Mobile communications take on UV-ray protective quality

Updated: Aug 1 2005, 05:30am hrs
Motorola is hoping the future of Bluetooth is so bright, youll have to wear shades. The pairing of the wireless communications company with sunglasses-manufacturer Oakley has resulted in a pair of shades that allows wearers to answer their Bluetooth-enabled phones using a Bluetooth module attached to the glassess earstem.

The hybrid eyewear, called Razrwire, is the first of its kind, and one of a handful of consumer products that attempt to integrate everyday clothing with mobile communication.

Its designed for athletic, active people and for the tech savvy; for active consumers who want to stay connected without the tether of a wire, said Lance Allega, Oakleys director of investor relations.

The Bluetooth module consists of anearpiece, a two-button volume control, and a single button to handle calls. The module, which can be switched to either side of the glasses, will work with other Bluetooth-enabled phones besides Motorolas and has a range of 30 feet.

Razrwire is expected to be available in limited release in mid-August at Cingular stores nationwide. Peter Rojas, the editor for Engadget.com, received a pair of Razrwires at Motorolas event. He said that in five minutes, he got the glasses working with his phone. And even though there are already other Bluetooth earpieces that can be attached to eyewear, the Razrwires had better sound quality than most, Rojas said.

But when it came to aesthetics, Rojas called the glasses ugly and didnt foresee using them as his own personal eyewear.

The glasses come in three colors but only one model, and the detachable earpiece wont fit other glasses.

Furthermore, it probably wont be your only Bluetooth earpiece, unless you want to wear shades every time you answer the phone. So how will such a specialized product, limited to one aesthetic style, and priced at almost $300, sell to the masses It doesnt have to, said Roger Entner, a wireless communications analyst for Ovum. Entner also has a pair of the shades. He thought they were really, really cool and he said thats all that really matters for Motorola and Oakley.

Motorola wants to wow people, and the wowness of this device translates to wowness for other devices, Entner said. He believes that in terms of hip Bluetooth devices, Motorola is the company that is leading the pack.

The decision for Motorola and Oakley to collaborate is natural; Razrwire is not the first time either company has tried creating wearable electronic-technology.

In November, Oakley released Thump sunglasses with integrated headphones and MP3 player.

In January, Motorola announced its partnership with Burton Snowboards to create Bluetooth-enabled jackets, helmets and hats so wearers could listen to music and answer their phones while snowboarding in cold temperatures.

Thump has become a key part of Oakleys strategy to compensate for slower sunglasses sales by diversifying its product line. Though Thump is pricey the sunglasses/MP3 combo sells for as high as $500 and holds less than a hundredth of the songs a similarly priced iPod could the company said the musical glasses helped fuel the nearly 9% increase in Oakleys first quarter U.S. net sales this year, compared to last year.

Oakleys non-sunglasses sales, which include accessories, clothing and Thump, increased 24.7% in the second quarter, and accounted for 26.9% of Oakleys total gross sales of $185 million.

It made sense after launching THUMP to continue in that category, Allega said. And Motorola is a company that stands for performance and pushing the envelope for technology.

NYT