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Lifewire / Yoona Wagener
Good sound quality
Easy to operate
Bose AR features available
Not effective in blocking out background noise
Slightly bulky in the arms
Overall plasticky feel
No volume controls
Some AR apps are lackluster
Bose Frames combine stylish UV protection and audio enjoyment into a novel new device—but don’t expect polarization or a fully-encapsulated audio experience from this wearable.
Many of us grab our sunglasses along with our headphones whenever we head out the door. If you’ve ever wanted to reduce the amount of gear you travel with, the Bose Frames may be your answer. At first glance, they look like your average pair of sunglasses. But they come with an extra feature: built-in speakers.
We wore the Rondo-style Bose Frames for a week and noted the fit and audio experience and how well they might serve as a replacement for headphones on the move.
Bose Frames are available in two styles: Alto and Rondo. The Alto option is larger, with lenses that measure about two inches across, a distance of 0.7 inches between the lenses, and an overall length (from the lenses to the end of the arms) of 6.4 inches.
We spent time with the Rondo style, which has rounder frames and a retro feel. The Rondo option is the smaller of the two—the lenses are about two inches across, the distance between the lenses is a slightly-smaller 0.6 inches, and the length of the glasses is 6.1 inches.
For now, both come only in black, but there are options for customizing the lens color at an additional price. Each style is made of nylon and scratch- and shatter-resistant lenses that the company claims blocks up to 99% of UVA and UVB rays.
Bose Frames present a stylish solution for streamlining UV protection and audio enjoyment.
While there are refined touches, like stainless steel hinges and power/multifunctional button, there’s a somewhat fragile feel to the frames. Though each of the arms has mini speakers strategically placed inside them, there’s no substantial weight to the sunglasses. This is a plus for comfortable wear, but we also found that the frames walked a fine line of feeling and looking a little cheap—this seemed at odds with the innovative technology at play.
Interacting with the audio functions is very straightforward since there’s only one button. We found the placement of the button, on the right arm just near the temple, to be intuitive and easy to interact with. We also appreciated the easy method of powering the glasses off. Simply removing them and tilting them down ignites a white status light that then turns off, which lets you know the glasses have been powered off. This is also something that can happen automatically as a battery-conserving measure if the frames detect five minutes of non-use.
Safely storing the sunglasses when you’re not using them is made easier by the protective case the frames come packaged with. The only downside is that the wireless charging cable won’t fit in the case with the glasses; there’s a separate pouch for storing it. You could store this pouch in the case when you’re wearing the sunglasses, but both won’t fit at the same time.
The Bose Frames offer a fairly comfortable fit. While they’re not at all bulky or hefty in the hands, we did notice that wearing them for over an hour did start to feel heavy on the face. We experienced some discomfort particularly in the nose bridge area where the frames pressed into the skin, but this is not an uncommon fit issue with regular sunglasses or glasses.
We also wore these on a short one-mile jog and noticed a bit of slipping and sliding halfway through the run. It was a hot day, so sweat was a factor, and Bose does not attach any sweat or water-resistant capabilities to these frames so they’re not exactly an ideal pick for exercising. But these frames would likely stand up to general outdoor activities like a leisurely game of catch or casual bike riding, and anything that doesn’t involve a lot of running or intense movement.
In terms of overall lens quality, we appreciated how rugged they were. They picked up smudges, but scratching was a non-issue even when we dropped the frames on a hardwood floor and left them loose in a bag with keys.
The Bose brand is known for its high-quality speakers and headphones, so there’s a lot on the line for these frames. Even though there is no ear tip or bone conduction technology (headphones that deliver sound through the cheekbones to the inner ear), we were impressed with how crisp, warm, and close the listening experience was. We never experienced a far-away feeling or worried about disturbing others around us since only a minimal amount of sound leaks out.
We were impressed with how crisp, warm, and close the listening experience was.
The listening experience isn’t quite as comfortable when there’s a lot of background noise, though. Even modest traffic could completely drown out the audio. It was also something of a challenge to raise the volume to a comfortable degree. Even the loudest setting did not seem very loud, especially with considerable background noise. And when we compared the same volume levels to in-ear headphones, we realized the volume was actually much higher than we perceived it to be.
For those who like a booming and immersive sound, you won’t find that with these frames. But if you’re trying to listen to music at healthier volumes or prefer a background-soundtrack kind of experience, the Bose Frames supply that.
The Bose Frames require setup through the Bose Connect app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. It functions first and foremost as a way to pair and manage devices your connecting devices. Bose says you can establish up to eight device connections, but only one connection can be used at a time.
