Giants of the Virtual Frontier: Apple Vision Pro vs. Meta Quest 3

apple vision pro and meta quest 3

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For well over a decade the whole world was witness to an ongoing struggle between Apple and Google to dominate the handheld interface market. While we still have zealots of iPhones and faithful users of Android powered smartphones the most important takeaway is that the fight was very real and the territory kept growing throughout the years. Regardless of brand, we now lead our lives with rectangle screens as part of our bodies (well, almost). It’s very natural to us that all of the wealth of technological progress of our civilization is literally at our fingertips. It’s all the more probable that in the emerging battle on the AR/VR front, we will again see iOS clashing with Android, this time in the form of Apple Vision Pro vs. Meta Quest 3.

Leaders on the AR/VR Front

Apple Vision Pro (AVP) and Quest 3 have sprung into the limelight, becoming the focal point of discussions among tech enthusiasts and developers alike.

This divergence in the XR realm highlights not only technological advancements but also the strategic dynamics with which companies like Apple and Meta steer their ships through the competitive waters.

And make no mistake, this battle is very real and the future of spatial interfaces accessible via head worn apparel is around the corner. The intimidating presence of AVP has even led Samsung to postpone its extended reality (XR) device launch to an unknown time in the future. As the giants are showing off their full might, contenders scramble back into the drawing room to re-emerge later with an updated proposal. When playing the long game and moving with large leaps, you need to strategize your movement in an unexpected game of immersive chess.

Technical Specifications: Apple Vision Pro and Meta Quest 3

Beyond the Gaming Realm: Apple Help with the Leap

VR has been around for ages. And Quest 2 was already a success in terms of sales volumes. But the world of virtual reality was still detached from the mainstream and no one really targeted regular consumers, especially after Meta’s metaverse debacle and Magic Leap’s limited progress in offering mixed reality headsets to the masses. Progress in XR has been kept under the rug and offerings discussed in enterprise contexts and conferences.

apple vision pro headset
Apple Vision Pro: Source: Apple

What Apple did with its release, however, is a move in the direction of making a headworn spatial interface not only accessible but, most importantly, desirable. Yes, the device is called Vision Pro. But so are the iPhones that sell in unbelievable volumes and aren’t necessarily used in professional contexts. Apple created a stepping stone in the direction of mass consumer mixed reality. Wearing a headset isn’t a detachment from the mainstream anymore. Now it’s becoming integrated into a professional’s daily workflow and drips into his personal life of entertainment and immersive distraction.

Meta’s Quest 3 – Gaming and More

Totally unexpected to me, Quest 3 seems to be positioned right there alongside AVP. Quest, once predominantly a haven for gamers, has subtly pivoted, opening itself up to become embedded within professional workflows and collaborative endeavors. We aren’t talking about a gaming-focused VR device only. The pass-through AR aspect became pivotal to targeting the new device and the vision of using a Quest as part of your professional workflow, a substitute or an expansion of your desktop computer is possible (although perhaps not explicitly stated by Meta).

meta quest 3 headset
Meta Quest 3. Source: Meta

I have reasons to assume the affordable Quest 3 will be a direct competitor of AVP.  Anyone who saw the recent interview between Mark Zuckerberg and Lex Friedman can surely imagine the world of AR/VR isn’t just for gamers and niche tech enthusiasts anymore. 

Thanks to big moves from big players, what was once a neat plaything is steadily becoming a part of how we live and work every day. Both Apple and Meta, despite some bumps (looking at you, metaverse), are playing the long game here, looking to usher in an era where our physical and digital worlds aren’t so separate after all.


Key takeaways:

  • Mainstream appeal: Both Apple's Vision Pro and Meta's Quest 3 are transitioning AR/VR from niche to mainstream, targeting both regular consumers and professionals.
  • Changing perceptions: Apple's Vision Pro is not just about accessibility. It's about making mixed reality desirable. It's no longer an isolated tech but integrates into daily workflows and entertainment.
  • Quest 3's pivot: Previously known for gaming, Quest 3 has expanded its horizons, embracing professional workflows and virtual and augmented reality applications.
  • Competitive landscape: With the changes, Quest 3 is poised to be a direct competitor to Apple's Vision Pro, broadening the AR/VR market.
  • Industry transformation: Big players like Apple and Meta are pioneering the integration of AR/VR into everyday life, blurring the boundaries between our digital and physical worlds.

Apple Vision Pro – A Newcomer with a Clear Vision

I was participating in AWE 2023 in Santa Clara held only days before Apple’s Vision Pro announcement. Apple wasn’t there but still managed to steal the show. The subsequent release invigorated the whole XR industry for a number of weeks.

