Samsung has partnered with Google to make an XR headset, although the South Korean tech giant hasn’t tipped its hand on what to expect just yet. Despite its $3,500 sticker price, Vision Pro has shown that big and expensive is okay as long as you can engage diehard fans with compelling hardware and greater ecosystem integration. That’s a patently Apple recipe though that Samsung may not be able to easily replicate. The question is: what can Samsung bring to the table that Apple and Meta can’t? The answer may be Google, but only if it can commit.

The Meta-Apple Binary in the Making

You can’t talk about consumer XR right now without first mentioning Meta, which has undoubtedly dominated the standalone segment since the release of Quest in 2019, leaving would-be competitors to either cater to enterprise or basically stay in markets where the social media giant simply won’t (or can’t) go. That early market lead has provided the company ample time to build up an impressive content library, which has also essentially made Quest the default target platform for many XR app developers over the past four years.

Now that Apple has released Vision Pro, that landscape is set to change, although maybe not right away. At seven times the price of Quest 3, Vision Pro isn’t really a direct competitor in terms of cost-performance, but it appears Meta is gearing up anyway to deal with the future threat of successive Apple headsets.

Image courtesy Meta, Apple

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg drew some fairly clear battle lines in a recent video after trying Vision Pro himself, as he compares the two companies to computing binaries from the past. Like Windows vs. MacOS in home computers, or Android vs. iOS in mobile, Zuckerberg says he wants Quest to be the ‘open’ model in XR, while he thinks Apple will be ‘closed’, as Apple is ostensibly set to continue its walled garden approach to how it handles apps and ecosystem services on its family of devices.

Far be it from me to suggest they’re both fairly closed, although a very real binary is already here for XR enthusiasts. For now, Apple is positioning Vision Pro as a general computing device thanks to its interconnected ecosystem of iOS apps and services, while Meta is at the lower-end of the spectrum with its console-like Quest 2 and Quest 3 headsets, both of which are subsidized to encourage app sales—priced at $250 and $500 respectively.

While there’s some definite overlap in functionality, this leaves some pretty weird territory for Samsung to enter in the near term. Meta has games and Apple has its ecosystem. Samsung doesn’t really have either.

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Samsung’s Balancing Act

At this point, it seems unlikely that Samsung can replicate either Apple or Meta’s specific way of doing things when it comes to releasing a standalone XR headset. Meta has invested tens of billions of dollars in XR over the years building out its console-like Quest platform, meanwhile Apple has been cooking up Vision Pro over the past decade to integrate seamlessly with its wider hardware ecosystem.

While Samsung’s headset is reportedly slated to compete with Vision Pro, we don’t precisely know what that means: Samsung could be hoping to undercut Vision Pro’s $3,500 price point with similar MR hardware, or serve up something closer to the ostensibly soon-to-be discontinued $1,000 Quest Pro, which didn’t find the footing Meta hoped for despite an excellent content library.

What we do know is the company is working with Google to provide software, and Qualcomm for its XR chip expertise. To boot, last month Qualcomm showed off a new reference MR headset made in partnership with Goertek which could point to the sort of features to expect from Samsung, as the company is using the chip-maker’s new Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 processor.

Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 reference | Image courtesy Qualcomm

The Qualcomm reference headset includes eye-tracking from Tobii, support for 4,300 × 4,300 resolution per-eye at 90Hz, 12 concurrent cameras, pancake lenses, hardware IPD adjustment, microphone array, 3.5mm headphone port, and Wi-Fi 6/6E/7. That’s not to say Samsung will include all those features, but it’s possible with Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2. Provided that carries over to Samsung hardware, it would put it somewhere north of Quest Pro in hardware features, and very likely price as well.

And we have every reason to believe Samsung will offer competent hardware too. While the Korean tech giant hasn’t created its own consumer XR platform before, in addition to being a leading display manufacturer Samsung has produced its own PC VR headsets and the smartphone-based Gear VR platform, the latter of which laid the foundation for Oculus Go and Meta Quest.

