The last time I tried smart sunglasses, they were the mighty Bose Frames. Music streaming, Augmented Reality (AR) apps potential and everything. Perhaps they came before their time. Which is why, when Fastrack sent over the new Audio Sunglasses for review, it was a bit of a jog through the memory. Albeit, Fastrack has kept things much simpler than what Bose did. The Fastrack Audio Sunglasses bring no complication of augmented reality and more. It is purely audio near your ears, so that you feel cool. And this feeling of being cool will cost you around Rs 3,499.
Really, there isn’t much input that I can add to the design bit. These look like sunglasses, have the Wayfarer frame and have Polarised UV lenses to protect you from the harsh sunlight. The plastic finish is matte black, albeit there is a softer rubberized finish on the part that sits on the ear. The first hints that this isn’t a standard pair of sunglasses comes when you look at the thicker arms, and the rather big power button sitting on the right-side arm. No matter, because these are very comfortable to wear and no different from my other sunglasses. But the thicker arms pose a bit of a challenge for me while driving—the peripheral vision gets a bit compromised and a quick glance at the outside rear view mirrors isn’t exactly possible at it is with my standard and simpler sunglasses. For those of you who don’t drive (or don’t use the rear-view mirrors all that much), that shouldn’t be a problem.
The Fastrack Audio Sunglasses pair with your Android phone or Apple iPhone using Bluetooth, and there is no complication of a companion app. Once that is done, any audio playback on your phone can be routed to the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses. These aren’t bone-conducting, and what you simply get are directional audio speakers sitting close to where your ears would be. You may like to use these for music playback, for taking calls and for listening to navigation alerts, for instance. That is what the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses can do, on paper.
In the real world, there are a few things you’d need to realize. The audio delivery from the sunglasses will not be isolated from people around you, and neither will you get any sort of isolation from the ambient noise. They can hear what you hear, at least for the most part. If you are in a car, driving all by yourself, these will work. If you are in a public transport or in a public place, you’ll be a nuisance to people around you. And if you intend to take calls on this, don’t make a complete mockery of decorum around you, in elevators, while waiting in queues and so on.
The audio quality is pretty basic—there really is no other way of putting it. The default volume is very loud, so much so that it can be uncomfortable till you dial it down. The very first prompt to tell you the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses are in pairing mode is loud and sharp. That is to be expected perhaps, because this is a very basic speaker each near your ears, and it is tuned purely for loudness. If you take this as your method for taking voice calls, you will get good enough audio from the other party, but they will often complain they aren’t able to hear you because of ambient noise getting in the way. Music again, is fairly limited with the audio delivery hardware at play here. It will be loud, but it will not necessarily have all the details. And it most certainly won’t have bass.
At least the Bluetooth connection was stable whenever I used the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses.
The use case where the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses can be incredibly useful is with navigation, when you may be using an app such as Google Maps. It is quite easy to miss navigation guidelines from time to time. This will work well for pretty much everyone, including someone on a motorcycle or a scooter wearing these under the helmet.
I noticed that when you fold the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses, they do not switch off automatically—they do so after a few minutes of inactivity. That’s a bit perplexing, considering you may very easily forget to “switch off your sunglasses”, since it may never really become a habit. A drained out battery, when you need it the most, can be quite annoying.
The thing with the Fastrack Audio Sunglasses is that they have taken a concept and made it truly affordable. And it may just work, as a device, for some users. Mind you, not everyone will have utility for such an audio delivery mechanism in their daily routine. These are very good as sunglasses. But if you expect these to be your source of music regularly, or replace your handsfree apparatus for voice calls, it probably won’t. The times when you can use these effectively, may be very limited in your daily routine.