This release might be perceived as Apple’s dab into the new sector and a business experiment. Suppliers will have to meet high demands for manufacturing quality and Apple will keep combating supply chain issues only to release a couple of hundred units in the US throughout 2024.

The device’s level of sophistication and amount of forethought associated (I was witnessing the technological buildup to this first hand for the past 5 years of my involvement in the XR sector) leads me to believe that this is all but a test. This is a statement piece and a power grab from Apple who immediately assumed its leading role as far as AR/VR hardware is concerned.

Apple with its massive and yet ingeniously intimate relationship to consumers also managed to finally make all of us conceive a scenario where we are using a headset throughout the day while we lead our lives. Don’t get fooled by the “pro” part of the name. This is Apple’s typical branding strategy that we know perfectly from the iPhone branch with the pro variants popular among everyone, regardless of profession. Yes, there was talk about a cheaper device from Apple, but reports say it may have been postponed to as late as 2027. You should still remember AVP is the first device from a long line of devices and the long-term strategy although hard to predict might be still worth being invested in. And if you think AVP has drawbacks (like the corded battery pack) stop for a second to think how iPhones evolved over the years.

Apple Vision Pro’s battery pack, with roughly 2 hours of battery life. Source: Apple

Differences in Approach

Apple targets Vision Pro as an aspirational purchase, an item that invites you to a different work and lifestyle reminiscent of sci-fi movies we used to watch in the 90’s and 2000’s. Meta has chosen a different model, and instead of perpetuating a fear of missing out on something that transcends the regular, it has been focusing on making the technology highly accessible via a reasonable price point. Meta even went as far as subsidizing Quest 2 purchases, agreeing to sell at cost at some point, to ensure a critical mass of audiences are equipped with an eyepiece to access XR content.

statista on VR market size
Quest 2 is by far the most popular VR headset out there. Source: Statista

With Quest you will be able to buy a headset for every member of your immediate family at the price of one Vision Pro device. Surely the value Meta offers in that setting should be hard to beat and yet it was Apple who really stole the show when they first announced the device. And although the price announcement caused serious dismay, there is no doubt Apple succeeded in creating a serious object of desire.

Market Strategy

Reasons to Go with Quest 3

Quest’s diversified app offerings and enhanced social interaction capabilities reflect Meta’s vision of a progressively interconnected virtual society, where work, play, and social interactions blend seamlessly in the metaverse.

Consumer adoption of devices isn’t always necessarily driven by price. But with that big of a difference, it’s hard not to assume Quest 3 will sell in significantly bigger volumes. 18 million units of Quest 2 have been sold so far. There’s a good chance Quest 3 will sell in volumes an order of magnitude greater than AVP in the coming years. So if your end product relies on adoption at scale, then Quest with its established user base and the starting price of Quest 3 is probably the best bet.

More Direct Comparisons

Yes, AVP as the premium device in that comparison has more megapixels and HDR in its OLED displays and is more likely the victor of direct comparison as far as image quality goes. The very few individuals who had the opportunity to compare both (e.g., attendees of the recent Meta Connect conference and Apple Vision Labs) already attest to the truth of that statement. Visual clarity is no small factor especially in the case of mixed reality. And yet even the Quest Pro, with its pancake lenses, provided good enough mixed reality experiences (if not technically correct in terms of the hardware used).

I saw first hand how hundreds of people at Infinity Festival in 2022 played with our mixed reality immersive experience (called Yond) and can’t remember hearing the display quality was not enough even once. Quest 3 sports a higher resolution, a higher refresh rate (higher even than that of AVP) and a larger FOV than the Quest Pro. Quest 3’s resolution is enough for text to be legible and the device to be used as a workstation e.g., for coding on several screens. As long as you don’t treat AVP as the new standard for quality, Quest 3 will surely be enough. There is a difference in specs but the price difference more than makes up for it.

A glimpse of YOND: Source: nomtek


As of today there seems to be an important yet widely overlooked difference in how Apple and Meta approach multi app spaces. Running multiple apps at the same time is part of the vision we all already have imprinted. You use an AR device by anchoring 2D and 3D apps in your environment — your environment becomes the interface and everything is pretty much seamless. 

Well AVP, at least for now, has a different approach. Using the full capabilities of the device (spatial awareness, hand tracking, etc.) requires you to use a full space/unbounded volume. What that means is that you have to commit to running your app and your app only to use all the device’s capabilities. In the multi-app environment that Apple calls the shared space you can work with either windows or volumes, who are not spatially aware and can’t use custom hand tracking as input.

So again if you have a productivity app, that needs a spatially aware interface with hand tracking you might be confined to using a Quest 3. As of today you can’t achieve the same functionality on AVP, which paradoxically would be the natural choice for the use case, because when you think “working in a headset,” you think AVP. Surprisingly you have to go for Quest 3 where it would be feasible, but at the cost of targeting a device which still will rely on games and entertainment quite a bit and the workplace adoption will likely be considerably less obvious than in the case of AVP.

