Eyewear II review: Huawei’s smart glasses sound better than they look

The Eyewear II are a pricy, stylish way to get music without headphones - and one that’s not quite worth it

Does anyone need a pair of sunglasses that can play music? That’s the question posed, and presumably answered, by the latest collaboration between Chinese technology giant Huawei and South Korean sunglasses brand Monster Eyewear, the Eyewear II.

At one time smart-glasses were seem as the future of wearables, able to give us information and entertainment constantly. Google Glass is the most notorious example, but its dorky design, high price point, and privacy-invading built-in camera meant it became more famous as a joke than an innovation.

Nevertheless, many other companies are still working on the technology. Apple has been rumoured to be releasing augmented-reality specs for some time. Facebook, similarly, is prototyping its own pair of audio-sunglasses

This is the context in which Huawei and Monster Eyewear enter the fray, but with significantly fewer capabilities and a focus on fashion over the latest tech.

The headline features of this wearable – less smart-glass and more audio-visuals – are few. Users can listen to audio streamed from their smartphone and activate their device’s voice assistant. The glass is simply glass; no drop down notifications or video-viewing here.

The aforementioned rejection of Google Glass has taught the smart-glasses community one harsh lesson: less is more. But in Huawei’s case, more might be necessary to justify the £310 asking price.

Unbox the Eyewear II and one finds a rectangular, material case with a zip that both acts as case and wireless charger when the glasses are inside. The glasses themselves are thick, black, and plastic - although there is a titanium-alloy under the arms for sturdiness.

While they come in other shapes and sizes, the glasses provided by Huawei make the average wearer look like a high-tech diva compared to standard sunglasses.

In order to get the glasses working, users need to download Huawei’s AI Life companion app and pair the glasses to the device, which is smooth enough. Once that is done, the charms of the Eyewear II become more visible.

The glasses automatically detect when the user is wearing them so after starting some music on Spotify and putting the glasses on, the 128mm drivers built into both arms flare into life and start playing.

This is, admittedly, very cool. The Eyewear II actually elicited a few jaw drops as people put them on, bobbed their head in time to the music before realizing that they were not wearing headphones.

And the sunglasses sound decent. The midrange comes through well, which is especially useful when listening to your phone calls. Although the bass sounds flatter and the treble more tinny than it would otherwise be with in-ear or over-ear headphones, for a pair of sunglasses they’re surprisingly adept.

Call quality, too, is clear and apparently indistinguishable to those on the other end of the phone. It’s also hard to hear what is playing, or being said, when you’re not wearing the glasses, ensuring a modicum of privacy.

Huawei claims the device has three hours of battery life while on a call, and five hours when just listening to music, more than enough for a decent chat. The case, however, does not contain a battery and has to be plugged in via USB-C to charge the glasses. When you’re out, you’re out.

While the core mechanics of the glasses are good, their utility still leaves room for improvement. Swiping and tapping on the glasses’ arms turns the volume up and down or activates the voice assistant, but this is difficult to accomplish at the best of times and for users with long hair it’s particularly challenging compared to simple volume buttons.

In addition, it’s unclear how long the glasses will last should they get wet, or dusty. Huawei’s website says that the Eyewear II is IP54 rated, meaning it is splash, water, and dust-resistant, but also clarifies that those features “are not permanently valid and may deteriorate due to daily wear and tear.” The Independent has reached out to Huawei for how long they expect the shelf-life of these glasses to be.

The question of lifespan is a small, but important, reflection on the Eyewear II as a whole: how long is anyone going to use these for?

Practically, during the darker months the sunglasses are generally unusable outside, where standard headphones are not. If you wear corrective glasses everyday, the Eyewear II might be more attractive, especially with a potential “Find my Glasses” feature in case they get lost. But even then, consumers would be making a premium purchase.

Moreover, the potential for other companies like Apple and Google to put out products which play into the visual aspect of smart-glasses should not be underestimated - especially with the latter’s recent purchase of smart-glasses manufacturer North.

The likelihood is that the kind of smart-glasses that will cause a real storm among consumers are those that focus on the visual rather than just the audible. It is the natural and obvious progression of smart-glasses, and one which the Eyewear II lacks. 

With a price tag of over £300 these glasses are a neat glimpse into the future but one that is, practically, not worth the cost until they slim down in size and step up with more features.

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