The 7 Best Smart Glasses of 2023
Emmeline Kaser is a tech writer and former editor for Lifewire. She writes and edits commerce content about consumer technology for Lifewire.
Rich Scherr is a seasoned technology and financial journalist who spent nearly two decades as the editor of Potomac and Bay Area Tech Wire.
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Smart glasses are set to be the next big thing in technology, but for now, they’re an experiment that puts cameras and headphones into what looks like regular sunglasses. Some can even work as simple augmented reality devices, projecting a computer screen into the corner of your eye.
If you want to take pictures and video and listen to audio (and you’re ok with ‘s involvement), buy the Ray-Ban Stories.
Ray-Ban Stories Smart Glasses
Developed with. Stories are unique in that they look like regular sunglasses. This is no surprise, given Ray-Ban created them, so they don’t scream ‘Smart glasses’ when you put them on, which is good.
They are available in three different, Ray-Ban styles—Meteor, Round, and Wayfarer, in five colors (glossy black, blue, brown, olive, or matte black) and six types of lenses (brown gradient, clear, dark blue, dark gray, green, or photochromatic green). Prescription lenses are also available, so it’s fair to say Ray-Ban has most people covered.
They double as Bluetooth headphones, and you use an app to upload videos and pictures taken with them. Unsurprisingly, you need a account to do that.
To take a picture, there’s a capture button on the right arm, and a touch-sensitive surface gives you call, playback, and volume controls.
Despite the privacy worries, these are probably the most fully featured Smart glasses out there, and while there is no augmented reality display, has been open in its plan to make one.
Super high-tech features often come with a high price tag, so if you’re looking for something more affordable, you may want to check out these futuristic-looking sunglasses from TechKen. They have built-in Bluetooth headphones extending down from the glasses’ arms, making them an excellent option for exercising and other outdoor activities. While regular wireless earbuds can run the risk of falling out, these are attached directly to the sunglasses, so you can keep the music playing without fear of losing an expensive earbud.
The adjustable headphones can be moved forward and back for a comfortable fit. They also have a built-in microphone to take calls when the glasses are connected to your phone. Button controls on the frame allow you to adjust the volume, play and pause music, and answer calls.
Best for Music
Bose Frames Audio Sunglasses
The Bose Frames are another entry in the combined sunglasses-and-headphones category, and they boast the best audio quality of any device on this list. They also look the most like regular sunglasses. If the style is a top priority, Bose offers five different audio sunglasses designs: the rectangular Alto, the round Rondo, the sporty Tempo, the square Tenor, and the cat-eyed Soprano. Choosing your look is half the fun.
The Frames have the speakers built into arms and tucked right behind the wearer’s ears. Even though there are no in-ear headphones, the design of the glasses prevents the sound from leaking to the people around you. This lets you enjoy your music while remaining fully aware of your surroundings (and without disturbing your neighbors). Our reviewer noted that the audio does have the excellent warm quality that the Bose brand is known for. The only downside: it can get drowned out by the noise in your environment. So if you’re commuting or planning to listen somewhere loud, your music might be hard to hear.
The Bose Frames also come with the Bose AR platform, which is still in its early stages but shows some promise for engaging AR audio experiences. The glasses already have built-in gyroscopes and motion tracking that makes them well-suited to augmented reality app integration.
We spent time with the Rondo style, and while there are refined touches, there’s a somewhat fragile feel to the frames. Though each of the arms has mini speakers strategically placed inside them, there’s no substantial weight to the sunglasses. This is a plus for comfortable wear, but we also found that the frames walked a fine line of feeling and looking a little cheap. While they’re not at all bulky or hefty in the hands, we did notice that wearing them for over an hour did start to feel heavy on the face. We experienced some discomfort particularly in the nose bridge area where the frames pressed into the skin. We also wore these on a short 1-mile jog and noticed a bit of slipping and sliding halfway through the run. In terms of overall lens quality, we appreciated how rugged they were. They picked up smudges, but scratching was a non-issue. We found the placement of the single button, on the right arm just near the temple, to be intuitive and easy to interact with. Even though there is no ear tip or bone conduction technology, we were impressed with how crisp, warm, and close the listening experience was. Keep in mind audio quality isn’t as great when there’s a lot of background noise, however. We paired the Bose Frames to an iPhone 6 and noticed that only nine apps were available to us. We tested a travel-related app called NAVIGuide that provides step-by-step voice directions. This worked well and saved us from having to repeatedly look at our phone for directions. — Yoona Wagener, Product Tester
Bose Frames Alto review: don’t throw away your headphones yet
Audio giant Bose, perhaps best known these days for its over-ear noise-canceling headphones, has made a pair of audio sunglasses. They’re called the Bose Frames, and they come in two different versions. I tried out the Frames Alto to see what they’re all about.
