There was a time more than a decade ago when I was buying designer sunglasses — because, let’s face it, they could instantly complement the look I was going for. However, that phase quickly ended and nowadays, I’d be hard-pressed to spend more than $50 on a plain pair of shades ever again. In fact, I’ve been snagging deals on Bircen polarized sunglasses whenever there’s a good deal happening.
So, what would compel me to spend hundreds again on a pair of sunglasses? Perhaps, it could be one of those Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses that have cropped up over the past year — like Anker’s Soundcore Frames. I’ve been testing a pair out for over a month, and while style may be the priority for some people, I find utility is just as equally important.
• Dimensions: 6.69 x 5.67 x 1.73-inches
• Weight: 1.6 ounces
• Battery life: 5.5 hours
• Water resistance rating: IPX4
• Audio: 4 speakers, 2 microphones
One hesitation I’ve had using previous “smart” glasses was the obnoxious, bulky designs. That’s why I need to applaud Anker for designing a pair of sunglasses that look normal. Sure, the temples (arms that fold) are a bit thicker than your average pair, but that’s because they’re housing all the components — such as the speakers, microphones and batteries.
Another unique quality about Anker’s design with the Soundcore Frames is the interchangeable frame you can swap out. This is different because you can swap out the frame for different styles, so you’re technically not stuck with the same pair you initially get. Although, it does take a little bit of force to pry off the frame from the temples.
I’ve been switching back and forth between the Landmark and Tour frames since they both replicate the look of Ray Ban’s Wayfarer and Aviator sunglasses. I really love that you can swap them out at any time. However, be aware that additional frames beyond the one that comes with the initial purchase are $50 each.
In addition to protecting my eyes when it’s bright outside, many of the frames feature polarized lenses that help to minimize glare. It’s perfect for driving because I’m not distracted by said glare or reflections on the windshield.
Even better is the fact that I’m still able to hear notifications and even access Siri on my connected iPhone SE for hands-free control. That’s due to the touch-sensitive areas on both arms that allow for a host of functions, such as volume control, media playback and voice assistant access. Luckily, you can customize them through the Soundcore app.
Lastly, the Soundcore Frames intelligently recognizes when I’m wearing it. That’s one less worry for me because it’ll automatically power on/off itself. Heck, it’ll even pause music when I briefly take them off — and then resume when worn again.
While I’ve been raving so much about its stylish design and useful features, I’m most impressed by its audio quality. That’s saying a lot because, honestly, I didn’t expect the quality to be so good. Anker leverages its OpenSurround Audio System to deliver superb audio that sounds rich and robust, which is made better by the fact that the quality is almost similar to wearing earbuds in my ear. Unlike wearing earbuds, though, I’m still able to hear the surrounding environment — so it’s perfect for driving.
Using the Soundcore app, I can tweak the performance to my liking with various equalizer presets. What’s more, I’m also pleasantly surprised by how well it works for phone calls as well. Needless to say, I didn’t expect the audio quality to be on the same level as some earbuds, and yet, I’m anything but disappointed.
Move over smartwatches, Bluetooth-enabled sunglasses like Anker’s Soundcore Frames are the next must-have wearable accessories to own. Sure, its $200 starting cost puts it squarely in designer sunglass territory, but the enhanced utility it offers on top of looking fashionable makes it a winner in my book. I’m already eager for its successor.
So Should You Buy it?
Yes, without question. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fall in love with how functional it is to stay connected with your phone.
- Interchangeable frames
- Superb audio quality
- Great for phone calls
- Polarized lenses
- Need some force to remove arms
How Long Will It Last?
Everything has a solid feel to them, including the frames themselves. The only questionable aspect of these frames is how well the hinge on the ends of each arm holds up over time. Still, there’s an 18-month limited warranty with the purchase covering defects.
What Are Some of the Alternatives?
The Ray-Ban Stories is a direct alternative. They cost more, and you’re stuck with the style you buy, but it’s unique for its ability to capture photos and video with its built-in camera — as well as its deep integration with Facebook.
The Bose Frames Alto also offers similar functionality with embedded speakers for audio listening. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of style preference.
If you love your existing pair of sunglasses but want to add the function of adding speakers to them, the JBuds Frames from JLab allows you to do exactly this by attaching them to the arms of your sunglasses.