There is not much you can do to a standard pair of sunglasses to improve functional performance. Sunglasses are one of the most basic consumer products on the market. Perhaps that explains why a small number of players are combining traditional eyewear with technology to come up with more complex products with more room for development. Think audio sunglasses here.
Some two years after releasing its first iteration of the audio sunglasses concept, Bose has followed up with three new models that they claim take things to the next level. Each model is said to deliver improved performance as audio headsets and conduits for making and receiving calls.
Bose is selling all three at the $250 price point. Certainly cheaper than some of the most pricey high-end designer sunglasses with no on-board technology, but still more expensive than a good pair of off-brand sunglasses you can purchase at a retail department store. The question Bose must now answer is whether or not the market will support their new products.
A Bluetooth Music Player
Get rid of the fashion aspects and UV rated lenses, and a pair of audio sunglasses is really just another kind of Bluetooth music player. It plays music from your phone via Bluetooth connection, relying on speakers built into the arms rather than ear buds or headphones. This is a big plus for anyone who cannot stand having their ears plugged or covered.
An obvious advantage of this arrangement is the fact that you are still free to hear other sounds. There are no buds or headphones making it difficult to hear traffic, sirens, or even conversations. The downside is sound leakage. While Bose claims their Frames products minimize leakage, no open speaker design is perfect. There will always be some leakage due to the nature of the design.
Being able to connect your audio sunglasses to your phone via Bluetooth also suggests phone call capabilities. The new Bose models offer it. A built-in mic completes the functional loop, allowing you to take and receive calls without ever pulling your phone out of your pocket.
Novelty vs. Practicality
Bose obviously believes there is an audience for their audio sunglasses or they wouldn’t have put so much into designing them. Yet at the end of the day, whether or not Frames delivers the kind of return the company expected may boil down to novelty versus practicality.
There will undoubtedly be those consumers who purchase a brand-new pair simply for the novelty. If we have learned anything since the introduction of the smartphone, it is that novelty often justifies expenditures in the minds of some consumers. They want what the latest tech has to offer, whether they need it or not.
By the same token, one cannot discount practicality. As Salt Lake City’s Olympic Eyewear contends, most consumers still look at sunglasses as a practical and functional product. They buy sunglasses to protect their eyes against UV rays and direct sunlight. Listening to music and making phone calls never crosses their minds.
A Limited Audience
Audio sunglasses are likely to appeal to a limited audience, at least for the time being. With Bluetooth headsets being so widely available and affordable, it is hard to imagine that legions of consumers will be hitting the stores in search of the latest audio sunglasses.
But who knows? Maybe audio sunglasses will be the default 10 years from now. Never discount the ability of unlikely consumer trends to balloon into major cultural shifts. Audio sunglasses could go the way of Google Glass. But they could also become the hottest thing since sliced bread.