As for Google, we simply don’t know at this point how big of an involvement it will have in creating anything beyond the headset’s Android-based OS. Considering Google killed its home-grown Daydream platform in 2019, and then gutted its AR hardware team earlier this year, the company may not be in a position to lend a hand to do something as monolithic as laying the foundation for the sort of hardware-agnostic VR platform that Daydream opined to be when it launched its first (and last) standalone Daydream headset with Lenovo in 2018. Google could certify the headset to bring a massive catalogue of Android apps to Samsung’s headset by default like Apple did with its iOS apps, but then again, it might not, which could hobble Samsung’s headset and rob it of an early start as the true Android competitor to Vision Pro.

– – — – –

Here’s the cynic in me: what Samsung could do to win a steady place between Apple and Meta is probably very different from what it will do. I’m expecting the company to offer great, but expensive hardware that doesn’t really succeed at offering meaningful competition to either Meta or Apple in the near term. It’ll get Samsung’s skin in the game so the company can figure out where it fits best as the market moves, but it probably won’t co-opt Google into launching the Daydream that wasn’t.

And in the wake of Apple’s entrance, it’s likely Samsung won’t be alone in entering the standalone XR space for the first time. Valve is widely rumored to be working on its own headset, codenamed ‘Deckard’, which recently was the subject of a meme-fueled website that looked to troll VR hopefuls with the release of the very fake ‘Valve Prism’.

Will Samsung offer a compelling third option in the gulf between Meta and Apple? Or are you waiting for Valve’s next move? Let us know in the comments below!

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Nevets

    Not yet. That is all

  • ViRGiN

    Samsung could marry both, but I don’t see them doing anything really beyond “samsung galaxy tablet vision lite”. VR is in hands of Meta, Google doesnt want to let Meta access their Play Store but they do have fine partnership with Samsung, so Samsung will release their version of AVP, just running Android apps, hopefully with suite of apps made for Windows.

  • gothicvillas

    Samsung has terrible software but good hardware

    • Sean Lumly

      This was the case 5 years ago. These days, they are lauded for their nuanced user experience, especially with the Galaxy S24.

      There is no guarantee that this will carry over to xR, but it should be mentioned.

      • VR5

        Even in 2016, when I got my first Samsung phone, a Galaxy S7 with GearVR, I prefered the Galaxy software experience to the iOS. My favorite example:

        When I would write a word on my iPad Mini which iOS wouldn’t recognize it would just auto correct it, and I would have to delete and write again. On my Galaxy on the other hand, if it would auto correct a word it would be underlined and I could tap it to access a list of further correction suggestions AND my original spelling.

        So rather than assuming to be smarter than the user, Samsung phones have the modesty of considering there might be words they don’t know. Apple phones were dumb in assuming to be smarter than the user.

        Last year during the same presentation that would end on AVP, a “new” feature for iOS was shown, allowing users to write words like chillax. Basically they caught up with Samsung 7 years later and finally let users revert auto corrected words. Funny thing is, chillax is in Merriam-Webster so rather than allowing the word it should just recognize it.

        • You can turn off autocorrect in SETTINGS.

          • VR5

            Why would I want to turn it off? It’s pretty great, you can type very fast and it will correct pretty well. I just don’t want actually correct words to be replaced with wrong ones. Which iOS frequently did because it assumed it knew all words.

    • Guest

      Their hardware is nothing special. Chinese have long since caught up, if not surpassed them. They have nothing now except an inferior Exynos, which is why Samsung recently lost to Apple and will soon lose to the rest of the others.

