The world of us all wearing computers on our faces is just around the corner, right? But, obviously, no one wants to slap something in front of their eyes that actually looks like a computer. For the new Echo Frames (3rd Gen), Amazon addressed that very concern.
The Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) kick style up a notch with a new collection of colors and frame styles with slimmed-down temples to make the Alexa-equipped glasses more approachable. Plus, a new partnership with Carrera introduces a designer flair to certain models.
These frames are also loaded up with upgrades to connectivity, audio performance and battery life over the Amazon Echo Frames (2nd Gen). Still, starting at $269, the latest Echo Frames aren't the most affordable way to access Amazon's voice assistant, but they do let you use Alexa just about anywhere you go.
For this Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) review, I experienced for myself what it's like to have Alexa at my temples, on standby for any request I conjure up. After a week, I found it's not a perfect companion, but it's Amazon's best attempt at smart glasses yet — even if the category remains quite niche. Read on below to find out more.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) price and release date
The Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) are available on Amazon.com as of December 7, 2023 and start at $269.99. That's a $20 price jump from the previous-gen pair, which started at $249.99.
There are also a couple of premiums for lens and frame style. Basic sunglass models costs $329.99, for example. There are also two separate sunglass styles designed in partnership with Carrera, one of which Amazon issued as my review unit. As you'd probably expect, the designer name units come at a higher price — the pair I tested costs $389.99.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) design
The Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) look like, well, a pair of glasses. What's more, they come in a variety of styles for the first time, including rectangle, square, round and cat-eye. There are also a few different color choices such as Blue Tortoise and Brown, plus two designs from designer sunglasses brand Carrera.
I donned the Black and Gold Cruiser Carrera Sunglasses for this review, and while they're not the typical sunglass style I go for, I felt incredibly cool while wearing them. They're a bit oversized for my face, but I still found myself styling my outfits around my sunglasses for the first time in my life. What's more, no one I encountered during the review period seemed to suspect that my shades were packed with tech. That wasn't the case with the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses, which pretty clearly have cameras jammed into the front corners of the frame.
In part, that's because Amazon slimmed down the arms of this generation model, making them look like less bulky. I found the previous Echo Frames looked unmistakably like smart glasses, but this new style seems far more natural. Wearing them felt natural as well. It felt as though the weight balanced on my head, offering a comfortable fit throughout the day.
Underneath the left frame is a volume rocker for adjusting the music volume and underneath the right side are two control buttons. These buttons can be assigned in the device settings in the Alexa app. You can mute the microphones by double tapping the front control button, too.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) review: Key features
First and foremost, the Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) offer instant access to Alexa. You can use the assistant to control music playback, answer calls and more. Alexa can also filter notifications now to only be alerted to important messages without taking out your phone. This is called your VIP list, and for reference, I added my parents and sister to mine. As a result, my glasses only interrupted me with the alerts that matter most.
Otherwise, Alexa asks as a virtual butler, ready to answer questions as it would through any of the best Alexa smart speakers or best smart displays with Alexa. I asked it for weather reports, the score of last night's Lakers game, and for a reminder of the items I added to my to-do list. The catch? These helpful queries are only available when your glasses are connected to your smartphone, and when your smartphone has internet service.
In terms of new features, the Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) now have multi-pair support, letting you connect simultaneously to multiple devices. This means being able to switch from a video call on your laptop to music on your smartphone without having to mess with the connectivity settings; however, since I was testing sunglasses, I only wore them while I was on-the-go outdoors. Therefore, I only ever needed them connected to my iPhone 15 Pro Max. If I were to buy a pair for myself, I might opt for clear lenses for greater use-cases.
These Echo Frames also have a neat location-detecting feature. If you misplace your Frames, you can ask Alexa on another device to "find my smart glasses,” and you'll be told the last known place. As someone who always loses their sunglasses, this is a game-changer. While I wouldn't expect a reunion with them if I forget them on a New York City park bench, it was good to know I left them at the office when I couldn't find them at home. It saved me from ripping my apartment apart, at least.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) review: Sound quality
Like the previous model, the Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) let you listen to music discreetly thanks to the speakers built into the frames. Audio quality was an area Amazon definitely could've improved on, and the new custom-built speaker driver successfully delivered stronger bass.
Listening to Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle," the glasses certainly didn't compare to my Sony WH-1000XM5 over-ear headphones or AirPods Pro 2 wireless earbuds. But for passive listening on my commutes, the frames sounded punchier than you'd expect.
That said, I'm still concerned about audio spillage. At my desk, my colleagues nearby could hear the synths of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God," coming from my general vicinity with the speakers at half volume. To prevent spillage, during the setup process, it's recommended to hold the glasses a foot from your face while adjusting the volume rocker.
During phone calls, I could hear the person on the other end clearly when I wasn't in a particularly noisy or windy place. They said they could hear me alright in this scenario, too. But when I was walking through Bryant Park in midtown, the phone call quality suffered. I think the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses offered superior call quality in all environments, but in general, I think the Echo Frames suffice for the occasional conversation.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) review: Battery life and charging
The previous pair of Amazon Echo Frames lasted for four hours with continuous music playback at 80% volume. The new Echo Frames last up to six hours. But it's important to note that battery life varies, with the Frames lasting longer in a standby mode if you're not actively listening to music or speaking with Alexa.
My frames kicked into standby mode when I left them in the included carrying case. I like how the carrying case that came with my glasses folds flat when it's not in use — it was totally convenient when I left the house with just a small purse. Although, I also wish that the case doubled as the charger, as is the case for the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses.
Instead, the Echo Frames charge via a charging base with a bridge structure. Now, I thought anything would be an improvement to the magnetic charging cord from the previous model, but I was wrong. This charging base is highly fickle, you need to place the glasses exactly the right way for them to charge. While the status light helped me know whether the glasses where charging, it takes me a few tries to position them properly. It's simply not intuitive enough.
Amazon Echo Frames (3rd Gen) review: Verdict
The number of smart glasses I've reviewed and tried out increased exponentially this year, though there only two ones I can truly recommend: the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses that let you capture the world through your eyes, and now, the Amazon Echo Frames that slap Alexa to your face.
That said, smart glasses are still a niche purchase. How many people wish their normal dumb sunglasses could answer their queries and play their favorite tracks? According to Grand View Research, the market is going to grow over 23% from 2023 through 2030, but another report from Markets and Markets cites a "lack of awareness of long-term benefits" as a challenge to smart glasses adoption.
I can't offer you any "long-term benefits" to having Alexa a whisper away, besides a kind of convenience you have to be eager to explore. If you already have the interest, I think these Echo Frames are a fun, and stylish, introduction to the category.