Tech Yeah! Soundcore Frames
This week for Tech Yeah, we're taking a look at the Soundcore Frames. These are, as you might expect, glasses with Bluetooth speakers in the frames. The arms are touch-sensitive so you can control playback, volume, and answering calls and we'll get into all of that, but first, let's start off with the design.
The frames come in three parts - there are the two arms and the glasses part. The arms stick into the glasses part and can be removed. What's nice about this is you can have different glasses for different situations. What's nice about this for Soundcore is they can just mass produce the arms and make whatever frames they think will sell. Soundcore sent me all ten different styles and I ultimately settled on the Horizon style. They have a gradient shading from top to bottom so the shading gets less as you look down. Overall, I would actually prefer more shading overall. I wear sunglasses all the time, even on overcast days, so I like the dark.
The Bluetooth earpieces sound about as well as you'd expect them to sound. They seem like they're tuned mostly for voice and not so much for music. There's no bottom end and overall the sound quality is a little hollow. That's fine for podcasts, not so great for music. Plus, these are basically just speakers by your ears, so other people can listen to what you're listening to whether it's music, or podcasts, or phone calls. Soundcore does have a privacy mode which doesn't really help all that much, at least not according to my 15-year-old.
The earpieces are touch-sensitive and you can control things via taps and swipes. These are all configurable in the app. You double-tap to play and pause, and double tap on the other side to summon Siri if you have an iPhone and hate having a smartphone assistant. By far, my favorite gestures are the swipes forward and back to skip forward and back and to turn the volume up and down. It's really intuitive and works so much better than the touches I use on other earbuds.
One tricky part is the touch targets for the taps. They're somewhere on the earpieces but I can never seem to find them on the first try. I've actually taken to tapping with two fingers just to have a better shot at them. It's not awesome.
Charging is pretty easy. There's a proprietary cable that attaches magnetically to the earpieces to charge them. I'd like to see a charging case, similar to what Facebook's Ray-Bans do, but in the absence of that, this will do. Battery life is ok. Soundcore advertises about 5.5 hours and that seems consistent with my testing. I'd actually say that might be a little on the conservative side.
Now here's the thing, and this is a thing with any connected sunglasses you buy, not just Soundcore. What happens when you have to take them off to go inside? For example, I need to make a Target run, so I pop on the frames and listen to a podcast in the car. When I get to Target I go inside and I have a choice. I can either leave them on, and look like a douchebag wearing sunglasses inside, or I can take them off and not listen to my podcast.
Soundcore somewhat addresses this by making a number of different frames, some of which have clear lenses. But it's not exactly easy to swap between lenses, nor to store them when not in use. I actually went to an optometrist to see how much it would cost to get a pair of transition/bifocal lenses put into them because I'm an old fart. The cost with insurance was like $250 and yeah, I don't need them that badly, especially when the Soundcore frames themselves cost $199.
So what I ended up doing was to just tilt the lenses up and rest them on my head like I'm a teenage girl or something. It wasn't a great look, but also I'm 45 so what do I care? You might care. So Soundcore has not solved this problem, not that I really expected them to. It's unfortunate because if not for this problem I would be interested in owning a set. Maybe you're interested and if so, there's a link to them in the show notes and if you pick up a pair, you'll be helping out the show and you'll have my thanks. But for now, let's get back to the show.