The app is where you can control certain settings like language, standby timers, and voice prompts. But there’s little else to do inside the Bose Connect app. The frames are compatible with other apps and services like Spotify, Skype, and Google Maps, so that if you’re listening to music in Spotify you could control the playlist functions within the Connect app. There’s also a way to access your Apple Music playlists directly in the app, assuming you have an account.
The Bose Connect app is also the place to view current Bose AR (augmented reality) apps. Clicking on the AR icon in the app leads to what Bose calls the Experience Showcase, which features third-party apps built around music, audio, gaming, sports, and travel experiences.
The Bose AR platform is still new and emerging, and as of right now there are only three products that are enabled with the technology: Bose Frames, Bose Headphones 700, and Bose QC35 headphones II. Each of these devices have built-in sensors that pick up on head and body movements and orientation, and this information is used by the AR apps.
We paired the Bose Frames to an iPhone 6 and noticed that only nine apps were available to us. Some of them required that we create an account to access them, and then did not yield any sort of impressive results or experience. We tried to test an audio reality gaming app called KOMRAD AR, but after struggling to establish a connection with the glasses we couldn’t get past the configuration step.
There were a couple of apps that functioned fairly well. Bose Radar, developed by Bose, offers what they call an “interactive audio” experience. There are several “3D immersive” audio recordings you can download within the Radar app and enjoy by moving your head to uncover different sounds and aspects of the scene. It’s an understated experience and sort of meditative, but it does feel odd to move your head around so much to essentially play an audio track. Moments that reveal swells and nuances in the music are nice, but you may feel self-conscious about using this app in public.
We also tested a travel-related app called NAVIGuide that provides step-by-step voice directions. This worked well and saved us from having to repeatedly look at our phone for directions.
While the Bose AR functionality is a sort of hidden perk of these frames, it still feels like its very much in the early stages. It’s best to temper any high expectations at this point, but the quality of experience and offerings are likely to expand with further development.
Both the Bose Rondo and Alto frames are priced at $199.99 MSRP. While this is a bit pricey for a regular sunglasses, these obviously have a lot of additional features. But the price would feel even fairer if the lenses were polarized or could be swapped out with prescription lenses.
If you want to pay less for much of the same functionality, the Inventiv Wireless Bluetooth Sunglasses cost about $69 and attempt to mirror the casual look and open-audio experience of the Bose Frames, though with more sound leaking and without the status and reputation of the Bose brand audio technology.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Vuzix Blade Smart Glasses retail for $999.99, but they also perform a wide array of smart functions like recording video, watching media, and snapping pictures. If you’re looking for a compromise that skews more toward stylish and less on the “smart” side of things, the Bose Frames may be the better pick.
The Bose Frames don’t really qualify as smart glasses, but it’s worth considering those options when deciding whether the Bose sunglasses fit the bill. There are two models that are relatively close in price and could appeal to the same shopper who wants a stylish pair of sunglasses that offer something extra.
The Vue Trendy and Classic Sunglasses, which will soon retail for $249, come with both prescription and non-prescription lens options. They’re lighter than the Bose Frames at less than an ounce and offer stereo bone-conduction speakers, sweat and water resistance, and a companion app that allows you to customize the gestures you use to control various features and track activities.
Instead of any button controls, the Vue glasses use swipe and tapping motions only. They also support wireless charging through a charging bed in the case. These may be for you if you want a pair of sunglasses that closely resemble a “normal” pair of glasses but perform many of the smart functions a smartwatch or smartphone can.
The Zungle Viper sunglasses are slightly cheaper than the Bose frames: they retail for $189.99. Unlike the Bose and Vue frames, the Viper sunglasses are definitely sportier. They feature Vibra speakers, sweat and water resistance, UV 400 polarization, and even fit well under bicycle helmets. You also have the freedom to choose from eight different colors of lenses. Even though Zungle says they’re very lightweight and snug, these frames weigh almost 1.8 ounces, which is actually quite a bit heavier than the Vue frames and just slightly heavier than the Bose Frames.
Ready to find your perfect headphones/glasses combination? Browse our guides on the best smart glasses and the best exercise headphones.
A stylish, multifunctional wearable that’s best for casual use.
Bose Frames are an innovative and forward-thinking wearable for the busy, stylish, and music-loving consumer. If you like the idea of audio built in to your sunglasses and you don’t need sweat resistance or smartphone notifications, these not-quite smart sunglasses could be an ideal everyday accessory.
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