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Accessibility

Bose smart glasses help me navigate as a blind person

Bose's Frames Tempo glasses have just the right feature set for use by the visually impaired.

On left, person wearing Bose Frames with bike helmet on. In middle, smartphone with Bose app open. On right, Bose Frames. Credit: Reviewed / Tara Jacoby / Bose

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As a person who is blind, I appreciate headphones as an invaluable tool for interacting with the world around me. However, living in this already stressful time of social distancing gets far more difficult when one’s ears are occupied. Headphones can prevent you from hearing sounds around you, so you might not notice if someone accidentally walks up to you while they are looking down at their phone.

Bone conduction headphones, like those in the Bose Frames line of "music sunglasses," solve this problem. Not only are they stylish and make for excellent hands-free technology operation, they could also allow you to listen to music and take calls while still hearing the sounds around you.

About Bose Frames Tempo

Person biking through forest.
Credit: Bose

If you're someone who is constantly on the go, these frames are for you–they have astounding battery life and keep your eyes shielded from harsh sunlight.

The first company I was aware of that prominently featured bone conduction technology in sunglasses was Bose. I was aware of the AfterShokz Bluetooth headsets, but Bose sunglasses would allow me to keep glare out of my eyes, while still listening to podcasts, music, and calls on my iPhone.

Released in 2020, Bose Frames Tempo sport a design that's engineered specifically for outdoor workouts like biking, running, and climbing. At $249, they have polarized lenses, block up to 99% of UV rays, and just sound great.

Frames Tempo are high quality

First person perspective: looking through the Bose with tinted frames at rocky shoreline cliffs.
Credit: Bose

With the Bose Frames Tempo, not only can you switch out the interchangeable colored lenses, but you can also add in your personal prescription lenses.

Bose Frames Tempo rest on your head as if they were normal sunglasses, and I swapped in special prescription lenses to block out the sun even more. My pair were one of three 2020 releases. The other two sunglasses released that year were Tenor and Soprano. I picked the Bose Frames Tempo because they appeared to have a longer battery life, generally capping out at about eight hours of continuous use. However, I was able to make them last nine hours in some cases. They can fit under most protective helmets; are sweat-, weather-, scratch-, and shatter-resistant; and have a surprisingly good bass for bone conduction headphones.

What I like

They’re great for accessibility

Blind person sitting on park bench outdoors using smartphone.
Credit: Getty Images / Halfpoint

The Bose Frames Tempo allow me to remain aware of my surroundings while also staying connected to my smartphone.

Because I'm totally blind, I often use them in conjunction with my phone's screen reader. They use custom-designed spring hinges and TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer) temple tips for comfortable stability around the head. And their nose pads come in three shapes for the right amount of grip to avoid slipping down the face. These have a 22 mm full-range driver, so I’d be able to hear my screen reader very well in addition to the many audio books and podcasts I consume.

They employ audio cues

One of the considerations when choosing a headset, in my case, is whether it has audible cues. Thankfully, all headsets in the Bose Frames family feature audio cues more than visual ones. This means you won’t have to take the device off your head to check battery level or connection status. This comes in quite handy while actively listening to music and audio books.

The sound quality is respectable

The bass on the headset does make voices sound a bit deeper than they otherwise would, but I believe that's a small issue that won’t impact the overall quality of the headset. They do have an equalizer, but I just never used it because the issue wasn't a big deal to me.

Audio book narrators sound great on this headset, but one thing I didn't quite enjoy was that, on a loud plane trip after vacation, I had to turn them up to their maximum volume in order to hear, and even that wasn't quite enough. The controls come in the form of three gestures: swiping on the arms of the glasses, pressing the multi-function button, or tapping the arms of the glasses while they are on your head.

They charge quickly

In addition, what made this tech ultra attractive was the fact that, unlike other Bose Frames models, the Frames Tempo uses a USB-C cable to charge, making it quite easy to replace, and it also charges lightning fast. In testing, I was able to charge the Frames Tempo to 60% in 30 minutes from a dead battery.

What I didn’t like

The included lenses attract dust

On left, person wearing sunglasses covered in dirt and water droplet. On right, Bose Frames.
Credit: Bose

The included lenses required constant cleaning–which I didn't appreciate.

Because I was using prescription lenses, I didn't notice any of my lenses accumulating dust a lot, but when I switched to the included lenses for a week, dust accumulated on them quickly. Even though they are supposed to be resistant to dust, I still had to wipe mine down within a week of using the Bose lenses. Then again, my apartment collects a ton of dust because of circulation, so I'm guessing most readers won’t experience dust accumulation quite so quickly.

Should you get Bose Frames Tempo?

Person exercising outdoors while wearing sunglasses.
Credit: Bose

These innovative sunglasses project clear audio, are more accessible than traditional ones, and are functional enough to wear during a workout–I'm sold.

Even though the lenses were somewhat difficult to replace for someone with motor issues, that’s not enough to keep me from highly recommending the Bose Frames Tempo, especially if you want to wear headphones while still being able to hear the sounds around you, such as on a bus or train.

I find it very convenient to have one pair of glasses to keep track of, rather than carrying sunglasses and a separate headset. The speakers are surprisingly decent across all media types, including heavy metal and Star Wars movies. In the time I've been using them, the battery also hasn’t seen a sharp decline in overall life, so, that's a bonus.

Get the Bose Frames Tempo for $249

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