  • With both Quest 3 & AVP tearing things up,
    wtf is Samsung gonna bring to the table, I mean *really* …?? lol
    []^ )

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    One thing Samsung can bring to XR to compete is advanced display technology. Apple has tried to get independent from Samsung’s displays for some time, wanting to use OLED screens from Chinese OLED specialist BOE instead, but quality wasn’t up to expectations, so all current iPhone displays come from Samsung. In May 2023 Samsung acquired eMagin, the king and queen of microOLED, with eMagin stating that Samsung’s financial resources will allow to bring their process to mass production scale. At DisplayWeek 2022 eMagin showed an impressive microOLED display suspiciously labeled “Steamboat”, and admitted to be in talks with Valve for a HMD, so Samsung displays will very likely also drive Deckard.

    Apple currently relies on Sony microOLED displays, which are great, but at USD 700 per AVP extremely expensive compared to USD ~1400-1800 AVP build costs, and only available in very limited numbers. For future AVP, Apple wants to switch to microOLED from BOE (who partnered with Kopin, the other microdisplay pioneer next to eMagin) and SeeYa, who in 2017 announced building a display fab in capable of producing 20mn microdisplays per year. We’ll see how these plans will work out, or if Apple will again be forced to rely on Samsung for the displays needed for an Apple Vision priced and targeted for regular iPhone buyers. BOE was also in talks with LG about delivering OLED displays (for smartphones), and LG is Meta’s partner for an expected Quest Pro successor, so this may impact not only Apple.

  • rabs

    The Samsung Odyssey was also a great WMR headset back in the day.

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    Valve is widely rumored to be working on its own headset, codenamed ‘Deckard’, which recently was the subject of a meme-fueled website that looked to troll VR hopefuls with the release of the very fake ‘Valve Prism’.

    I wasn’t aware of the Valve Prism site, which is quite funny/interesting, so thanks for the link. But I’d say that’s pretty close to what one could reasonably expect from Deckard, with my main gripe being that it’s unlikely they’ll fully rely on Lighthouse for an untethered HMD. It might be an included option for using Deckard as a streaming target for a powerful PC, but for standalone use I’d expect Valve to add a lot more cameras (and microphones) than the mockup suggests.

    The APU drawing up to 35W would be rather excessive for an HMD, even with the assumed 50Wh battery. Which btw would make it pretty hard to get to 850g weight, considering that the AVP 42Wh (factual capacity) battery alone weighs 353g. This is also the first time I have ever heard of “teeth tracking”, which sounds like fascinating and very challenging technology with applications beyond my imagination. And I’m sure their sole reason not to mention any VR controllers anywhere was to irritate Scott.

    • rabs

      This design doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not compact enough for a mobile HMD, the APU is too power hungry and performances too low for standard PC games. Apple showed what cannot be done yet, even with deep pocket.

      Don’t know what they’ll release (if anything), but next year Strix Halo APU may be interesting for a strong enough wireless compute module. More like a transportable mini PC, that people leave in their bag with a battery pack, or plug to a wall in a corner of the room they’re at. Can also be used with other screens, plugged to a TV, streamed to an handheld and whatnot.

      And with that, any headset running Steam Link. Maybe one designed by Valve, maybe Samsung will also ensure it’s working well on their headset right out of the gate, in addition to Google Play Store and other partnerships they can get.

  • ApocalypseShadow

    We keep hearing Facebook Facebook Facebook. But the reality is that it only is exceeding when it comes to VR gaming. Quest has no software for any other use cases that people actually want to use when it’s compared to Apple’s ecosystem of apps. Apple already can build upon this with developers updating the apps to this spacial thing. Facebook has been around for years but haven’t built a substantial amount that the masses would use Quest for.

    When Samsung joins the party with Google, that combination of good Samsung hardware coupled with Google software that runs in the millions of apps, will blow the doors off of Quest when it comes to use cases. They can also see the market directly and prepare for it. Smaller and lighter headset, try to balance performance and battery, try to integrate that onto the head and add that special touch of spacial software for the masses and business.

