MailOnline reviews Facebook's £299 smart glasses

  • Facebook has a pair of smart glasses created in partnership with luxury sunglasses maker Ray-Ban
  • They retail at £299 ($299 in the US), about $40 cheaper than Spectacles from Snap Inc, the firm behind Snapchat
  • MailOnline has tried the devices, said to be part of Facebook's plans to create a virtual 'metaverse'

By Jonathan Chadwick For Mailonline

Published: | Updated:

Facebook partnered with Ray-Ban to launch its smart glasses, which feature two hidden cameras allowing you to secretly snap photos and video on the go

Facebook has released its first ever pair of smart glasses, created in partnership with luxury sunglasses maker Ray-Ban – and they're priced at a rather hefty £299. 

Facebook Ray-Ban Stories, as they're called, are about £30 cheaper than those offered by Snap Inc, the company behind Snapchat. 

Packed with dual integrated five megapixel cameras, a three microphone array and discreet open-ear speakers, they let wearers secretly snap photos and video on the go and have control over some apps hands-free. 

MailOnline has tried out the new glasses, which are said to be a first step in Facebook's plans to turn the social media platform into a 'metaverse' – a collective virtual shared space featuring avatars of real people. 

© MailOnline

Named Ray-Ban Stories, they cost £299 in the UK ($299 in the US) and come with dual integrated five megapixel cameras, a three microphone array and discreet open-ear speakers

Upon opening the box, the initial feel of the glasses is not quite as luxurious as the price tag suggests.  

The front frames themselves are heavy, but the temples – the long arms on either side – seem hollow and a bit chintzy, like they're made of really cheap plastic.

These glasses are supposed to be one-size-fits-all. I don't know if the width of my head is above average, but when I put them on, the rigid sides really pressed against my temples, which got slightly painful after a while. 

I usually keep my sunglasses on top of my head when I'm not wearing them, but I think if I tried this with Facebook Ray-Ban Stories I'd snap them in two.  

© Facebook/Ray-Ban

Here's what you get inside the box as well as the glasses - charging case, charge lead, two booklets and a silk glasses pouch

Otherwise, putting them on for the first time was pretty cool. It gave my surroundings a gentle blue tint, as if I were Cyclops from X-Men.  

It's worth pointing out Facebook Ray-Ban Stories do the most important thing that's required of a pair of sunglasses – they protect eyes from the sun. 

Also in the box is the glasses case – which the glasses sit inside when they're charging – as well as a charging lead, silk pouch and two useful booklets. 

The charging case – which is big and beefy, and unlikely to fit in most handbags – is powered up by the USB-C cable. (I'll still never get over the fact that we now live in a world where glasses cases have charging ports.) 

Unfortunately, the charging cable that's included in the box is USB-C to USB-C, meaning if you have a USB plug socket like me you'll have to buy an adaptor.  

© Facebook/Ray-Ban

The Facebook View app is where all the captured photo and video appears when the glasses are in the vicinity of a paired smartphone

Once the glasses are out of the box, they may need a burst of charge before they can linked up with a smartphone.

Make sure you've downloaded the Facebook View app – this isn't the Facebook Messenger app, or the standard Facebook app, but an entirely new app specifically for the smart glasses.

Once fully charged, a small light at the front of the charging case turns green. Power the glasses on just requires the flicking of a small switch next to the left frame.  

The glasses are Bluetooth-enabled, so you have to just make sure they're powered on and near to your phone when you hook them up as you click through a few steps on the app.  

When you use the 'capture button' on the side of the glasses, a light appears to signify to others that they are recording - but the light is very subtle

What's great about Facebook Ray-Ban Stories is they're actually really simple to use.  

Most of the time I've had them on I've just been taking photos and video, using a small 'capture button' at the top of the right-hand temple.

Holding the capture button down for a few seconds takes a photo (wait for the shutter sound before releasing) and pressing it once starts a 30-second-long video.

You can press the capture button again to stop the video recording before this 30 seconds is up, however.

The photo and video captures then appear on the Facebook View app and can be shared to social media like TikTok and Instagram, as well as other apps.  

Whenever users are taking photos or recording, a small white light flashes on the front of the specs to alert other people – but this is easily missed.

What's more, the position of the capture button means you could very surreptitiously press it and start recording your surroundings, while pretending you're adjusting the glasses on your nose.  

'I may be recording you with my smart glasses. Do not be alarmed.' I dread to think how many people will be filmed unwittingly because of these devices - but the same can be said for other smart glasses

Facebook Ray-Ban Stories do other things too – firstly, they automatically play your ringtone into your ear from small speakers at the end of the temples.   

You just have to double tap the 'touchpad' at the side of the glasses to answer or end a call, or tap and hold to reject.

The only thing is, unless you look at your phone, you don't know who's ringing, so you're unable to make the decision to reject the call based on the person on the other end.

Facebook Ray-Ban Stories also gives you control the playback of music apps like Spotify and Apple Music – tap the touchpad once to play or pause, double tap to skip a track, and triple tap to skip back. 

You can also swipe back and forth to increase or decrease the volume of the music, which likewise plays out of the tiny speakers. 

And the glasses have Facebook Assistant functionality (for English speakers only), meaning you can tap and hold the touchpad or say 'Hey Facebook' to get it to take photos or video.   

The glasses are charged inside the chunky case (pictured), which itself comes with a USB-C port at the back. A light at the front signifies when the both are fully charged

Overall, the Facebook Ray-Ban Stories are a lot like my pair of Bluetooth headphones, except that I can see out of them, and I can take photos and video with them.

I'm not sure who would be buying them, other than gadget lovers and a certain breed of people who like to say, 'What, these? They're my smart glasses. They take photos and videos. Cool eh?'

To be honest, they're something of a boy's toy to help guys live out their James Bond fantasies. I'm not sure they'll be replacing smartphones anytime soon, just because they can't compete with the numerous apps on smartphones that require hands-on control. 

But most of all, I still haven't got over the idea of people wearing a pair and secretly activating them in front of others who have no idea they're being photographed or recorded. 

The white light that indicates the glasses are active are very subtle, and I anticipate thousands of people unwittingly and unknowingly having their having their photo taken at the hands of these devices.  

© Xiaomi

Xiaomi's upcoming smart glasses (pictured) can snap photos, display text messages and notifications and also overlay AR graphics in the real world

I'm probably more excited about Xiaomi's upcoming smart glasses, which will overlay information on the lenses.

This technology could, in the future, really help cut out the fuss of having to keep looking at your smartphone when following directions by foot – for example, by overlaying arrows down the right streets. 

Xiaomi revealed its pair of smart glasses in a teaser video last week, although there's no words as yet from the Chinese tech firm as to when they'll become available. 

Apparently they'll let users display augmented reality (AR) graphics over the real world – but I'm sure this will push the price way beyond £299. 

In summary, if you're not bothered to raise your smartphone in front of you to take a picture or skip to the next track on Spotify, while looking fairly sharp in a pair of Ray-Bans, Facebook's specs might be for you. 

Rating: 3/5