I remember being fortunate to be a conscious adult already when the PDAs morphed into smartphones, and, as smartphones evolved, so did their accessories. In the early days, when the first Bluetooth headphones came out (those you could only use for talking on the phone), I remember looking at people who seemed to be talking to themselves while walking alone on the street.
Then I learned to spot the blinking blue or green LED in their ears and understand they’re having a hands-free conversation. Later people looked weird at me when I took a phone call on my wrist using a smartwatch, and society quickly caught up to understand and accept what was going on.
But without raising your wrist to your mouth or wearing headsets, as small as they’ve become, and still having a conversation while walking down the streets, now that’s a serious mental illness, at least in the minds of those who watched me doing it. Or is it?
Whether we like it or not, smartglasses are here, and will slowly become part of our lives. I’ve been using a pair recently, and this is my HUAWEI Gentle Monster Eyewear II review.
What are they?
Gentle Monster is a rather popular South Korean glasses brand, with celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Rihanna, and Beyonce as their customers.
The Eyewear II, as its name implies, is the second collaboration between HUAWEI and Gentle Monster after the first model in 2019.
It comes in four models split into two categories: Smart Havana and Smart Kubo for the optical glasses, as well as Smart Myma and Smart Lang (the one we have) for the sunglasses.
HUAWEI basically took these Gentle Monster glass models and made them smart, crossing them over with a pair of headphones, if you will, equipping them with antennas, batteries, speakers, microphones, and a lot of tech in general (more in the Hardware segment below).
As with any HUAWEI product in the past years, the entire experience is premium. You don’t get much in the box, but what you do get is pretty high quality.
You get the Eyewear II inside its protective case, which is also its charging station, and a USB cable to plug inside a charger that you already own, or a computer, and the other end inside the charging case.
Additionally, you get some literature to help you set them up, as well as a microfiber cleaning cloth.
Make sure you peel all the plastic off of the Eyewear II. They are shiny glossy black, and there’s a lot of plastic wrap out of the box to protect them.
Design and materials
When it comes to the design of glasses, whether they’re optical, or sunglasses like in our case, it’s all a matter of preference and physiognomy. Maybe you prefer aviator-style glasses or another shape, but can adapt to what HUAWEI is offering, or maybe it’s just spot on. You have four styles to choose from, pick the one you like.
In my particular case, I’m an aviator-guy, but I don’t look away when I see myself in the mirror wearing the Smart Lang, especially that I found them to be a good fit for my face, not too tight, not too loose, just spot on and comfortable.
As far as materials are concerned, they’re top-notch. So far they’ve been holding on in pristine shape. There was no abuse but there’s the occasional accidental rubbing them against a zipper or contact with the keys on the shotgun seat, but no wear and tear signs so far.
Also worth mentioning in this category that they are IP54 rated, which means they’re not fully waterproof, and these features “may deteriorate due to daily wear and tear”, HUAWEI says.
Moving away from the “glass” and towards the “smart” part, HUAWEI managed to cram a lot of technology inside the Eyewear II.
According to the official spec sheet, they weigh 44.2g, but they’re not at all uncomfortable to wear. Powering everything is a rechargeable Li-Po battery rated 85mAh, built inside the temple of the Eyewear II. That should, and in reality, does offer enough juice for five hours of music playback and 3.5 hours of voice calls.
Also on the temple, you’ll find one dynamic speaker on each side, while the two silicon microphones that pick up sound and cancel noise are located on the main frame temple.
Now, built into the temples you have a pinch sensor, a tap sensor, and a swipe sensor, in addition to the antennas that ensure Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity.
The protective/charging case is charging the Eyewear II wirelessly via NFC wireless fast charging technology. However, in order for that to happen, the smartglasses need to be inside the case, and the case needs to be connected to a power supply. We wish the case had its own battery so that you can at least top off the glasses once while out and about.