Frames Alto release date and price
The Bose Frames Alto are available now for 199. There’s also a Rondo version of the Frames, which have more rounded lenses and a smaller fit, also for 199. Bose stops short of calling these “men’s” and “women’s”, but the two frame-styles are being marketed, at the very least, in that direction.
Both pairs of Bose Frames are available in one color, matte black. The review unit I tested had the standard dark lenses in them but you can buy mirrored lenses in polarized silver (29.95) or non-polarized gradient blue (19.95) from the Bose website.
So for two-hundred bucks, you’re getting a product that cost at least as much as a decent pair of sunglasses and a decent pair of earbuds combined. Can the Bose Frames replace either? Let’s find out.
Well-made in a classic design
The design of the Bose Frames Alto are what the company is calling “Modern Classic”. I call it, “Ray-Ban Wayfarer-Esque”. That said, I do like the design. For a product that has been made by what is essentially an audio company. and one not exactly known for its slick design. I’m impressed at how close the Frames Alto get to passing as regular sunglasses, especially when worn by people with long enough hair to cover up the rather chunky temples. They’re also comfortable to wear, despite weighing 44.7 grams.
Build quality is excellent. The stainless steel hinges, finished in gold, are rock solid. The rims are made of nylon, and sit comfortably on the bridge of your nose. Aside from the added girth of the temples, the only real giveaway that these are more complicated than regular shades is the gold button on the bottom of the right temple, and the metal charging plates on the inside.
The Frames Alto come in an imitation leather case, with enough room for your charging cable. It’s strudy and offers enough protection for your high-tech sunglasses. No complaints here. The lenses are scratch and shatter-resistant but nobody is going to be chucking a 200 pair of sunglasses into a bag unprotected.
The connection between the Bose Frames and your smartphone is done via Bluetooth. You can use the Bose Connect app, but it not necessary. Combined with the Trusted Devices features in Android, I never had any problems on the connectivity side and the initial setup was fast. Bose says the range is nine meters. I am very rarely that far away from my smartphone.
Bose AR desperately needs developers
Thanks to the Bose Connect app, the Frames Alto support Bose AR. They are calling this a first-of-its-kind audio augmented reality platform. In principle, it sounds promising, bringing digital assistant-type functions to your ears that enhance the world around you.
In practice, Bose AR is virtually unusable at this stage of its development. The only app currently available is called Golfshot. a virtual caddy with support for more than 45,000 gold courses worldwide. Not being much of a golfer myself, I was not able to test this during my review process. The Bose Connect app does advertise that two more apps are coming soon: Audiojack, an audio-movie service, and Otocast, a kind of virtual tour guide. We’ll have to wait and see how this one pans out in the future for Bose AR.
The Find My Buds feature in the Bose Connect app does not support the Frames Alto. To be perfectly honest, there’s little in the app that is useful for this product. Battery life is displayed there, but you can also see that in the Connected devices menu on Android.
Don’t be expecting to throw away your earbuds
The Bose Frames feature miniaturized speakers in the bulky part of each temple. They are positioned to project sound directly into your ear canal, but allow you to hear your surroundings just as you normally would. Bose calls this an open-ear design. The best way I can come up with to describe what the Frames offer is that it is like a kind of soundtrack to your journey.
Sound quality when it comes to music streaming is the weakest of the use cases with the Frames. It’s not bad, though, by any stretch of the imagination. Music sounds clear and crisp and there are decent dynamics present, but the Frames lack bass in bucketloads. If you are into hip hop or house or any genre that uses bass or drums as a core element, your favorite tunes will sound flat and fragile on the Bose Frames.
