Sometimes you just want to go, without having to worry about phone, keys, sunglasses, headphones, wallet… and carrying lots of STUFF. Amazon Echo Frames 2nd Gen solve this problem by combining two very common devices we like to have with us into one: headphones and sunglasses.
I recently picked up a pair of second generation Amazon Echo Frames to test and review over a couple of weeks. In this review I’ll tell you what they’re like to wear in terms of fit and comfort, how the sound quality is when it comes to the listening component, about the battery life, and if I think these are a good gadget for you.
Amazon Echo Frames 2nd Gen
I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed my Echo Frames experience. I wasn’t expecting to find so much utility or usefulness in this device, but I have to admit it’s wildly convenient to have your sunglasses also be your headphones.
- Easy to hear audio
- Convenient when on the go
- Works with all digital assistants
- Allows you to hear ambient sound
- Surprisingly good sound quality
- Flimsy design
- Audio can get drowned out in loud areas
- Limited styles
What you get: Amazon Echo Frames 2nd Gen
These glasses are actually quite good at masking the technology that’s in here. They don’t scream “headphone glasses” or “smart glasses”. A passing glance, or even when chatting with a neighbour or coworker; no one will be likely to know what you’re actually wearing.
The arms of the Echo Frames are noticeably thicker than most glasses in order to house the technology. Inside the arms are two small speakers which will act as open-ear headphones, passing your music, podcasts, radio or phone calls along into your ears. Will others be able to hear what you’re listening or know what’s going on? Will find out when we get to the testing.
On the underside of the right arm are volume buttons and a multifunction button. The sides of the glasses are also touchpads where with a swipe or a tap you can accept or reject commands.
Getting the Echo Frames set up is as simple as it is setting up any other Amazon Echo device. I think Amazon refers to this as it’s “frustration-free set up”, and that was definitely my experience here. Just turn the Frames on and use the Alexa app on your phone to connect to your Frames and follow the instructions to pair it to your phone. From there when you put them on, a Bluetooth connection is established and they should automatically pair to our phone each time, as mine did.
Placing them upside down on a surface will put them into sleep mode and disconnect them from your phone.
Style: pretty plain
While not the most stylish, you won’t look out of place or draw attention with the Echo Frames 2nd Gen. They come in standard clear glass versions or in sunglasses, and you can have the lenses replaced for prescription lenses at an optometrist. Amazon has a deal in place with Lenscrafters to produce prescription lenses so there won’t be any bartering or begging as can happen with online-purchased glasses if you bring them in to most optometrists. Amazon also says a number of insurance providers will cover the Echo Frames.
The sunglasses come in all-black, quartz gray, tortoiseshell, and Pacific Blue.
The glasses are rated IPX4, meaning they’re fine with sweat and splash resistant to water, but you won’t want to take them into the shower or pool.
One of the first things I noticed when I unpackaged these Echo Frames is how absolutely light the frames themselves are; almost to the point of feeling like cheap dollar store sunglasses. I do have concerns that an accidental drop, or perhaps sitting on them inadvertently in the car would absolutely destroy them in a hot second. these are definitely not high end or well-made feeling glasses. I’m hoping this doesn’t set the stage for the rest of my experience with them.
Echo Frames 2nd Gen: using as sunglasses
First and foremost, these Frames are glasses, or in my case sunglasses. So how do they feel to wear? For my taste the lenses seem to provide more than ample shade from the sun, and strike a good balance between keeping the sun out of my eyes, while not being overly dark. The specifics here is tat these are polarized sunglass lenses with UV400 protection.
Because these glasses are extremely lightweight they are quite comfortable to wear. Even after long dog walks and listening or wearing sessions, I didn’t find that they hurt either the bridge of my nose or the backs of my ears.
Echo Frames Open Ear Headphones
The Echo Frames have four micro-speakers built-in and much to my surprise, offer very little sound bleed, making them a discreet way to keep your music with you all day long.
Auto Volume Adjust
The Frames can adjust their volume to different environments, meaning if you’re in a busy traffic area, they will automatically raise the audio volume to compete. When traffic dies down or you leave the are, the Frames will adjust and drop the volume to match. This is a simple on-off choice in the Alexa App, and you can choose six volume profiles from very quiet to quite loud, based on your preferences.
Listening: loud areas are a challenge
The Echo Frames might have trouble keeping up if you’re in a very loud environment. I noticed that in extremely busy areas, such as when I would walk along a very busy road, the Frames did have a hard time competing with that much ambient noise. Unlike headphones, these tiny open-ear speakers sit outside of your ears and there’s nothing sealing out outside sound, that competition can be problematic. But as soon as I stepped onto a quieter street, it was much easier to hear. I really think this would only be a problem for very consistently loud environments; if you work on a construction site for example, or it’s always noisy in your neighborhood, these might not be the ideal choice for you if you want to focus on what you’re listening to.
