Apple Vision Pro scares Meta, but it’s too early to talk about the ‘next iPhone’

Text | Edited by Mo Chongyu | Li Chaofan

On January 9, 2007, Jobs released the first-generation iPhone to much attention, but there was no splash in the market.

This year, "Forbes" magazine also published a cover article titled: "Nokia, with 1 billion users, who can catch up with this mobile phone king?"

There is no need to go into details about the outcome, but this business case has left a profound impact on the consumer electronics market. Two types of companies began to exist in the market: companies that aspired to be Apple and companies that were afraid of becoming Nokia.

When Apple released the Vision Pro, the fear of becoming Nokia turned into Meta. Although the Quest headset has occupied 90% of the market share, and the just-released Quest 3 has a clear price advantage over the Vision Pro, it does not seem to be able to alleviate Zuckerberg's worries. of anxiety.

According to Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, Meta insiders said: We are in the "fear of Apple" stage, just like the mobile phone industry felt before the release of the iPhone in 2007.

Apple to the left, Meta to the right

In June this year, Vision Pro, which has been polished for seven years, was officially unveiled to the world. Cook defined it as "the first spatial computing system platform" and said at the WWDC23 press conference:

Just as the Mac introduced us to personal computing and the iPhone introduced us to mobile computing, Apple Vision Pro will bring us into the era of spatial computing.

The people who care about you most are your enemies, and the people who know your products best are often your competitors. Zuckerberg may also be part of the audience at the conference. Zuckerberg, who breathed a sigh of relief, publicly stated after the WWDC23 conference that Vision Pro did not have a "magic solution" that Meta could not think of.

Apple does not define Vision Pro by MR/XR/AR/VR. In fact, it is intentionally letting users differentiate its positioning and value from other products.

Yes, although they both fall into the category of XR, Apple is on the left and Meta is on the right.

Apple defines Vision Pro as a spatial computing device that combines digital media with the real world. Through a variety of physical inputs, such as motion gestures, eye tracking, and voice input, users can interact with digital systems more immersively.

Not long ago, Meta Quest 3 was released as scheduled. This is Meta's first consumer-grade MR headset. Interestingly, the previous generation of Meta Quest 3 was Meta Quest 2, which set a record of sales of tens of millions of VR headsets.

So although Meta has repeatedly claimed that Quest 3 is an MR device, it can never hide the VR gene flowing in its blood. Foreign media The Verge commented sharply: "Quest 3 is an upgraded version of Quest 2 in most aspects, but it is still Quest."

Quest 3 is an excellent VR headset that can provide an immersive gaming experience, but if you think of it as an MR device, whether it is the interaction with reality or the content that can be experienced, there is obviously still a long way to go. Gotta go.

If you think about it from another angle, the Quest series is essentially a product of the Metaverse. At the Oculus Connect 2 conference in 2015, Zuckerberg mentioned that Facebook (now Meta)'s mission is to "make the world more open and connected," and he believed that the Oculus Quest series will help achieve this goal.

It can be seen that Zuckerberg’s original intention and expectation for the Quest series is to bring more people into the VR world through this series of devices, and ultimately realize the vision of the metaverse and create a more open and connected digital society.

To be precise, the product concepts of the Vision Pro and Quest series are different.

Meta was originally conceived as a product concept to create digital avatars in a virtual space, allowing users to virtually meet and interact socially in a shared virtual environment.

Not long ago, a remote conversation between MIT scientist Lex Fridman and Zuckerberg in the metaverse became a hot topic on social networks. From the image to the expressions and movements, the lifelike digital avatar is almost identical to the real person.

Apple’s Vision Pro, on the other hand, focuses more on the transmission of real-time scene images and face-to-face communication, so that users can have more natural video conversations with remote colleagues or relatives and friends. This method does not involve virtual avatars, but attempts to make remote meetings and communications as seamless as possible. Possibly close to real-world communication.

To give a simple example, when holding an online company meeting, Meta's idea is to create a digital avatar to hold the meeting in a virtual space, while Apple's Vision Pro directly displays real-time scene images of colleagues, communicating face to face like real people.

However, with the misfire of the Metaverse and the entry of Vision Pro, Quest 3 had to change its appearance, and instead became a strong competitor on the MR track.

In this market, a winner-takes-all story may not happen. This is true for Vision Pro and Quest 3. What’s more, the price level means that the two are not direct competitors.

The Quest 3 starts at $499.9, while the Vision Pro is priced at $3,499. In other words, the Vision Pro is seven times more expensive than the Quest 3.

