android for the MyGlass added functionality. Is this still the right decision seeing as Android has Bluetooth 4.0 issues, yet to be resolved? I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes, it’s still worth it. I can’t see Google releasing Glass to the world without Android and their Nexus smartphones supporting BLE. Maybe we’ll see BLE support with the latest version of Android rumored to be announced at Google I/O 2013 in a few weeks? In any case, Glass is still a Beta product that will receive many, many updates before hitting consumers. Maybe over the next year, Glass will support more vendor implementations of BLE before the final version is complete.