Echo Frames 2nd Gen: Sound quality
I have to admit I’m surprised at how good the audio quality is from Echo Frames. Open ear headphones are always a challenge to review since they provide more of an ambient audio experience; not the same ‘inside your head,’ high fidelity sound you’d expect from earbuds or headphones. You’re hearing your music or podcasts and also any sound around you so it’s not a crisp and clear sound picture. Even so I found it easy to hear for the most part and the sound quality of calls, podcasts and music all sounded really good.
Microphones & phone call quality
There’s a built-in microphone, so you can use the Frames to carry on phone calls or speak to Alexa (or another voice assistant).
I wore my Echo Frames on morning walks and even took a few conference calls while I was out and about with them. While call quality is subject to the whim of your cellular service, the listening experience was really enjoyable. It was quite clear and easy to listen to, and my collars said I sounded great, and they admitted they had no idea I was actually listening to them on a pair of sunglasses.
Works with Digital Assistants…
One of the benefits of the Echo Frames is that you always have Alexa with you as a digital Assistant. You will need to make sure you have Cellular Data turned on since Alexa needs a connection to function. If you’re not able to access Alexa while out and about (and off of Wi-Fi) this may be what’s causing any problems.
You can also ask Alexa to give you news or weather updates or ask questions as you would with an Echo or Echo Dot. You can also create Routines for your Frames to update you and play specific tracks or podcasts. I set one up so that when I say, ‘Alexa, Let’s walk’ it tells me the temperature and then puts on the 99 percent invisible podcast.
Alexa will announce notifications from your phone and read them into your ear. You can choose what apps you should hear from to customize your experience. A VIP feature lets you choose to get messages or texts only from certain people if you prefer.
You can also use Frames with Google Assistant if you prefer.
Do Echo Frames work with iPhone?
During my few days I tried using the frames with Siri on my Apple iPhone. I was frustrated initially because no matter what I seemed to do, or how I called for Siri, or tried to enable voice dictation, if I was wearing the Echo Frames, they would simply not pick up the sound, or not adequately communicate it through to my iPhone. I found this a bit frustrating since I use voice dictation constantly.
Why won’t Echo Frames work with Siri?
In digging around on the Alexa app, I realized it’s not as simple as calling for Siri if you’re wearing Echo Frames. There’s actually a specific customized touch sequence that will allow you to bypass Alexa and go directly to Siri. Inside the Alexa app under the Customization setting you enable a ‘touch and hold’ tap that will invoke Siri. Once I started using that touch-and-hold on the side of the Frames, the iPhone and Frames played magically together and I was able to talk to Siri to send texts and more.
The microphones in Echo Frames are designed to respond to the voice of the person wearing them and it can be turned off with the double press of the multi-function button.
Battery Life & charging
The battery life promised is not entirely clear. Amazon claims you can get two hours of ‘talk time and playback over a 14-hour day’ or up to ‘four hours of nonstop listening’ on a single charge.
My personal battery life learned more towards the two hour side, with me typically using Echo Frames for about 35 minutes at a time to walk the dog morning and night. I found I was needing to charge them about every two days on that schedule.
Charge the Frames via a proprietary magnetic USB charging cable. As I mentioned earlier the Frames also go to sleep if you remove them and set them upside-down.
As they use a proprietary cable for charging, you’ll likely need to get used to plugging them in during the day, especially if you use them to listen to music while you work or study. One might think it would be a no-brainer to include a charging case (like with earbuds) to charge the Frames while you’re out, but not so; the case Echo Frames come with is a simple hardshell travel case that’s actually pretty big and unwieldy.
Overall review: Amazon Echo Frames 2nd Gen
Overall I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed my Echo Frames experience. I wasn’t expecting to find so much utility or usefulness in this device, but I have to admit it’s wildly convenient to have your sunglasses also be your headphones. It lets you stay alert to your surroundings while enjoying music or a podcast, and when it’s sunny out, the Echo Frames did a good job of shading my eyes too.
The sound quality is surprisingly good and I quite enjoyed the open-ear experience where I could stay alert to my surroundings while still listening to my entertainment.
So what are the downsides? The battery life is the obvious detraction. At about two hours of listening on a charge, you essentially need to keep these plugged in when they’re not in use so they can be ready to go when you want.
The very lightweight and flimsy construction does all give me pause since I think if I accidentally sat on these or dropped them they’d be toast in a hurry. And there are limited styles so you kind of have to be okay with what’s on offer and hope it looks good on you.
Even so, Amazon Echo Frames are the multipurpose gadget I didn’t know I needed.
Echo Frames 2nd Gen sells for about $269US and for now they are only available in the USA.
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