When you want to use the Eyewear II for the first time, you have to pair them up with your smartphone. We’ve used the HUAWEI Mate 40 Pro, and the entire process is seamless. Just like in the case of the Freebuds Pro, it is not mandatory but advised to have the AI Life app installed, which will give you easy access to settings, controls, and firmware updates.
After you make sure the Eyewear II is charged, you need to push the button located on the bottom of the charging case. Once you’ve done that, pinching the left temple will put the glasses in pairing mode, followed by confirming on your smartphone. That’s it!
Inside the AI Life app you can enable or disable wear detection of the glasses, which will automatically switch to them as the preferred audio input/output device when they sense they’re on, and back to the phone (or another accessory) when they sense they’re off.
You can also enable or disable the smart greeting, which will, depending on the time of the day, greet you with “Good Morning” for instance when you put them on.
The AI Life app is also the place to upgrade the firmware version of the glasses, which we have done twice during our review period, to the latest 18.104.22.168 version.
Taking calls and listening to music
When you receive a call while wearing the glasses, or initiate one, you can talk freely like you would with any other wireless headset on. The sound quality is excellent (more on that in the music paragraph below), and people on the other end said they heard us better than when talking on the actual phone.
When you listen to music, you have the advantage of not blocking out noise from the outside, but they’re still loud enough for you to enjoy your favorite tunes without distractions. The sound quality is really good, considering the small dimensions of the speakers. However, at higher volumes, some sound will leak out and will be heard by people in your immediate vicinity, something which is also valid for phone calls.
We especially liked the stereo separation, the wide soundstage, as well as the overall sound quality, which is lacking, if we really need to be picky, a little bit on the lower end. However, considering the convenience of never pulling your phone out from your pocket, and staying aware of your surroundings, they’re doing a great job.
Operating and gestures
Similar to the Freebuds Pro, the Eyewear II also relies on gesture control, hence all the sensors inside the temples. Using the AI Life app, you can customize these gestures to your liking. You have tapping gestures (which can be customized to Play/Pause, Wake AI voice, or none – on both temples), and sliding gestures where you slide your finger back and forth on the temples to adjust the volume or switch to the next/previous track, also optional on both temples.
Sunglasses and fashion
As I mentioned in the intro, when it comes to sunglasses as a fashion accessory, it all comes down to preference and taste. However, if the Eyewear II in any of its two sunglasses and two optical iterations are to your liking, they are a nice accessory to wear.
As a matter of fact, they’re more of a fashion statement than a wearable device, because people will mostly see you wear them, rather than hear you use them.
The ones we used are dark enough for bright sunlight, but you can also continue using them before sunset without a problem. Sadly we didn’t manage to wear them as much as we would have liked because of late autumn weather with cloudy rainy conditions, but we managed to get more than a couple of sunny days outdoor to test them out in real life with real traffic.
Pros and Cons
+ great design (subjective);
+ premium quality;
+ loud speakers;
+ sensitive microphone;
+ decent battery life.
– charging case doesn’t contain its own battery and needs to be plugged in;
– sound leaks out at louder volumes;
– lenses are highly reflective on the inside;
– lenses are not polarized.
Buying the Eyewear II will set you back at the moment £310.00 in the UK, or €299,99 in France, and €329 in Spain. They’re only available in certain markets in the EU, and Asia Pacific.
Considering that a pair of regular, non-polarized sunglasses, say, from a company like Ray Ban, go for 110-150 pounds or euros, is the “smart” part in the Eyewear II worth just as much? Yes, and no.
While it ultimately comes down to your personal preference (and wallet), you still need a pair of headphones with your regular sunglasses in order to take calls or listen to music. If you already rock a pair, you’ll probably pass on the Eyewear II.
Also, there’s another variable to factor in: if you’re opting for the sunglasses, you’ll likely only use them outdoors and in bright sunny days, which, depending on your routine, could be a lot, or just a couple of days. Factor that in as well. When you talk about the optical versions, that’s a different story altogether.
And then, if you’re the type of person who loves tech and gadgets, and want to set yourself apart from the crowd, and even attract attention and questions from people, this should definitely be on your list of items to add to your gadget collection.