Amazon's smart glasses have yet to impress us, but the company made big changes for its third-gen Echo Frames that could go along way in changing our minds. First, the company has upgraded the design, slimming down the area around your temples that houses all of the components. Amazon has also changed the look, continuing to make the glasses and sunglasses options look more like something you'd actually want to wear. What's more, it's working with the more fashion-minded Carrera Eyewear on smart glasses with a refined touch — in addition to its own versions.
First, there's the improved sound quality. Amazon claims the new Echo Frames have three times more bass than the previous model. Additionally, the company says that the audio is more accurately directed to your ear. While the audio is better than previous models, the bass is still lacking, so I'm not sure these will replace a set of earbuds or headphones for music. I can see a compelling use case for podcasts or calls, and Echo Frames are still a solid way to interact with Alexa without reaching for your phone.
The battery life has also expanded to six hours, so you can nearly get through a full work day now without needed to charge the wearable device. Lastly, the reconfigured speakers that target your ears don't spill as much sound out in the open as before. In Amazon's demo space, I couldn't hear the audio from the person next to me until they turned it way up. People nearby will still hear it at times, but it shouldn't be as much of a distraction for them as before.
New speech-processing tech improves Alexa's ability to hear your voice in noisy or windy conditions, according to Amazon. The company says it's ten times better than the previous version, and in the company's raucous demo area I found that to be true. My fellow reporters and I had no trouble summoning the assistant in the confines of the loud space as it consistently heard and executed our cues. And calling on Alexa is hands-free, so you don't even have to press a button on the Echo Frames to prime the mics.
One issue I did encounter has to do with fit. I have a huge head, and during my demo I had trouble keeping the Echo Frames in place. They kept wanting to slide down my nose even with minimal movement. Of course, I could only try what was available in the demo area, so maybe Amazon plans to offer options for people with wider faces. For the regular frames and the sunglasses I wore today, fit was a problem for both.
The third-gen Echo Frames start at $270 while the Carrera models cost $390. Both prescription and blue light lens options are available. Right now, though, Amazon hasn't said when the new versions will be available.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd gen)
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