The Frames Alto are not a replacement for headphones then, absolutely not. Even a pair of in-ear earbuds that cost a quarter of the price of these will sound better for music playback. But that’s fine, because the Frames are not really about delivering top-quality audio quality for listening to music.
When it comes to listening to podcasts or audiobooks, the Bose Frames shine. Voices remain clear even at maximum volume, with little-to-no distortion. The open-ear design also makes the Frames ideal for cycling, because you can still hear traffic and the world around you, with the clear sound of spoken word in your ear. I was surprised by how well this worked. I usually wear active noise-canceling headphones on my commute, but I enjoyed the bend of natural environmental noise and audio that the Frames delivered.
Calls, Siri and Google Assistant
You can also use the Bose Frames for making calls. Despite the fact that this takes the creepiness of looking like you are talking to yourself to a whole new level, the Frames are great for making phone calls. Audio is clear on the wearer’s end and the microphone is good enough to deliver loud and clear on the caller’s end. Top marks.
One downside of the design is that there is quite a bit of audio bleed when you get these things cranked up. It’s worse with music, which is another reason why I do not really rate these for listening to the latest IDLES album (great Band) or similar. I’m always wary of audio spill, especially on the subway, and would be too self-conscious to listen to music in an enclosed space with these. Even in the office, Julius, who sits next to me but much further away than you would sit next to someone on a train or bus, could hear audio spill when I had the volume at around 70 percent.
Just enough battery life
Charging is done via USB. The connect is magnetic and strong. You get a fat USB to custom connector cable in the box, but it’s really short. In theory, you could wear the Frame Alto whilst charging them. The frame design and charging cable connection leaves more than enough room to wear them comfortably whilst hooked up. You will, however, look ridiculous of course.
Bose claims there’s enough battery life in these to last for up to 3.5 hours of streaming music playback. That will be sufficient for most, especially given the two-hour charging time from zero to 100 percent. For commuting, exercising or walking your dog, you should have plenty of juice. Battery life was true to these claims during my testing period.
A perfect fit, about once per day
I was skeptical about the Bose Frame Alto at first, but I must admit they did grow on me. The Alto design is definitely a little large for my face, and I’d probably go for the Rondo’s if I was going to buy these for myself. Even so, they are very comfortable to wear and listening to podcasts whilst cycling was an enjoyable experience.
The price remains a bit of a sticking point. At 200, the Bose Frames are very much a luxury tech gadget that has very few use cases to justify the price. I would not want to use the Frames as a replacement for my regular sunglasses or my regular headphones, not for listening to music at least. But there are certain situations where the Frames make total sense.
For a first attempt at bringing something completely new to the market, you have to applaud Bose for getting a lot right here. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on what happens with AR Core in the future. There’s potential there if the right developers can be brought on board.
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David enjoys staying abreast of the latest technology and newest Android apps. Outside of the office, he can be found playing snooker and writing bad 00s indie songs.
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The Bose Frames stuff speakers into sunglasses for a brilliant set of shades
- Excellent lenses
- Sleek design blends in well
- Impressive audio clarity and detail
- Brilliant for biking and outdoor use
- Basic IPX2 water resistance
- Short battery life
- Very weak bass response
- AR applications are limited, iOS only
It takes a lot to make a splash in the audio world these days.
That’s what makes Bose’s Frames — headphones/sunglasses you might actually want to wear — so special. Pegged as conveyors of aural AR and crafted for “sun and sound,” the Frames are a fascinating audio entry from Bose, made all the more intriguing when word began circulating that they actually sound good. Design limitations certainly pigeon-hole them to a degree, as does their 200 price tag. And yet, while the Frames are just an early offering that may (or may not) help kick-start a new genre, they’re also kind of magical.
Christmas in June
Full disclosure: I have an ongoing love affair with both headphones and sunglasses based around what they bring into and block out of my head respectively. So it’s no surprise that unwrapping the Frames inspired some kid-on-Christmas nostalgia.
Set inconspicuously at the front of the right earpiece is a tiny gold bead that acts as the multi-function button for power, play/pause, song skip, calling, and AI assistant via a series of taps and holds. It’s easy and instantly intuitive. The only real omission here is volume, which is a key miss and one we’re hoping Bose will add via touch controls in the next iteration.
