Color blind glasses

Ray-Ban Stories review: The almost smart glasses

When I heard Facebook announce smart glasses with cameras, I thought it was a joke. Why would Facebook, a company infamous for misusing data, release a pair of glasses with a camera? Nevertheless, Facebook worked with Ray-Ban and created the Rayban Stories, a pair of smart glasses with a built-in speaker and not a but of them cameras. The stories are good when it comes to smart glasses… which isn’t far off.

Characteristics
  • Audio: Two open-ear speakers, 3-mic array
  • Controls: Capacitive strip, trigger, power switch
  • To be able to: 3 hour battery, USB C on case for charging
Advantages
  • Speakers: Surprisingly good and completely unexpected
  • Charging case: The smartest way I’ve seen to charge smart glasses
  • Design: These are the best looking smart glasses on the market. Looks like real sunglasses.
The inconvenients
  • Camera: HDR is bad and you really have to stay still to get a sharp photo
  • Camera light: too much or not enough depending on what you think
  • Facebook: Need I say more?
Buy this product

Unlike every other pair of smart sunglasses I’ve seen, Facebook has partnered with a well-known sunglasses company, Ray-ban, for design and branding. The Ray-Ban stories I have are based on the Wayfarer-style Ray-Ban glasses, but everything is just a bit bigger. The stems are a bit wider to make room for the speakers and battery and the rims are a bit wider to make room for the camera and LED. You probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between Wayfarer stories and classic Wayfarer glasses unless you had them side by side. Basically, they look great.

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Sunglasses come more than Wayfarer style and black color. The Wayfarer goggles actually have 8 color options while the Round and Meteor have 4 and 5 color options respectively. All the glasses follow the classic Ray-Ban design but, like the Wayfarer, they are a bit larger. All three models in all colors are plastic and come with plastic lenses on the base model. You’d expect them to be Polarized priced at $299, but it costs $30 more. Ray-Ban offers a prescription option, which starts at $230.80 for single vision and $335.80 for progressive lenses.


Stories RayBan USB C

The glasses are comfortable. They aren’t too heavy and don’t really feel like they’re too tight on my head. They also don’t feel like they’re going to fall off easily, which is good. These are much better quality than the equally priced Bose frames and slightly cheaper Echo frames.

Because these are smart glasses, you can find some tech here. There are two 5MP cameras, two outdoor speakers, 3 microphones and 4GB of storage. On the right stem is a capacitive area that controls media playback and volume while the button on the top of the stem is a shutter button. Inside the left stem is a switch you can use to turn the glasses on, off, or pair them to your phone. These run on a Qualcomm chip, for all that’s worth, and are, overall, probably the most advanced smart sunglasses on the market right now.

In the box, you get the carrying case/charger, a cleaning cloth, and a USB-C cable. Unlike most other smart glasses, the Ray-Ban Stories charge in the case. On the back of the right hinge is a hidden connector that becomes accessible when the rods are folded down, meaning that while the glasses are in the case, they charge. The case has a USB-C port on the back.

It should be noted that aside from the Facebook View app used to connect and control the glasses on your phone, there is no Facebook or Meta branding on these glasses. The case has a Ray-Ban logo and the glasses have the logo on each stem.

The sound quality of the Ray-Ban Stories is frankly not bad. It’s better than the Bose Frames and Amazon Echo Frames Gen 2. It still doesn’t compare to anything like a traditional pair of headphones, but lacks the warmth and richness of most audio products. It’s not something that will impress everyone, but it’s nice to have. It’s something that’s nice to have at the beach instead of headphones, but really won’t replace your headphones.


The camera quality on the glasses, on the other hand, is rather poor. There’s terrible HDR on the camera and you have to stand still with no movement in the frame for a good photo to be taken. Video is fine at best, but I really never found myself taking videos. I strongly believe the purpose of the camera on these glasses was simply to say they have a camera rather than useful Facebook or Meta functionality.

There are two 5MP cameras which can take photos and videos. The glasses can take “30+ 30-second videos” or “500+ photos”. I would have liked to test the 4GB storage capacity to put it to its limits, but once it syncs the photos to your phone, it removes them from the glasses. You will probably never reach the 4 GB limit.


RayBan Stories LED Light

One point of concern was cameras and privacy. Having a hard-to-see camera could be used for many scary purposes, but as I used the glasses I realized you really don’t have to worry about that. If you see someone wearing these smart glasses, you’ll know if they’re taking a photo from the loud shutter sound coming from the glasses’ speakers or the LED light on the frame. You’ll also see someone reach for their glasses first to press the button before the shutter sound and LED light or say “Hey Facebook”. Having cameras is always a privacy issue, but I think someone would have an easier time taking a photo or video from a phone rather than glasses.

The glasses have Facebook Assistant built in, but it’s not a full-fledged assistant. It can only take photos or videos for you. You can activate it by saying “Hey Facebook” which always felt a bit off. I found myself using the trigger instead.

You sync all images and videos with the Facebook View app on your phone. It connects to the glasses and downloads all photos and videos, allowing you to save them to your camera roll or share them on Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

If you’re worried about privacy, Facebook says no images ever leave the app or are shared with Facebook. There is no backup of photos apart from your phone. You can take that at face value, which I honestly would with these. I swapped between phones 2 or 3 times when reviewing these glasses and found that they didn’t bring any of my photos or preferences. Everything was saved on the device and nothing on the glasses or (to my knowledge) on the Facebook servers. It’s Facebook, so it’s up to you whether you trust it or not. I do.

Should I buy it?

Probably not. If you take Facebook’s privacy policy at face value, these glasses are cool. They’re not useful or practical, but they’re the coolest smart glasses I’ve used. In the end, if that’s what you want, it’s hard not to like them. For $299, these are probably the best way to get into smart glasses right now.

Just because the Ray-Ban Stories are cool doesn’t mean there aren’t a few flaws. Instead of a camera, I would have liked to see something like electrochromic lenses like the unreleased Ampere Dusk promises. It would also have helped solve many of Facebook’s privacy issues putting a camera on your face. Alas, that did not happen. All we’re left with is another pair of mediocre smart glasses that may or may not be a privacy disaster waiting to happen.


Buy it if…

  • You like and trust Facebook
  • You are ready to pay a high price to play with new technologies

Don’t buy it if…

  • You don’t trust Facebook
  • You are not willing to pay extra for a first generation product


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