No stranger to high-end audio equipment, Bose has expanded its portfolio to include a new segment – audio sunglasses. For $200, the new Bose Frames offer audio without any headphones in or on your ears – leaving you open to hear the world around while keeping a classic design so they don’t stand out as a smart device. Check out the video below for more.
Touch and feel
Packaging for the Frames is simple and elegant. Opening the box reveals a hard case with the Frames, cloth pouch and charging cable inside. While the Frames looks great, for $200, I expected the Frames to feel a little bit more of a premium product. They feel a little plasticy. But, fortunately, they are surprisingly light weight which is probably the reason for the slightly different feel.
There are two different styles available. This Alto design is the larger of the two, while the Rondo features a smaller overall footprint and rounder lenses for a different style. I would definitely suggest trying both sizes out first if able. While the Alto style fits well on me, they basically fell off of my wife’s nose. The Rondo style would fit her much better.
Overall design on the Frames Alto is pretty classic and subtle – making it hard to tell that they are a smart device on first look. Speakers are located beneath the arms of the Frames and push audio downwards towards the wearer’s ears. On the inside of the right arm, the magnetic charging connection feels similar to the MagSafe on an older MacBook Pro. When closely inspecting the arms they are definitely larger than sunglasses without speakers built in, but it’s impressive what they’ve packed in there.
Bose Frames: Video
Also on the right arm, a single button press on the bottom controls all of the smart features. Once initially connected to a mobile device, powering up and connecting the Frames takes a single press of the button. Music, phone calls and voice assistant can all be controlled with this same button.
One thing I feel is lacking is volume control on the Frames. It is a little annoying to have to pull out your mobile device to adjust volume and it seems that could be easily fixed with a rocker button on the left arm.
With a few different options for easy-to-swap lenses, the Frames can be switched up for a different look or replaced if the lenses get scratched. The non-polarized smoked lenses that mine came with weren’t particularly dark. In normal situations, people who I was talking to could easily see my eyes.
Battery life is claimed to be 3.5 hours of streaming/playing music, which I found to be pretty accurate. I was able to go for a few runs without needing to recharge the battery, and every time the Frames are powered on a voice will share the battery level so you’re not caught unaware. Getting back to a full charge takes about two hours.
I enjoyed use the Frames while going on walks and bike rides. When running, they are a little front heavy and occasionally would bounce around on my nose, but simply pushing them back up against the bridge of my nose usually kept them in place. I enjoyed being able to listen to music and still able to hear everything around me.
Audiophiles probably won’t be blown away by the sound quality of the Bose Frames, but that’s not really the point of these. Bass heavy tracks will leave your ears wanting more, but the rest of the frequency range is surprisingly clear. For casual listening while busy walking or commuting or listening to podcasts – I found them to be totally fine. Vocals and voices are plenty crisp and clear.
For having speakers built into the arms, the Frames do a good job at isolating audio for your ears only. When in a dead silent room – sitting close to my wife with the volume turned up pretty loud she could hear that some audio was leaking out, but in situations where there is normal background noise the people I was with couldn’t tell that music was playing from my sunglasses.
Another main feature of the Frames, Bose AR, seemed like an interesting addition, but I’m not sure how practical it really is yet. Currently the only way to use Bose AR is with 3rd party apps – all of which are listed in the Bose Connect App – and there aren’t very many available yet.
One that I did get to try was NaviGuide. Similar to Google Maps, this navigation app also gives interesting tidbits of information about points of interest while exploring new cities.
Another navigation app that I tried, Walc, which is supposed to deliver directions based on landmarks (e.g. restaurants) rather than street names, just didn’t work. It would take a long time to search for locations and then wouldn’t navigate when one was selected.
I think audio-only AR from Bose could be a neat feature but personally I’d rather see volume buttons than have sensors in the glasses for Bose AR.
Overall, I’ve been enjoying my time with the Bose Frames. I think that Bose AR needs a bit more time to become something that is really appealing to Frames wearers, but having speakers built in any time I was wearing sunglasses was more useful than I expected it to be. I also appreciate that they’re a stylish pair of sunglasses and don’t stand out as a smart device on first look. The best thing I can say overall is that I picked up these shades to wear as often as possible.
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