Apple Vision Pro focuses on collaboration and professional use. Source: Apple

Two Paths, One Destination?

Despite the dichotomy in their approach – AVP’s appeal to exclusivity and Quest 3’s pursuit of a wider demographic – both devices seem to converge towards a singular destination: the crafting of an encompassing AR/VR ecosystem. AVP entices creative professionals with its immersive and controller-free experience, while Quest 3 captivates a larger audience with its varied applications, yet both implicitly aim to weave AR/VR into the everyday fabric of user interaction and experience. Apple and Meta’s strategies differ but lead to pretty much the same future for consumers.

Strategic Market Interplay Silently Validates Future Implications

With AVP’s limited, premium-oriented release juxtaposed against Quest 3’s broader, more inclusive approach, a complex dance of market dynamics unfolds. While AVP may potentially cater to a more upscale, niche market, Quest 3 could employ its extensive reach to permeate various user segments. The impact of these strategic maneuvers on future AR/VR developments, market trends, and user adoption remains a focal point of intrigue and speculation.

However, the unexpected clash between AVP and Quest 3 extends beyond mere corporate competition; it silently validates and empowers developers, creators, and start-ups to plunge into the expansive AR/VR universe with renewed vigor and optimism. The commitment and investment showcased by giants like Apple and Meta spotlight the potential and viability of the AR/VR domain, encouraging further innovation, exploration, and adoption across varied industries and applications. For founders and product owners, the question is not which device outperforms the other, but which aligns with their strategic and user prerequisites. Whether it's AVP's seamless multi-device integration or Quest 3’s cost-effectiveness and larger user base, the deciding factor hinges on their application's unique demands and their target audience’s proclivity.

Business Applications

Read more about the use cases for Apple Vision Pro.

Bridging Experiences: Productivity Apps and Audience Tailoring

In the contrasts between AVP’s alignment with professional utility and Quest 3’s extensive appeal lies a common thread: the evolving role of productivity applications in AR/VR spaces. As AVP ventures into professional environments, revolutionizing collaborative and creative tools, Quest 3, while dominated by leisure applications, subtly expands its horizons, infiltrating professional and developmental niches, and hinting at a future where boundaries between professional and leisure applications in AR/VR continue to blur. From a founder’s perspective the choice is not obvious at all and every case needs a careful consideration of tech requirements but most importantly the target audience and the scale necessary for the business model to become valid.

Future Projections and the AR/VR Industry

The battleground formed by AVP and Quest 3, with their distinctive technological and strategic trajectories, sets the stage for a future where AR/VR interfaces may become integral to our digital and physical worlds. Developers, consumers, and tech enthusiasts stand at a precipice, gazing into a future crafted by innovations from giants like Apple and Meta — a future that promises deeper, more immersive interactions within virtual realms. I describe this in an adversarial narrative, however, there is something these companies create together. This struggle will likely create a new sector as a consequence. As with the struggle for our attention in the handheld screen market, this competition in the headset arena will similarly create a whole new paradigm of headworn AR capable apparel to be not only possible but most importantly, highly desired.

But as we peer into the horizon of mixed reality, it's becoming abundantly clear that camera-based systems might not be the future's mainstay. The real game-changer will be the integration of true mixed reality, where digital and physical realms coalesce naturally. Whichever company builds a mixed reality headset first could potentially emerge as the dominant force in the AR/VR space.

a closer look at Magic Leap 2, the mixed reality headset
Magic Leap 2 is great at environment mapping and true spatial computing. The device is also more mature in that respect than either Apple Vision Pro or Meta Quest 3. Source: Magic Leap

How AVP and Quest 3 Shape Tomorrow's Immersive LandscapeAs the echoes of the battle between AVP and Quest 3 reverberate through the corridors of the AR/VR universe, a spectrum of opportunities, experiences, and pathways unfold, crafting a future where augmented and virtual realities intertwine seamlessly with our everyday lives. This confluence of technology, strategy, and user experience not only molds the future landscape of AR/VR but also charts a course towards new frontiers in digital interaction, development, and immersion.

How AVP and Quest 3 Shape Tomorrow's Immersive Landscape

As the echoes of the battle between AVP and Quest 3 reverberate through the corridors of the AR/VR universe, a spectrum of opportunities, experiences, and pathways unfold, crafting a future where augmented and virtual realities intertwine seamlessly with our everyday lives. This confluence of technology, strategy, and user experience not only molds the future landscape of AR/VR but also charts a course towards new frontiers in digital interaction, development, and immersion.

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