    If the headset has full Android integration with Google’s app store and Samsungs app store, where you can play and download any app from the store and display it on any size virtual screen, that’s a major blow to Facebook. While creating spacial software, VR and AR software to wow the masses. Add in the hand tracking, controllers for gaming and it would have huge potential. If they can sit in the middle by being more powerful than Quest but less expensive than Vision Pro, they would have a good chance to succeed in the market.

    • TheTinyWizard

      Not that I fully disagree with you, but Quest can run many Android apps (via sideloading), and it does have non-game applications that let you access your PC desktop, have many floating windows, and collaborate. You can also pair a Bluetooth keyboard. You just don’t hear much about this side of Quest because it’s not very sexy, it just works. Games get more press.

      • ApocalypseShadow

        Can you download any Android app on Quest 3? Like say, Asphalt 9 and play it on a virtual screen? Since I use it as well, no you can’t. There’s no way to download games, productivity and social apps on Quest 3 from the Play Store. If Samsung can get that done, while offering things like Google Earth day one on stand alone(wander is good. It’s just not Google Earth good.) and if they can create spacial software, they could have a good chance to do well.

        My point I’m making is that all these articles and a lot of comments are written up or typed to say it’s Facebook’s market. And this is how they can beat this headset or that headset. Or their predatory pricing that allows them to sell under cost to make them to control the market.

        Never about how others can succeed in the market as well ln the VR and AR market. Nope. It’s about how Facebook can keep control of the market and take over the AR market. There’s too much bias towards holding them on a pedestal, while downplaying everyone else. It’s not right.

        • g-man

          I don’t disagree but it kinda makes sense given the Quest install base. It’s the most popular so it’s going to get the most press.

          AVP is sure being talked about. I’m glad Apple has opened people’s eyes to non-gaming because that’s what I’ve wanted for a while. Still outside what I’m willing to pay for now but if it pushes Meta in that direction and sparks some non-gaming entrants like Sammy then so much the better.

          TinyWizard is right that you can do some of these things on the Quest (I have a couple Android apps installed) but it’s clearly not designed for that. Again hopefully AVP lights a fire under it.

  • Sean Lumly

    Don’t forget, Samsung has had Dex for generations. They are already capable of displaying Android Apps with flexible window management, and it seems quite clean in its latest iteration (though I haven’t personally tried it).

    • Guest

      DeX has little to nothing to do with XR, which has very different demands. As the article mentioned, Samsung has done nothing while Apple has been plugging away at XR for a long time, as has Facebook. Their attempts to jump in just because Apple did will not fly, not for a complicated product and advanced technology stack like this. It might be one of the biggest flops of this decade, if not worse.

      • Sean Lumly

        What? Samsung has been in the xR space for a VERY LONG time at this point. They have released multiple WMR headsets, and even the first Oculus standalone used the Galaxy smartphones.

        Suggesting Samsung is late to the party is at best mis-informed, and at worse, insane (in the truest sense of the term).

        Dex is a windowing system, yes, it can be made to display in stereo 3D trivially.

  • LP

    The OpenXR standard implies that Samsung will have the same as Meta Quest, except for Meta exclusives.

  • Dark Matter

    Perhaps Google and Samsung will lean into melding WebXR, DEX, and Gemini AI to create a world wide web focused headset instead of an app, walled garden focused headset like Meta and Apple have done.
    Maybe Samsung and Google will partner like they have on fitness utilizing Fitbit tech and Galaxy Watch tech in a VR headset for fitness tracking…
    Whatever they do, I hope it’s a long committed effort.

    • knuckles625

      Whatever they do, I hope it’s a long committed effort.

      Oof, my Daydream software library would say hi if I could access it.

