Huawei has been building their personal audio business and brand for some time now. Their latest offering is a new take on earphones, with the HUAWEI X Gentle Monster Eyewear II sunglasses which come with built-in speakers for private, personal stereo audio.
The sunglasses are part of a collaboration with Gentle Monster, a fashion icon in their home country of South Korea, with Gentle Monster taking the reigns on design which match their non-earphone enabled Lang and Myma models.
The Lang and Myma are the two models of the HUAWEI X Gentle Monster Eyewear II currently on offer. The Myma offers larger lenses, which stylistically seem to be targeted more at women, while the Myma offer smaller lenses and suit my face a little more.
Priced at $499, there’s a premium for having the Huawei Personal Audio model over the standard sunglasses, both of which retail around $249. Taking into account some stereo buds are priced around the difference, it’s not a bad option.
I’ve been using the HUAWEI X Gentle Monster Eyewear II (Lang) sunglasses for two weeks now, and here’s how it went.
Hardware and Design
The Lang version of the Eyewear II is a decent looking set of sunglasses, though not my usual style. I normally wear a pair of RayBan Predator II wraparound sunglasses, so jumping into this style of sunglasses was a bit of a change.
In terms of sunglasses, they’re lightweight at just 44g and the arms sit comfortably on my ears and the arms conform to my head nicely but aren’t tight. There’s a little more room for sun to come in at the sides of the Eyewear II than on my usual sunglasses, and the lenses, while they carry Level 3 UV protection, aren’t polarised which my usual pair are, so it takes a little to adjust if you’re used to that.
Huawei has included both wear detection sensor and touch controls into the arms of the glasses letting you control the audio by lifting the glasses or using the tap and swipe gestures, but you couldn’t tell just by looking at them.
Wear detection can also be a bit fiddly if you’re doing this as you don’t disconnect them when you put them down. This meant I had to disconnect Bluetooth to get audio playing back on the phone, but this is a side-effect of turning it off, and not something of a problem with it on.
They’re a nice design that matches the non-smart version from Gentle Monster in looks, without giving away the smart functions built-in, so if you’re at all concerned about that you really shouldn’t be.
As a pair of earbuds or earphones, the HUAWEI X Gentle Monster Eyewear II include a ‘dynamic driver unit’ on each stem of the sunglasses.
The sunglasses have an IP54 rating, so they’ll survive a splash, but not a sustained drenching. I wore them happily in a light shower that I was caught in during a dog walk, but didn’t feel stressed and nothing happened, so it’s fine for this but don’t go for a swim.
Huawei are using an ‘open audio’ design for the Eyewear II, though the speakers direct audio towards your ear canal. The open audio design is fairly good with very little audio leakage. My wife was able to hear something coming from the glasses, but couldn’t make it out without getting very close.
The open audio design also gives you back the ability to hear things going on around you without having an earbud in your ear canal which is in itself a bonus for a lot of people.
The feature page for the Eyewear II says they use a ‘sparkling new acoustic system2 minimises the presence of audio leakage via inverse sound waves, ensuring that conversations remain private, even in quiet environments.’
I spent a lot of time listening to music, podcasts and audio books and the overall audio quality is good though, but not great. Music has a good range, but won’t be sufficient for people looking for higher end equipment.
Having the audio built-in to your sunglasses does present a problem if, like me, you want to continue listening while you’re inside. I found that disabling wear detection in the app lets you put the glasses on your head while leaving the audio playing, however this does mean your audio is leaking outward rather than being funneled towards your ear canal.
Charging and Battery
The Eyewear II has a 85 mAh Lithium Polymer battery, which gives you up to 5 hours on a full charge. I found this to be pretty accurate, though a conservative estimate with my stats looking closer to 6 hours.
The battery on the Eyewear II takes about an hour and a half to charge, with a battery indicator light on the charging case
The sunglasses themselves are charged by placing them into the case which connects via USB-C. The case itself isn’t a battery like you find on earbuds, so it won’t charge the glasses while on the go, but the soft inner lining on the top will protect the sunglasses if you need to put them in a bag or just somewhere safe.
Setup and Software
Setup is relatively simple with an app available for Android and iOS.
iOS users will be able to download the EYEWear app through the App store. Though the app appears mostly aimed at streamlining pairing, as well as offering an avenue for firmware updates, while the Android option offers access to more functions.
Android users will have to download the AI Life app through the Huawei App Gallery which does mean allowing installs from unknown sources. The experience for downloading is fairly streamlined in a mobile browser or you can install the full Huawei App Gallery on your phone.
Pairing is relatively easy, place the glasses in the case, then press and hold the pairing button on the back of the case. You can also use the AI Life or EYEWear apps to streamline this process. Once the app is setup there’s also an option to begin the pairing process by gripping one of the arms.
The AI Life app on Android is fairly straightforward with a simple layout showing your connection and battery status as well as letting you customise the double-tap and swipe gestures, wear detection and more.
The customisable gestures can be changed per arm which is nice. I immediately switched the ‘Wake Assistant’ option to play/pause on both arms, as well as swipe to change volume as opposed to skip track. It’s a personal preference thing and you can choose your own.
Should you buy them?
The HUAWEI X Gentle Monster Eyewear II are an interesting take on audio, pairing a very stylish and comfortable pair of sunglasses with a decent audio system and smart controls.
For anyone who doesn’t like the look of bluetooth earphones or simply can’t use in-ear buds these are a fantastic option.
The audio quality won’t appeal to audio enthusiasts, but for anyone else they’re a great option for listening to music, audiobooks or podcasts while looking pretty good.
The battery life is fantastic, though the lack of battery charging in the case is a bit of a miss if you spend long periods away from a charger.
The concept, though not entirely new, is very well done though. I really like the look of the Eyewear II and above all they’re comfortable to wear while listening to whatever you want.
At $500 they’re on the pricier side, but they are currently down to $388 if you shop around, which makes them an absolute bargain. I’ve really come to love the Eyewear II, so these are high on my Christmas wish list.