Amazon’s Echo Frames smart glasses aren’t invite-only anymore. That’s right, baby, the plebes can now preorder the Alexa-enabled glasses for $US250 ($344).
Announced last year, the Echo Frames were initially part of Amazon’s Day One Editions initiative — sort of like a beta test program where a few people are invited to try new products. That version of the glasses had a retail price of $US180 ($248). So what gives with the $100 price bump? For the public launch, Amazon says it’s beefed up the glasses with better audio, longer battery, new colour options, and a few new features as well.
For starters, the Echo Frames will now automatically adjust volume based on your environment. Basically, if you’re in a noisy place they’ll boost volume, and if you’re in a quieter place, Alexa won’t yell so loud in your ears. In its Day 1 blog, Amazon also says it’s increased battery life up to 40% for continuous playback at 60% volume compared to the previous iteration. You’ll also be able to turn off the glasses if you place them upside down for three seconds. This feature, Amazon says, was designed to help prolong the battery.
As for features that Amazon’s keeping around, the Frames will still support VIP Filter, which lets you prioritise which apps and contacts you actually want to be annoyed by. With the second-gen Frames, however, Amazon is also adding support for calendars and group messaging. (Though why anyone would willingly set alerts in their glasses for group messages is beyond me. Imagine the endless pinging!)
Lastly, the new frames will let you choose from three style options, including a tortoiseshell version and one that has a bluish ombre fade. Or if you prefer something less flashy, you can always go with the all-black version. Amazon is also partnering with LensCrafters for those of us who actually need prescription lenses to see. Depending on your vision insurance, you can also apply to get out-of-network reimbursement with VSP Vision Care, EyeMed, and Cigna. These are some nice touches, given that one of the major obstacles to wider smart glasses adoption is the fact that glasses are both a fashion item and a medical device.
That said, not all of Amazon’s wearable experiments seem to have gone well. While the Echo Frames has made it out of the Day One program, you’ll have to pour one out for the Echo Loop smart ring.
“The spirit of Day 1 Editions is that not all inventions will exit the program,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an email. “With Echo Frames generally available, we have also decided that Echo Loop will not advance beyond the Day 1 Editions program, with production and sales ending.”
Womp, womp. However, if you were one of the few invited to actually buy the Echo Loop, Amazon says it will continue to provide updates and support, though it didn’t provide a time frame for how long.
Unlike smart rings, however, it would appear that Big Tech refuses to let the dream of consumer smart glasses die — despite several recent failures. Bose, which made a similar pair of audio-only AR sunglasses, shut down their AR division earlier this year. North, a promising smart glasses startup, also bit the dust. But in addition to Amazon’s news, Oppo revealed this week that it plans to launch its own pair of AR glasses in 2021. Facebook is also working on a pair with Ray-Ban, while Apple’s been heavily rumoured to be working on smart glasses as well.
If the idea of sticking Alexa on your face appeals to you, preorders for the Frames start today, with an expected release date of Dec. 10.