A single LED tucked into the earpiece interior shows charge status, while charging is accomplished via a gold magnetic plate and proprietary USB cable. My first charge attempt must have been misaligned, however, resulting in dead Frames, so you’ll need to take care. They’ll power down automatically in five minutes, or you can simply set them on their top. It’s more elegant than a power switch, but a touch less functional, too.
The black-tinted lenses are of high-quality and work well to fight glare, designed to block 99 percent of UVA/UVB rays (which I assume is good), though they aren’t polarized.
The Bose Connect app for iOS or Android allows for quick and easy setup, walking you through pairing and control in a matter of seconds. The app also offers other basic functions, including firmware upgrades and download links to Bose’s nascent AR apps, designed to offer a swell of new use cases for your Frames — but only for iPhones and iPads at present.
In your head
After connecting the Frames, announced by a lady robot, and pressing play on my Spotify test playlist to unleash Radiohead’s Burn the Witch, I was completely taken aback by how good it sounded. Then the song’s bass drop kicked in — or rather, didn’t. The lack of punch in the low-end, sounding as though as high as 300Hz or more has been rolled off, was a bit of a shocker at first, re-sculpting the mix in an almost comical fashion.
You can’t really use them inside unless you’re a wannabe rock star.
Once my ears adjusted to the lack of punch, however, I was enthralled by just how musical and clear the Frames’ sound is. Maybe most impressive is the way the stereo image seems to almost materialize inside your head, as if magically beamed within the boundaries of your skull. Strings and guitar are sweetly rendered, horns crunch with breathy definition, and vocals are clean and clear at the center, even as the sounds of the outside world move through your ears with breezy nonchalance.
Allowing for such detail and spritely definition makes the Frames not just functional, but friendly when you put them on, almost daring you to take them along on your outdoor adventures — especially when the sun is shining brightly above.
Call quality is generally the same as you’d expect from any good pair of wireless headphones, i.e. pretty decent. Sound was just fine on my end (though I did hear a few instances of digital distortion) and I received no Комментарии и мнения владельцев about issues with clarity when speaking, even when I tried whispering
Right after I’d connected the Frames and began listening, I shared my first impressions with a deskmate whose instant reaction was less optimistic: “Those are cool, but the applications seem pretty limited,” he replied.
He wasn’t exactly wrong. For one obvious point, you can’t really use the Frames inside, especially at the office, unless you don’t mind looking like a wannabe rock star/ass while squinting at your monitor. This leaves out the gym for similar reasons. Even for gloomy days (of which Portland offers plenty), the Frames are limited. You can swap in prescription lenses, but only from third-party vendors, and that obviously adds more to the 200 bottom line.
The Frames also offer just 3.5 hours (or less) of playback time per charge and, unfortunately, they can’t charge in their case to supplement that limitation like so many fully wireless earphones. We appreciate that they’re IPX2 certified for basic water resistance, but that means they’re only splash proof and can’t withstand a serious douse. And because of the open design, extra-loud spaces are also pretty much a no go.
As for AR applications, I admit I didn’t spend a ton of time with them, namely because my primary phone runs Android (hint). Even exploring with my old iPhone, the applications are limited, offering augmented story simulations for workouts (which also work with headphones), ambient soundscapes, and a few other basics. Apart from GPS, the only really practical one for me is the golf guide, and I’m still not sure I want a robot in my head on the course.
… and possibilities
That said, in practice, I found myself much more focused on what the Frames can do than what they can’t.
My first real Frames adventure came in the form of a blissful afternoon bike ride to the hardware store on a golden spring day. My ears basked in lovely tunes, even as the wind whipped by, raising the moment from sweet to sparkling, including a significant moment of reflection at a stoplight listening to Father John Misty’s rendition of Gillian Welch’s Everything is Free.
The stereo image seems to almost materialize inside your head.
A sun-drenched morning walk for a smoothie with my wife similarly transformed from lovely to inspired as I added just a splash of Vampire Weekend’s latest record, while still carrying on a cordial conversation. Had I not told my wife I was testing the Frames she’d have been none the wiser.
