Image: MIXED (TB)
The Ray-Ban Stories are, in my opinion, the best consumer smart glasses yet. But they need more to break through.
Smart, powerful glasses that also look good are an immense engineering challenge. For more than a decade, Silicon Valley has dreamed of AR glasses for everyday use. But they have not materialized.
The Ray-Ban Stories don’t even have a display. You can make phone calls, listen to music and podcasts, dictate messages, and take photos or videos of inferior quality compared to modern smartphones.
That’s not much, but it’s impressive for a pair of otherwise normal-looking sunglasses that weigh less than 50 grams and have excellent build quality. I wouldn’t wear any other smart glasses, no matter what features they offered, if they were ugly or bulky.
Meta and Essilor Luxottica have done something right in my opinion, which also has to do with the fact that I like to document my life. With my Ray-Ban Stories, I have captured countless moments that would otherwise be lost and forgotten forever.
Less than ten percent user retention
Now I seem to be an exception in my appreciation of the product. At least according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
According to a leaked internal document, Ray-Ban Stories, which launched in September 2021, has sold 300,000 units as of February, with only 27,000 buyers turning them on each month, or less than 10 percent. 13 percent of buyers have returned the smart glasses.
Reasons for dissatisfaction include connectivity, problems with some of the hardware features including battery life, inability for users to import media from the devices, issues with the audio on the product and problems with voice commands for the smart glasses, WSJ writes.
The document is also said to contain two projected sales figures for the lifetime of Ray-Ban Stories: 478,000 and 394,000 units. It seems that Meta and Essilor Luxottica did not expect that the first product would become a huge hit. Ray-Ban Stories are available starting at $299 in the United States and €329 in Europe.
Ray-Ban Stories: Second generation to launch soon
The partners are planning to launch a second generation of the smart glasses, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. The product is expected to go on sale this fall or next spring, reportedly with new Ray-Ban models and improved cameras and batteries.
A display will still not be built in. Only the third generation, planned for 2025, will have a HUD-like display, according to a leaked hardware roadmap.
The Ray-Ban Stories are a first step on the way to full-fledged AR glasses, whose technological development will take longer and is not yet foreseeable. Meta is planning for the long term, as evidenced by its conservative sales projections, and does not expect a quick breakthrough. For the next Ray-Ban Stories, the focus will be on retention, a problem that also plagues Meta’s VR headsets.