Just days before Apple may launch its long-awaited VR headset, Meta attempts to steal its thunder with introduction of the Meta Quest 3
Meta Platforms has introduced the latest version of its VR headset, as the wearable sector heats up ahead of an expected (although not confirmed) Apple entry.
Meanwhile industry watchers widely expect Apple’s headset to finally launch soon, after seven years of development – twice as long as the iPhone. In March Tim Cook reportedly pushed for the launch the “mixed-reality” headset around the middle of this year.
Meta Quest 3
But in a move designed to steal some thunder ahead of that potential launch, Mark Zuckerberg introduced the Meta Quest 3, which he said was the first mainstream headset with high-res colour mixed reality.
The new Quest headset is said to be 40 percent thinner and more comfortable, and boasts better displays and resolution.
Meta said Quest 3 combines its highest resolution display and pancake optics to make content look better than ever.
“To power those extra pixels, this will be the first headset to feature a next-generation Snapdragon chipset developed in collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies,” said Meta. “That next-gen Snapdragon chipset delivers more than twice the graphical performance as the previous generation Snapdragon GPU in Quest 2 – meaning you’ll get smoother performance and incredibly crisp details in immersive games.”
Prices will start at $499 for the 128GB version, and the Quest 3 will be compatible with Quest 2’s entire library.
Meta said the new headset will appear at Meta Connect on 27 September.
Lower prices, more performance
But from 4 June, Meta will be lowering the price of the Quest 2 headset to $299.99 for the 128GB SKU and $349.99 for the 256GB SKU.
And in an upcoming software update, Meta will also update the Quest 2 and Quest Pro GPU and CPU.
Meta claimed this will mean that the Quest 2 and Pro will see an up-to 26 percent CPU performance increase with an up-to 19 percent GPU speed increase for Quest 2 and 11 percent for Quest Pro.
Meta has faced significant investor unrest over its heavy investment in the Metaverse, and matters were not helped by the high price of the Meta Quest Pro headset launched in October, which put it out of reach for most consumers, and indeed hard to justify for business users.
Meanwhile in December research firm NPD Group data showed that sales of VR headsets in the US during 2022 had declined 2 percent, from a year earlier, to $1.1 billion (as of early December).
Passthrough mixed reality
Leo Gebbie, principal analyst for connected devices at CCS Insight noted that the Quest 3 is a more powerful and compact headset than its predecessor and is aiming to become the new VR headset of choice for the mass market.
“Meta is placing a strong focus on passthrough mixed reality with Quest 3 – meaning that external cameras will sense the outside world and allow users to combine that with virtual imagery inside the headset,” said Gebbie. “This is the hot trend in VR right now and is the same direction Apple is expected to take with its rumoured headset.”
“The Quest 3’s starting price of $499 puts the headset in tricky territory,” Gebbie added. “It is likely to prove too expensive for casual buyers and will be compared against other entertainment devices like the similarly priced PlayStation 5. However, for VR enthusiasts, it looks set to offer impressive performance at a competitive price.”
“Perhaps more notably, the Quest 2 will see its price drop back to $299, where it historically sold very well prior to a price increase, and we expect the headset to prove popular at this entry-level price once again,” said Gebbie.
“Meta’s unveiling of its Quest 3 headset appears carefully timed to capitalise on the excitement around Apple’s WWDC event, which is just around the corner,” Gebbie noted. “Speculation about Apple’s expected entry into the VR market is dominating tech discourse, and Meta is clearly keen to remind everyone about its credentials in the space. It has been the clear leader in VR so far and will be keen to stamp its authority in the face of new competition.”
“We do not expect that Meta and Apple will be competing for the same share of the market for the foreseeable future,” Gebbie said. “Apple’s offering is rumoured to be extremely expensive, meaning that more affordable devices like the Quest 2 and Quest 3 may stand out as people look to take the leap into virtual worlds. In fact, the buzz generated by an Apple headset could actually boost interest in Meta’s devices and benefit sales of Quest headsets.”
“We expect this could lead to the creation of a dynamic much like the smartphone industry, where Apple dominates at the premium end of the market and Android is the leader at lower price points,” Gebbie concluded. “However, Apple will still need to launch a more accessible device in time, as an ultra-premium device is likely to remain a tough sell at a time when consumer budgets are squeezed.”