That inspired more potential use cases for the Frames: A musical trek in Oregon’s emerald Gorge (without bothering my fellow hikers), pulling weeds on a Sunday afternoon, or just relaxing in the backyard with an icy drink. The Frames offer plenty of enticing ways to splash some music or podcasts into your life, without ever losing touch with the world around you.
While limited in use cases (and battery life), Bose’s Frames represent a brilliant first step in a burgeoning new headphone genre, the applications of which are only beginning to be explored.
Is there a better alternative?
With such a distinctive product, this is difficult to answer. If you’re looking for something more traditional and versatile to power your workouts, we suggest checking out the Jabra Elite Active 65t fully wireless earbuds (though be warned that their hear-through DSP technology doesn’t work very well for bike rides). There are also plenty of other great fully wireless earbuds available these days.
You can also check out some similarly angled products from companies like Trekz, such as the Trekz Titanium headphones, and the new Aftershokz Aeropex, both of which use bone conduction to send sound to your ear canal through a bone in your jaw, while keeping your ears unfettered to let in the world around you. We like the versatility of these products, and they generally offer much better battery life, though in my experience bone conduction doesn’t offer sound as vibrant as Bose’s Frames.
How long will it last?
Though delicately designed, the Frames should hold up well over time as long as you keep them in their case and don’t drop them on hard pavement. That said, their meager battery life will only get worse as time goes on.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for a unique and exciting new way to get your tunes, and you love to get out in the sun, Bose’s Frames are definitely worth considering. But if you want something more versatile for your 200, you may instead want to try a good pair of fully wireless earbuds.
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
Bose showed up at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit being held in Hawaii to make a surprise announcement: The company will be adding Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Sound certification to the QuietComfort Earbuds II (QCE II) in spring 2023, bringing 24-bit and lossless audio to Bose’s flagship earbuds.
When Bose launched the QCE II earlier in 2022, the wireless earbuds only supported SBC and AAC codecs, making them something of an outlier in terms of flagship wireless earbuds. Many of Bose’s competitors (with the notable exception of Apple’s Airpods Pro) support some flavor of 24-bit capable codec. At the time, we asked company spokespeople if there were any plans to add high-res capabilities, but all we got were some careful acknowledgments that it wasn’t out of the question.
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Bose Frames review: Smart audio sunglasses are a blast
The Bose Frames are the answer to the question: what if your sunglasses were also a set of Smart, hidden headphones with no earbuds or no bone-conduction system, just a set of personal speakers?
As a wearer of true wireless earbuds, that’s not a question I ever thought I would ask. But the Bose Frames are delightful and leaving your ears free of buds or headphones has a clear and obvious case.
The term “Smart glasses”’ might conjure up visions of Google’s ill-fated Glass, but the Bose Frames are not in the same league. There’s no screen, camera or any visible signs of “Smart” from the front. Instead they have built-in sensors and a pair of hidden speakers, which pipe music to your ears.
Bose has nailed the design of the Frames. They look like regular unisex sunglasses. Granted, the arms are a bit thicker and wider near the ears, where traditional sunglasses would taper, and there’s a small gold button for turning them on and controlling music. But I was happy wearing them when not listening to music.
There’s a choice of two frames: the larger, squarer Alto (as tested) and the smaller, rounder Rondo. Both are made from black nylon, come with black lenses and look fairly generic.
Other lenses are available as optional accessories, including a set of mirrored polarised (£30) or blue gradient (£20), which pop in and out easily enough with a bit of light force applied to the lens. But that’s about as far as customisation goes. Prescription lenses are coming, but aren’t available in the UK yet.
They’re comfortable to wear for extended periods without pinching on the nose or ears, and fold up just like any regular set. They weigh 45g, which is about the weight of a thicker set of premium sunglasses.
If I was to nitpick I would say that the black frames look a little cheap and almost too generic. But the fact that’s even worth mentioning is testament to how not like other Smart glasses the Frames are.
How they work and sound
The glasses sound amazingly good for what they are. Two small speakers sit in the frame just in front of your ears. The music is directed straight to your ear through small speaker grilles, while cancelling sound is projected out into the world. The result is a sound leakage of about 1%, according to Bose.
In the real world if you have the volume below 50% people sitting right next to you won’t hear it. In fact I took delight in the look of surprise on people’s faces when I gave them the Frames and they suddenly heard my tunes blasting out as they put them on. It’s really very impressive.
