Amazon is launching new lens options today for its Echo Frames smart audio glasses: two types of polarized sunglass lenses for use outside, and blue light-filtering lenses for staring at bright screens. The blue mirror sunglass options will ship on May 18th, and the “Classic” dark sunglass lenses and blue light filtering lenses will arrive later on June 9th. All three varieties will be available in the black version of the Echo Frames for $269.99.
Echo Frames are far simpler in comparison to other smart glasses, like Google Glass. Essentially, they’re a glasses frame with Amazon’s Alexa assistant built-in, along with some microphones and downward firing speakers. In our review of the Frames, we found Alexa’s abilities to be pretty limited (especially on the iPhone) because the assistant defaults to Amazon’s services. Frames are much more compelling as a straightforward audio device, which is where these new lens options seem to come in.
Take the sunglasses variety. Echo Frames might not make sense as a smart assistant you interact with all day, but for a bike ride or hike, it could be very helpful to have your sunglasses pull double duty as headphones for music or podcasts.
You could use the same kind of logic for the blue light-filtering lenses. Say you’re going heads down on a long project and you know you’re going to look at screens for an extended period of time. Having a way to listen to music or take calls while still keeping your ears free could be handy. (Keep in mind blue light might not be as damaging or eye-straining as some headlines suggest.)
The limit on either of these use cases is the battery life of the Echo Frames. When we originally reviewed the Frames we weren’t able to make it through a full day, despite Amazon’s more open-ended battery life claim of 14 hours of “mixed use.” For an afternoon outdoors, it seems like the sunglasses should last, but using blue light glasses inside, listening to music all day, you might have to keep a closer eye on the Frames’ battery.