Have you ever thought that your sunglasses are just too dull? That they have no smartness quotient? And that they aren’t exactly what will get you traction with the cool kids? This is where the rather intriguing Bose Frames become absolutely relevant. But wait, when did Bose get into the business of sunglasses? Wasn’t high quality audio its thing? What if we tell you Bose has taken your sunglasses, added a dollop of its audio expertise to it, slapped on a premium price tag and made a rather cool melding of style, luxury and technology. These are called the Bose Frames (the name leaves no ambiguity) and also embark on the journey of something known as Augmented Reality (AR) audio. But before you go ahead and call these “smart glasses” and thereby invoke the rather depressing memory of the Google Glass’ ill-fated journey, remember Bose isn’t making the same mistake and is not biting off more than they can chew.
Bose is currently selling the Bose Frames in two styles. Well, styles are of course important for a product that sits at the intersection between fashion and technology. You can choose between the Alto and the Rondo. They don’t come cheap though and will set you back by Rs 21,900. But true style and genuine smartness surely demand an investment.
Bose has pretty much got the design bit spot on. These are unisex frames, and the design of the Alto and the Rondo differ just enough that you pretty much have two different looking sunglasses to choose from. The Alto is the more traditional Wayfarer style and are slightly larger than the more rounded look of the slightly smaller Rondo. You will notice that the two arms are thicker than standard sunglasses, but that is because of the tech hardware that is packed inside each Bose Frames sunglasses. The stainless-steel hinges for each of these arms has a gold colour finish. Wear them and these sit rather lightly and comfortably even for hours on end—they weigh about 45 grams each, which isn’t much heavier than the thicker standard sunglasses. I have used the Rondo as my default sunglasses when outdoors and while driving for days on end, and these feel no different in terms of fit, finish and comfort than my Oakley sunglasses. The only observation being that the thicker arms restrict the ‘corner of the eye’ vision to a certain extent, which I needed to get used to while driving—I have the habit of flicking a glance at the outside rear-view mirror (ORVM) on the left while driving, and that isn’t possible with the Bose Frames. Apart from that observation, there are no shortcomings to report, as far as the wear-ability is concerned. The Alto and the Rondo have a matte black finish, which looks great and the best part is it isn’t prone to scratches or dings—that should keep these sunglasses looking fresh as new for longer, even if you have the habit of carelessly dropping these in the backpack or flinging them on the passenger seat inside the car.
Oh, and these glasses also block the ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that are harmful for humans after a certain amount of exposure. These are also scratch and shatter proof, and extremely resilient to scratches. The Frames are also IPX2 water resistant.
Let us talk about the business end of the Bose Frames. The smartness bit, if we may. In each of these arms are two miniaturized Bose speakers. They have been positioned in such a way that the direction of the sound is towards your ears and to reduce the spill of the sound in the direction of the person sitting next to you. All the audio goodness that Bose does and all the learnings from that have helped to miniaturize the speakers that finally sit inside the Bose Frames. What you get is open-ear audio, streaming in from your phone and yet keeping you very much involved with the immediate environment. The sound chambers have been designed in such a way that the direction of sound remains uncompromised. Wear these, stream music and yet enjoy the sounds of the birds chirping and the leaves rustling.
Pairing this is a simple enough task. You must download the Bose Connect app (free for Android and iOS) and follow the on-screen steps to pair the Bose Frames with the phone. That takes hardly a couple of minutes to have this up and running. Once you do, the app itself gives you all the information you need about the battery status, the music playback as well as a bunch of settings. This also links you into the Bose AR ecosystem, which has a bunch of apps specifically developed for the AR audio experience with the Bose Frames. For instance, there is an app called NaviGuide which not only gets you turn by turn navigation information steaming into your ears via the Bose Frames, but also identifies landmarks you cross and tells you a bit more about a place of significance. This uses sensors in your phone to provide indoor location data for correct navigation. Then there is Audiojack which only uses sound to understand how you physically respond and then changes the plot of a continuous storyline according to that.
Surely these complex and involving apps are not something you would use every day, irrespective of how much fun they are. That means one simple question—how is the music playback? Since each of your ears are fed sounds from miniaturized speakers, what you will get is most certainly acceptable sound—great clarity, but do not expect much in terms of bass or details. Music sounds very good on this, mind you, also because you may be respecting the fact that these are very smart and versatile sunglasses at play. I did listen to a lot of songs at less than or up to 50% volume, and at no point did the people sitting next to me every point out they could hear any sound from my direction. Above 50%, and there will be a very slight sound leak, which will mean those near you will look around with a puzzled look to try and identify the source of some music that they can hear. While these speakers expectedly lack bass, what they do get in generous dose is clarity and the warm of sound, both being regular fixtures in the Bose sound experience.
The Bose Frames support the SBC as well as the higher quality AAC audio codecs. We worked these extensively with music from various streaming services as well, including Spotify and Apple Music, and there wasn’t a single instance where the Bose Frames didn’t turn up to the party. The connectivity with the iPhones as well as Android phones is rock solid. These will not budge, till you turn these over or close them.
That said, the Bose Frames are ideal for those listening environments where there isn’t a ruckus around you. In environments where there is loud ambient noise, the Bose Frames will not be able to shout above the din. Great at home, in office and maybe even as you drive along. Very good for a stroll outdoors. Very usable even at airports. But they will not be able to face up to the constant loud noise of a train.
Battery life is good for about 4 hours of music listening, at least in my case with the volume set at around 40% most of the time. Charging isn’t the quickest though, but that isn’t a hardship. However, what you must deal with is a magnetic charger that is just for the Bose Frames—don’t forget to pack this the next time you travel.
Bose Frames does not throw any complications such as bone conduction or wireless earbuds and what not. These are simply the geekiest sunglasses we have ever seen in the world of smart tech. Bose Frames quite simply melds the worlds of fashion and tech in a seamless way possible, without any compromises that may stare at you. A personal music system that keeps the windows to the world firmly ajar. It simply works and has that finesse which is a hallmark of Bose products. But what still bothers me a bit is that there is still no killer AR audio app that I may really want—the present catalogue is a nice mesh of fun and cool, but nothing that retains your interest after a few hours of experimenting. That is still the unexplored frontier for the Bose Frames.