Solos Smart Glasses
I've wanted a heads up display for running for some years. Having a constant display of my pace and power would be wonderful and being reminding of my heart rate would be useful too. I've only had them for a short time, but here are my initial thoughts.
- While they have many flaws, having a constant display of pace, power, heart rate, and cadence is as awesome as I'd expected. It allows me to stay at my goal intensity, and I think that's going to improve my training. I can detect when I'm easing up or going too hard and adjust early. The synergy with Stryd is huge (see below.)
- I find the display especially useful in the dark. I find I run slower in the dark, possibly because I don't have the visual pace cues. Having a continuous power display offsets this problem and I'm more consistent. Another situation is during interval training, where I find keeping my effort where I want it is tricky. As fatigue builds up during the interval, my sense of effort is distorted.
- If Solos stops supporting these glasses, they're useless without the App. If they supported the Garmin remote display, they'd be useful even if the company support disappeared.
- It's not clear if Solos are still in business. Their support email address bounces and their customer support number is disconnected. The certificate for https://solos-wearables.com/ expired April 14, 2020 which indicates their web site is not being adequately managed (it's 4/21/2020 as I write.) Their last "in the news" update was May 20, 2019, and there are no updates to their Twitter or Facebook accounts in over a year.
- The display is tricky to see. While part of the problem is the glasses bouncing slightly as I run, that's not the main issue. To understand how the display works, imaging putting your cell phone in the bottom of a cereal box. If you look directly into the box, you can see fine, but move your head up or down and the top of the box will clip the screen. That's what happens a lot with the Solos. You are looking down a clear plastic pipe that transmits and reflects the display that's off to the side. The solos display arm has several bendable joints which allow you to align the display, but I found they didn't have enough adjustment. Running with Powerbeats Pro makes things worse as these earbuds have arms over your ears, which compete with the Solos arms for space over your ears.
- The software feels like a late beta rather than a polished product.
- It's not clear if there are coding problems or if the glasses lack processing power. The controls to change display are unpredictably unresponsive. Sometimes the display will update in a second or so, other times it can take more than 30 seconds. Sometime the screen only half update, showing me half of one metric at the top and the half of another metric at the bottom.
- The solos support Stryd, giving pace and power. You must disable GPS for the display to read pace from Stryd. (If you don't have a Stryd, I'd get one before smart glasses. For the continuous display to be of value you need accurate data to display. Relying on GPS is a waste of time.)
- The display is not configurable in the way I expected. Most watches allow you to select the number of fields and what each contains, but the solos display gives you a fixed list of layouts. So, you can display four fields at a time, but they must be pace, power, heart rate, and cadence.
- The materials feel cheap, which is disappointing in a $500 product. I think this is a result of trying to make the glasses light.
- The glasses don't have folding arms, which makes storage and transportation trickier. I worry about breaking them.
- The nose bridge is sticky and stays in place well unless you're sweating heavily.
- The battery life is short, though it's probably plenty for most runners. I found the battery lasted about 5 hours without playing any audio and in warm weather, but only just over 4 hours with audio streaming.
- The Solos can be charged in use, which makes them viable for ultrarunning. In my testing, they seemed to recharge fairly quickly, so you wouldn't have to run with them plugged in for long.
- There are two lenses: a dark gray for sun and a yellow for low light. The yellow is not idea for running in the dark, and the display is a little brighter than I'd like when running at night.
- You must run with your smartphone, and have their app recording your workout to get data displayed. There is an auto-start and auto-pause, which helps a little. If you don't run with your smartphone (or don't have one) then the Solos won't work for you. That said, I'm guessing anyone looking to spend $500 on smart glasses will have a smartphone!
- The display is a little smaller than I expected, but the resolution and color saturation are quite good.
- You can set target pace, power, heart rate, and cadence. The fields are then color coded to show if you're in the target range, which is nice as you can see the color in your peripheral vision. The huge downside is that Solos uses an average value for each of them, not your current instantaneous value.
- Solos wants to own your run data. They want to record your workout and publish it to Strava and other sites, rather than acting as an accessory.
- I've had the Solos iPhone app crash periodically. The glasses stopped updating and the app lost all details of my workout to that point. I had to restart the app on the iPhone and restart the workout.
- The addition of speakers and microphone increase cost, weight, size, and complexity. I really wished they hadn't bothered.
- Having another Bluetooth headset paired is annoying when you want to use a quality headset. I have the Apple Powerbeats Pro, and I must manually select the audio output device.
- The built-in speakers sound like a cheap radio playing in the next room. They have earbuds connected by a USB cable to the glasses. The earbuds are like the earbuds that come with an iPhone; not terrible, but not great either.
- The microphone can be used to voice control the display, but not your phone. So, no Siri integration for when I'm playing music.
- The screen appears to be about arm's length away. This means your eyes change focus point when moving between the screen and the ground.
- It would have been great if the Solos glasses supported the remote display that's part of Ant+. It would make them simpler and easier to use.
- I didn't find them heavy at 65 grams, and they stayed in place reasonably well.
- I've not had a chance to try the Solos in cold weather. I could see cold weather battery life being an issue and wearing these glasses under a hat could be awkward.
- The display is over my right eye, which happens to be my dominant eye. If you wanted the display over your left eye, you're out of luck.
2 The Other Options
The Garmin Varia Vision are discontinued, and people report they worked okay for cycling but bounced too much to be usable when running. Likewise, people reported that Everysight's Raptor are too heavy (~100g) and bounce too much to be useful running, and they only market them to cyclists. The only smart glasses marketed for running are the Solos, so I purchased a pair to try.
I got this rather nice message from Everysight when I asked about running in their Raptors. I like it when a company doesn't oversell its products. "Thanks so much for reaching out and for your interest in the Everysight Raptor. At this time, Raptor is intended specifically for use with cycling. As we continue, we will be developing models for all consumers, not just cyclists. We also know that many cyclists do run as well, and we are looking forward to continuing to evolve the product for as many use cases as possible and enabling it to work perfectly for runners is high on our list of priorities. Technically, Raptor does work with running, but since the experience has not been perfected for runners, we would not want to sell people a product that wouldn't give them the best experience available. We would want to make slight ergonomic changes and other modifications to enable a better experience for other users."