Can Apple's headset have better sales than the Meta headset?

Apple’s new Vision Pro virtual reality headset could be a gamechanger. (Photo by AFP)

Meta headset sales outperform other brands in 2023

The Meta headset has beem one of the most sought-after wearables since it was launched. While Meta designed the headset primarily for users to experience the metaverse, the wearable is also popular for other uses like gaming.

The Meta Quest Pro is a mixed-reality headset developed by Reality Labs, a division of Meta Platforms. Unveiled on October 11, 2022, it is a high-end headset designed for mixed reality and virtual reality applications, targeting business and enthusiast users.

As expected, gaming is still the primary use for these headsets followed by enterprise use cases like monitoring at manufacturing plants through augmented reality (AR) functions.

Despite its popularity, the global sales of headsets haven’t been hitting predicted highs. According to Counterpoint Research’s XR Model Tracker, the global extended reality headset shipments (covering AR and VR) declined 33% YoY in Q1 2023.

The research indicates that consumers are losing interest in the XR market. There are several reasons for this with the affordability of headsets being the main one. These headsets are pricy and unaffordable for many. While there are cheaper versions out there, consumers are still not convinced they’re useful for work and education.

In fact, the performance of the newly launched next-generation Sony PSVR2 (PlayStation VR2), along with the price reduction of the Quest 2 by Meta, saved the global market from a more drastic decline.

Meta headset was the best selling headsets.

Global headset sales have dropped. (Source – Counterpoint Research)

The Meta headset was also the best-selling global XR headset brand during Q1 2023 with the Quest 2 as its long-time best-performing VR headset. The Quest series has cumulatively shipped more than 20 million units as of Q1 2023, with the Quest 2 contributing 18 million units. The Quest 2 continues to sell relatively well and to maintain its momentum as Meta is making the headset more affordable by lowering its price after last year’s price increases. Besides, Meta has announced the launch of Quest 3 later this year, which is expected to further boost sales and transition from the success of Quest 2.

Nevertheless, Meta’s shipment share fell to 49% in Q1 2023, the lowest since the launch of Quest 2 in Q4 2020. This decline was a result of the highly anticipated launch of Sony’s successor to its 2016 headset PSVR. The newly released PSVR2 garnered significant attention from the video-gaming brand’s user base, leading Sony to capture the second position in Q1 2023 with a 32% market share. Besides, the PSVR2 shipped 1.2 times more units than its predecessor in the first quarter of its launch.

Alongside the Meta headset and Sony PSVR2, the market share included Pico and DPVR. Both these brands took third and fourth places with market shares of 7% and 6% respectively. While Pico’s performance had earlier improved after its acquisition by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, a lack of attractive consumer use cases and limited high-quality content resulted in a 38% decline in its shipments in Q1 2023.

DPVR’s shipment volumes are primarily driven by its enterprise partners, with whom it has established strong relationships. These partners regularly place orders for several thousand units. However, delays in orders from education sector partners led to a 40% decline in DPVR’s shipments in Q1 2023.

For now, 2023 is the year of next-generation VR headset launches. Sony’s PSVR2, DPVR’s E4 and HTC’s Vive XR Elite are some of the prominent launches so far this year. With advanced technology and features, these headsets are retailing at around or over US$500, which will likely negatively impact their sales potential. It will also depend on how much value consumers perceive these VR headsets are delivering.

One newcomer into the market will be Apple’s Vision Pro. The headset has set a new, higher bar for consumer XR devices, though at a price above most people’s reach. Apple will nevertheless cast a shadow over the market ahead of the Vision Pro’s actual release.