Google Glass gets KitKat support, leaves out video calls

Google says video calls were not working well, but some users beg to differ

Google Glass is getting a big software update to coincide with its one-day sale on Tuesday, but video calling is one feature that's been put on hold.

The Internet-enabled headset will get KitKat, the newest version of the Android operating system for mobile devices, allowing longer battery life and easier updates, according to Google.

The new software features will include photo bundles, which are groups of daily photos, videos and other material. Users will also be able to reply with photos in Google Hangouts and have their voice commands organized by frequency.

But the update will leave out video calls, which have been available to early adopters using Glass.

"We hold ourselves to high standards for the features that we build, and video calls aren't living up to these standards," the Google Glass team wrote in blog post.

The team said less than 10 percent of Glass users, which are known as Explorers, use the video calling feature.

Video calls will return to Glass when "the experience is better," the team wrote without elaborating.

The post did not say whether privacy concerns were part of the decision to remove the function. Google did not immediately respond to a request for more information.

On its help page for Glass video calls, the search giant cautioned against improper use, writing, "Consider etiquette and common sense when taking video. For example, refrain from broadcasting events or content where such activity is prohibited (e.g. movie theater)."

Some Glass users reacted negatively to the update, with one lamenting on the Glass blog post, "I used video call recently to include my cousins from various countries in on a family funeral they couldn't attend in person. They were so grateful to be included and have that opportunity thanks to advancement in technology with Google Glass."

Google announced last week that Glass will go on sale for one day only on Tuesday to all residents of the U.S. who are 18 or older.

The head-mounted display is priced at US$1,500 plus tax. It could be officially released later this year.

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Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
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