Qualcomm is seemingly planning to reveal a new XR chipset early next year that could be for Apple Vision Pro competitors.
South Korean news outlet Electronic Times said it interviewed Qualcomm’s GM & VP of XR Hugo Swart at Snapdragon Summit 2023 last week. The article is in Korean, but all popular machine translation tools show Electronic Times quoting Swart as saying Qualcomm plans to unveil a next-generation XR chip in the first quarter of 2024.
Qualcomm confirmed to UploadVR that Swart was accurately quoted, but declined to give more details about this new chipset.
What Might This Chip Be?
Qualcomm revealed the new generation Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 less than five weeks ago during Meta Connect, and it debuted in Quest 3 earlier this month. XR2 Gen 2 is the successor to the original XR2 from 2020, and it’s based on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip used in high-end Android phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S23 series.
Qualcomm revealed Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 last week, intended to be used in high-end Android phones in 2024, though some Chinese companies like Xiaomi will use it this year. It’s possible that the next generation XR chip Hugo Swart referenced is based on it, and if so that would give it a 25% GPU improvement and 20-30% CPU improvement over XR2 Gen 2. But it would be peculiar for Qualcomm to move the XR2 line from a three year cadence to a six month cadence for these kinds of marginal gains.
Another possibility is that the new chip could be a new product line. Last week Qualcomm also revealed Snapdragon X, a new chipset line for high-end laptops intended to rival Apple’s M-series Mac chips. While all other Qualcomm chipsets use semi-custom CPU cores based on ARM’s designs, Snapdragon X is the first to use fully custom “Oryon” cores. Oryon is a result of Qualcomm’s 2021 acquisition of Nuvia, a startup founded in 2019 by former Apple and Google custom CPU engineers.
While Qualcomm’s GPUs have been competitive with Apple’s for years now, its CPU cores have been years behind. Qualcomm claims Oryon changes the situation and closes the gap with Apple’s M2, so if it plans to use it in XR chips, we could see competitors to Apple Vision Pro that offer similar CPU performance.
Vision Pro Competitors From Samsung & LG?
Electronic Times further suggests that this new Snapdragon XR chip, whatever form it takes, will be used in the headset Samsung announced it was working on with Google, as well as an LG headset.
Last month another Korean news outlet, Maeil Business Newspaper, reported that LG was partnering with Meta to build a Quest Pro 2 for release in 2025. That report suggested both Samsung and LG’s headsets will be priced somewhere around $2000, significantly higher than Quest 3 but notably less than Vision Pro.
We could thus see three distinct options for high-end standalone XR emerge in the coming years, with fierce competition between them. As with the smartphone market, Qualcomm will seemingly be powering the hardware for all Apple’s serious competitors. But will there really be room for three separate software platforms, or will Meta and Google be in a zero-sum fight to be the “Android of XR”?