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Amazon Echo Frames Hands-On Review: On Your Face, Alexa

Amazon's assistant comes to your eyewear

(Image: © Future)

For

  • Lightweight
  • Alexa is responsive

Against

  • Short battery life
  • Nonprescription

Ever thought that Amazon's Alexa wasn't in enough places? In that case, Amazon's Echo Frames could just be what you were looking for. 

These Alexa-enabled smart glasses let you take Amazon's assistant wherever you go, allowing you to look up the weather, control smart home devices, listen to music and more, right from your face. I had a chance to try on Amazon's new specs, and I'm not quite sold on them — or smart glasses in general — just yet.

Amazon Echo Frames Pricing and Availability

The Echo Frames cost $179.99, and are available on Amazon. However, as part of Amazon's Day 1 program, they're invite-only for now.

One drawback of the Echo Frames is that Amazon does not provide prescription lenses, so if you need corrective lenses, you'll have to bring the Frames to an ophthalmologist after you receive them.

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Echo Frames Design

One of the biggest problems with smart glasses is that they look like smart glasses. The Echo Frames solve that to an extent; aside from the Warby Parker-esque frames, the only inkling that these are something other than specs are the slightly thicker arms. 

Hidden inside are microphones, several speakers, and buttons for power and volume, as well as a touch-sensitive strip along the right arm, which you can use to accept or reject incoming phone calls.

A small LED in the top portion of the frame near your right eye lights up blue when Alexa is listening. 

The Frames are a fairly light 31 grams, solving yet another problem with smart glasses. With that light weight comes a few compromises, though. Unlike the Focals or Vuzix Blades, the Frames lack a camera or any sort of display that pops up in front of your eyes. 

A closer competitor to Echo Frames would be Bose's Frames, which are an audio-only product. Also, the Echo Frames only have an estimated 3 hours of battery life, though they'll last on standby for up to 14 hours.

(Image credit: Future)

Echo Frames Audio Quality

Don't expect Echo Studio-level audio out of the Frames. In my hands-on time with the glasses (in a very noisy room), Alexa's voice came through clearly, but on the tinny side. The directional speakers inside the Frames made it seem as if she were speaking from inside my head — an implanted Alexa device isn't too far in the future, I'd bet — and those around me couldn't hear her unless I cranked the volume to its max. 

Yes, you can play music through the Frames and control it using Alexa, but it wasn't nearly as good an experience as using earbuds. I will be interested to see how its audio performance compares to the Bose Frames, though.

(Image credit: Future)

Outlook

Companies have been trying to make smart glasses a thing for a while now, but for a variety of reasons — price, comfort, and practicality among them— they haven't resonated with consumers. I have a feeling the Echo Frames will also fall into that niche, but as they're part of Amazon's Day 1 program, the company is just sort of testing the waters with the specs too. 

At $179, the Echo Frames are some of the least expensive smart glasses around, so they may appeal to early adopters who have an eye for all things Alexa.