The pricing of the headset may reflect, to some extent, the differences in values ​​and visions between Apple and Meta. Zuckerberg said Meta's goal is to provide products that are "accessible and affordable to everyone," and Apple's idea could be a vision for the future of computing.

In addition, Vision Pro developers can develop applications faster and more familiarly by benefiting from Apple's existing technology frameworks, such as Xcode, SwiftUI, RealityKit, ARKit and TestFlight.

After years of accumulation, the Quest series has accumulated technology that is at the leading level in the industry. The open source large model Llama 2 is growing rapidly, which also gives Quest 3, which will soon support Meta AI, greater room for imagination.

Open ecology and closed gardens, high-end and popularization, reveal some familiar competitive relationships, but the different product concepts of the two may make the story go a little different. The narrative of smartphones will not simply be retold in the field of MR.

It’s too early to talk about the “next iPhone”

In the past six months, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Meta have all shown surprises at press conferences that smartphones have not brought us for a long time, but it is obviously too early to talk about who can become the next iPhone.

Take the Vision Pro device as an example. It is difficult to say it is mature at present. At least with the existing experience and price, it is not easy to get the public to pay for it. Mark Gurman said that some developers suffered neck strains after wearing Vision Pro for a period of time. Apple is more aware of this. The current focus of improvements is to improve its wearing comfort and make Vision Pro smaller and lighter.

In addition, a series of issues such as application ecology, portability, privacy and security, and design acceptance are all issues that need to be solved urgently for MR devices. Although AIGC allows us to see possible new solutions to these constraints, this will not be achieved overnight.

But Meta’s fears are not unfounded. On Vision Pro, we do see some features that are different from past headsets. This can be seen in conjunction with the recently released iPhone 15 Pro.

I think the biggest highlight of the iPhone 15 Pro series is not the powerful performance of the A17 Pro, nor the details of narrower borders and more styles, but the spatial video function that is often ignored.

You can use the main camera and ultra-wide-angle lens of iPhone 15 Pro to capture spatial videos to achieve three-dimensional video shooting, and browse these videos on a dedicated head-mounted display device through Vision Pro technology.

For example, if you are at a concert or experience event, spatial video can capture the entire venue, including the crowd, stage, and action. By looking back at the space video and rounding it up, it is equivalent to attending the concert in person. In this way, I can make up for my regret of not being able to get Jay Chou tickets time and time again.

Or you and your family go to the beach. You don’t need special equipment. You just need to take out the iPhone you carry with you to record it. After a few years, the photos may fade, but Vision Pro will allow you to be there again. environment, keep "the one you love".

Gene Munster, founder of Loup Ventures, a well-known venture capital firm, believes that this is Vision Pro's first killer feature.

The move from video to spatial video is just like the change from still photos to video a hundred years ago.

You may have discovered that the main function of Vision Pro is not games, and most of the headsets currently on the market are actually VR game consoles.

Mate's Quest, HTC's Vive, Microsoft's HoloLens and other players currently active in this market are all like this. If they are not made into game consoles, they will either gradually disappear or shrink into more vertical industrial scenarios (Google Glass is talking about you) .

Whether they focus on the gaming field or delve deeply into the B-end market, these products can survive in a small market, but it also basically cuts off the possibility of becoming a personal general-purpose computing device and serving mass consumers like a smartphone. .

Although it is not yet possible to experience shooting 3D videos with Vision Pro using iPhone 15 Pro, it shows some such possibilities and takes a small step from content consumption to creative recording.

3D video is not actually a new technology, but this way of using it is more in line with most people’s usage habits. Imagine that on an anniversary, you want to record the sweet moments with her. You take out a huge headset and put it on your head, "Honey, let's pose…" It will still affect the atmosphere somewhat, but if It's natural for you to take out a mobile phone.

These detailed experiences are also the key to whether a product can affect people's lifestyles. Today, when imaging has become a frequently used function by users, driven by the iPhone, this may even become a tipping point to push headsets into the mass market. plate.

Recently, Aifaner interviewed Alan Dye, Apple's vice president of human-computer interaction design . He told us that Apple spent several years studying Vision Pro's field of view penetration, just to allow others to see the wearer's eyes, because they firmly believe that people You shouldn't feel isolated.

Users will only have this design when they need it, otherwise we hope that the design will be invisible.

This is why we say that human nature is the source of Apple’s design philosophy.

In fact, what we really need is not the so-called "next iPhone", but a product experience that can make our lives more pleasant and our work more efficient, even if it does not bring about "disruptive" changes and only makes one The two usage scenarios have become better and deserve recognition.

As for whether the carrier that provides these experiences is a mobile phone or a head-mounted display, or a product form that has not yet appeared, it may not be that important.

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