      I have 0 appetite for Apple but at this point I might be more tempted to buy into an Apple ecosystem than a Google one purely to not lose everything when Google loses interest in 18 months

      • Dark Matter

        Me too, we should’ve gotten the hint from the naming of their products (Daydream, Mirage, Cardboard) LOL
        Samsung had a pretty decent VR browser on the Gear VR, it seemed to have potential but the relationship with Facebook was odd.
        Samsung’s relationship with Microsoft Mixed Reality was short lived also, only producing two headsets and no software for that platform, should’ve given us a hint to their dedication to WMR.
        Guess I’m just a sucker for shiny new VR promises.

        • g-man

          > we should’ve gotten the hint from the naming of their products (Daydream, Mirage, Cardboard) LOL

          lol that’s hilarious, well spotted

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            Google just always knew that users wouldn’t be happy until VR actually feels real, and named their products accordingly. And nothing has ever felt more real than the “Google Cardboard Plastic” prototype from their 2016-04-01 concept video, already offering perfect passthrough, 2D app usage and 360° audio. youtu_be/VkOuShXpoKc

      • XRC

        Google refunded all the purchases in my library when they shut down Daydream.

        Thankfully some applications made their way to other platforms, including virtual virtual reality, eclipse edge of light and Audio Factory.

        Really miss Bladerunner Revelations, got to use this on mirage Solo, but would love a PCVR port, though Seurat might break from the increased freedom of movement.

  • Ahmed Hassan

    Hmm, pretty sure a part of the “software problem” can be solved if the headset can play unedited ARCore apps making a bunch of apps already ready to install out of the box like the super used-to-be-a trend “Pokemon Go” and “wizards’ unite”
    not like you will like to go off with that bulky thing on your head but ARCore is already a lot if contributed
    OpenXR library is almost guaranteed as both Google and Samsung are listed in the official list by The khronos Group (no Apple, as usual software support is always done the latest, Pity)
    With “Some software” already ready, it’s only a matter of time I believe before some other games get released on the Play store

  • Christian Schildwaechter

    I had high hopes when Samsung released the Exynos 2200 as their first SoC with an RDNA2 GPU licensed from AMD, which should have given them a significant performance advantage. But apparently they never managed to get power consumption in check, so the GPU ran underclocked compared to what the architecture was actually capable of, eliminating the potential gains. The Exynos 2400 with RDNA3 Xclipse 940 is doing okay in benchmarks, with slightly faster GPU performance than SD8 Gen 2, but is easily beaten by SD8 Gen 3.

    I still hope that Samsung manages to fix remaining issues, as Qualcomm really needs a competitor in the high performance SoC game. Qualcomm has been pushing up prices for the SD8, with Gen 2 going for USD 160, Gen 3 for USD 200 and Gen 4 expected to be even more expensive. That makes these chips unfeasible for mass market HMDs. The 2020 SD865 the Quest 2 XR2 Gen 1 was based on still sold for “just” USD 85. And ARM now trying to force everyone without an expensive architecture license to use their Mali GPUs leaves only a few potential competitors. Mediatek Dimensity is doing fine with Mali, but at the cost of increased power consumption.

  • Paul Bellino

    Samsung, Apple and Meta Wil Not Be Able To Compete With The One Headset To Rule Them All And That Headset Will Be…THE VALVE DECARD….PERIOD.

  • Heathcliff

    Hello everybody, VR novice here. Do you think it would make sense for Meta to share some form of entrance to their app library with Samsung or other forms of semi-partnerships just for the purpose of boxing out Apple from the arms race that is VR?

    In doing so Meta would essentially say “We give up some of our dominance but we would rather fight Samsung in cost-effectiveness / quality than Apples cult like consumers”.

    It is mainly just a random thought but seeing as Zuckerberg gambled on VR being the next computing wave almost 10 years ago because he was fed up having to bow down to Apple, I could see some degree of sacrifice to cripple Apple’s influence in VR being realistic.

  • Ardra Diva

    if it’s like other Samsung products, it will be pretty good, if not very good, and they’ll utterly abandon it after 30 months and it will become a dying ecosystem.