In terms of raw sound quality, the Frames sound like a very open set of quality earbuds. They lack deep bass, but give them something complex and they shine with energy and warmth, with excellent separation and clarity.
Crank them up beyond 85% volume and you start to hear distortion, but they pretty loud by that point. Most of my listening was about at 60% on the street or about 30% in quieter spots.
The one thing the Frames can’t do that earbuds can is protect you from the loud din of a city. You can forget hearing music on a screeching train or while walking by a working jackhammer. In this regard they are very much like Apple’s popular Airpods.
Controls and connectivity
The Frames support standard Bluetooth audio (SBC) as well as the higher quality AAC audio, and had rock-solid connectivity with both Android phones and the iPhone. No noticeable lipsync issues were present either, which made the Frames great for watching video.
The microphone was surprisingly good, picking up my voice clearly for the other end of the call (or Google Assistant/Siri). Be warned though: with no earbuds visible people think you’re talking to yourself.
Turning on the Frames is as easy as pressing the single discreet button under the right arm. The button also serves for pause/play or accepting a call. Double press to skip forward, triple for back. Anyone who has used wireless earbuds before will be familiar with this.
To switch them off just turn them upside down for a second or so. It all works great. The one thing they’re missing is volume control, so you’ll be reaching for your phone for that, which is a shame.
You get just over three hours of continuous listening out of the Frames before the battery runs dry, which is normally enough. Charging is fairly slow and needs a proprietary magnetic USB cable that snaps on to the inside of the right arm.
The Frames come with a traditional sunglasses case, which is a missed opportunity. Most true wireless earbuds last about three hours, but are charged multiple times by their case. The Frames could really do with a battery in the case. It’s too easy to forget to charge them, turning them into standard sunglasses.
The Smart bit of the Frames is support for the firm’s audio augmented reality platform, Bose AR, which is also available on the Bose’s popular QC35 II headphones, and on the upcoming Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700.
The Frames know which way you’re facing and your location from the GPS on your phone, so you can use audio to feed information about the real world into your ears.
But the platform only supports iOS at the moment and lacks a killer app. The best of the bunch are some 3D audio experiences, a golf app that can tell you where the hole is and some walking directions. None of them were interesting enough to use beyond novelty, but Bose AR has potential.
The Bose Frames Alto cost £199.95 with black lenses, with gradient blue lenses costing £19.95 and mirrored silver polarised lenses costing £29.95 as optional extras.
The Bose Frames Rondo cost £199.95 with black lenses, with gradient blue lenses costing £19.95 and mirrored rose gold polarised lenses costing £29.95 as optional extras.
For comparison, the Oakley Radar Pace, which has in-ear buds attached to the sunglasses, costs £400 while various bone conduction sunglasses cost from about £100.
The Bose Frames are delightful – a set of premium sunglasses that also act as your personal music system. Kept to 50% or lower those next to you can’t hear your music, but because your ears are open you can hear the world around you.
Clearly this is a massive advantage for cyclists or pedestrians, but it also means you’re subjected to the noise of the world around you. For anyone who always walks around with earbuds in, as I do, this can be quite overwhelming when you first start out.
They look good enough that I ended up wearing them even when not listening to music. And when you do switch them on they sound surprisingly good, with rich audio that sparkles with the right track. There’s simply no comparison with bone conduction or similar other non-earbud personal audio technologies.
Listening to your tunes while still being able to hear the great outdoors while sitting in the garden or park in brilliant sunshine is thoroughly enjoyable. Trying to listen to a podcast while travelling on London’s noisy Piccadilly line, not so much.
So the Frames will never be the only set of headphones you need, and they could do with a battery in the case, volume controls and a few more styles, not to mention prescription lenses and some killer Bose AR apps.
But even at £200 the Bose Frames are the most interesting piece of wearable technology I have donned since the original Google Glass.
Pros: music without blocking your ears or making a racket for others, look good, choice of lenses and frames, comfortable, sound good, solid Bluetooth connection, excellent call quality
Cons: no battery in the case and only 3.5 hours between charges, will never be your only set of earphones, can’t protect from noise of the outside world, AR potential unrealised
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