We are pretty confident that Bose will forgive us for opening this review of the new Bose Frames with a slightly rough announcement - our first thought regarding the idea that a pair of sunglasses can have headphone-integration was that the idea wasn't the best, and there's a good reason for that. Our main concern is the fact that people who play an annoying DJ Master Mix through the speakers on their phones are monsters and to be honest, that could have been the case with this gadget as well. The Bose Frames, however, don't offer that annoyance factor at all.
We're not talking about a re-imagining of the Google Glasses idea here at all, nor does it have much to do with AR. This is more an alternative to in-ear headphones for when you're going for a walk in the sunshine with a good podcast on or when you just want that nice soundtrack soothing your ears. Bose has found a way of mixing consumer electronics with something most of us use on a sunny day, and the concept is an interesting one. With the Frames, Bose is not striving for more blaring music others can hear as you walk down the street, but rather the company is striving to bring two functional items together into one package.
Looking at the design at the Bose Frames, that is without putting any thought to the actual "arms" on the eyeglass frames, they look like a set of relatively outdated Ray-Ban sunglasses. This is not us critiquing the design, but rather us stating that Bose has attempted to hit as broad a taste as possible by using a classic style of frame. This means that they're pretty anonymous to look at. In this specific case, however, the anonymity masks some neat functionality and we can confirm that Bose has managed to pull this off in a great way. The intensity of the lenses is, however, a little weak. We were able to see the wearer's eyes clearly through the lens, which is undoubtedly not for everyone. The lenses do however have 99% UVA / UVB protection as well as being "shatter & scratch resistance".
With all of that said though, the build quality is incredible. Of course, what you see is made out of plastic, but when playing around with them it feels like they can survive almost anything, as a pair of sunglasses should. However, it's when you look down the side of the frames where it gets a bit crazy. In order to insert the necessary speakers as well as the microphones that are used to counter external noise, the arms are incredibly thick. If these show, the anonymity goes right out the window, because the sides of the gadget are most definitely noticeable. It looks like there are built-in hearing aids in the frames (and we guess the speakers are pretty much just that).
On the visual front, it's very much going to be a matter of personal taste, and so with that being the case, it's the technology itself that must decide whether the Frames are going to be immediately scrapped and cast aside as an ambitious project cursed by bad execution - and the technology does, indeed, weigh up for the visual aspect.
Hidden underneath the thick "arms" of the Frames are a pair of dedicated speakers aimed directly at the ear, and through a simple pairing process you manage with your phone, you can listen to both music and podcasts on the go without having to put on a heavy pair of headphones or annoying earbuds. These speakers actually sound fantastic too. Of course, the bass isn't as pristine as that of, say, a high-end headset or a subwoofer, but everyone at the office has been blown away by the quality of both music, podcast audio and video audio when trying the Frames out. At the same time, the microphones minimise the audio that others can hear when in the wearer's near vicinity. If you have the volume turned up all the way, people close by will hear the essence of the melody, sure, but it's still incredibly impressive how well the sound is isolated. Extreme background noise may drown out the music somewhat, so the Frames may not be the best option for listening to a podcast on a busy subway train or similar.
While using the Frames, you can also receive calls and talk to Siri or Google Assistant, and the call quality is surprisingly good. With about 3.5 hours of direct playback on one charge, there's plenty of time to make a long call or to listen to tunes all the way through a long car commute.
A set of Bose Frames will, however, set you back £199.95, which is far too expensive in relation to the functionality you get. The idea is great, and combining two everyday gadgets into one is always something we welcome. In addition, the build quality is decent and the sound is a direct competitor to, for example, a set of Apple AirPods. However, this idea isn't quite hasn't reached its finish line just yet.