The battle of VR headsets: Meta unveils Quest 3 right before Apple's debut

The battle of VR headsets: Meta unveils Quest 3 right before Apple’s debutSource: Shutterstock

The battle of VR headsets: Meta unveils Quest 3 right before Apple’s debut

  • Meta teased its latest VR headset, the Quest 3, on June 1, a week before Apple is expected to debut its competing VR headset.
  • The Quest 3 will be priced at US$499 and is the successor to Meta’s Quest 2 headset, which will see its price reduced by $100 starting June 4.
  • Apple’s perpetually rumored VR/AR headset is anticipated to be unveiled at the company’s WWDC event next week.

It’s almost a decade since Virtual Reality (VR) headsets have been around, yet the idea of the device has failed to woo the masses. Even for a tech giant like Meta, which has sold nearly 20 million Quest headsets, it’s a struggle to keep customers using VR. 

Mark Rabkin, Meta’s VP of VR, during an internal presentation to employees, emphasized that while the 20 million unit sales figure is impressive—and well beyond any other single VR headset maker— the company has to do a better job at keeping customers using the headsets well after their purchase.

For many, VR headsets have failed to strike a chord with consumers because of their uncomfortable, clunky nature. Another significant barrier to wider adoption of immersive technologies is the lack of good user experience design. But Meta isn’t giving up, and Apple, too, notices the value the VR/AR space can bring in the long run.

On June 1, in Mark Zuckerberg’s Instagram post, Meta officially announced its Quest 3 VR headset, which won’t be an essential upgrade from its Quest 2 VR headset. Instead, compared to its predecessor, the Quest 3’s design is lighter and more comfortable, with a “40% slimmer optic profile” (without considering its facial foam interface). At the same time, a new Snapdragon chip inside has twice the graphics performance,” Meta said.

The headset is expected to be in the market this fall with a 128GB version available for US$499.99 plus “an additional storage option for those who want more space” at an unspecified price. Meta wants to make it user-friendly by making it compatible with the Quest 2’s games.

The Quest 2 is also sticking around but at a lower price. Meta said that starting June 4, the Quest 2 will drop its price by US$100 to US$299.99 for the 128GB version, while the 256GB version is getting a US$80 price cut from US$429.99 to US$349.99. It could probably still get a lot cheaper if compared to other models available in the market today. 

That undoes last year’s price hike on the base model and makes the version with additional storage cheaper than it was before. Zuckerberg’s revelation came just days before Apple is expected to announce its long-rumored mixed reality headset.

Meta first announced that it would debut the Quest 3 this year as part of the company’s third-quarter 2022 earnings when it said that the company’s cost of revenue would grow in part because of “Reality Labs hardware costs driven by the launch of the next generation of our consumer Quest headset later next year.”

Meta vs. Apple’s VR headset

Apple’s rumored VR headset is merely hearsay to date. Apple still hasn’t even confirmed its existence. Still, reports suggest that it will be capable of providing both VR and AR experiences, making it arguably one of the company’s most exciting products in years.

Some reports even suggest that Apple has been busy building VR versions of some of its native apps, including Safari, FaceTime, Apple TV, Apple Books, Freeform, and more. The setback for mass adoption is the pricing. With an expected price tag of around $3,000, Apple’s headset won’t come cheap unless the tech giant is also working on more affordable versions.

Many are expecting a reveal at the 2023 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which takes place this week. Bloomberg has previously reported that Apple may focus on getting developers up to speed with the device in June but wait until later in the year to ship it. That aligns with The Information’s reporting, which claims a “fall or winter” launch date is likely.