Review of Ray-Ban stories: comfortable but limited
As someone living in San Diego, I often wear sunglasses. I’ve owned a few pairs of Ray-Bans in the past and several pairs of smart glasses. When Meta and Luxottica (the parent company of Ray-Ban) announced their own smart eyewear collaboration, Ray-Bans Stories, I was immediately interested. I was very impressed with Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset, which I’ve had since launch, and was ready to be even more impressed with the company. I jumped at the chance to review a pair of Ray Bans Stories, and now, after long-term use, I’d like to offer my smart glasses review. I’ll also share my analyst perspective on where I think the form factor could go from here.
Specifications (pun intended)
Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses come in three classic Ray-Ban styles: Wayfarer, Round and Meteor. They don’t have an actual display, unlike the latest 4th Gen Snap’s Spectacles, allowing them to be available as both regular eyewear or sunglasses. This fact also makes the Ray Ban Stories the most comparable, in my opinion, to Snap’s Shows 3. For the purposes of this review, I’ll be using Spectacles 3 for comparison; I’ve had a pair since launch and am familiar with their features.
The Ray Ban Stories promise three hours of use between charges and come with a charging case that has its own battery and a USB-C port for charging. They’re incredibly light for a pair of smart glasses, weighing just 49 grams. Both cameras of the Ray Ban Stories support capturing 2592 x 1984 pixel images and 1184 x 1184 video at 30 fps. This is limited compared to the Snap Spectacles 3, which can capture 1216 x 1216 video at 60 fps and stills at 1728 x 1728. I was surprised by this considering the Spectacles 3 launched two years ago earlier than Ray Ban Stories. That said, the Snap Spectacles are heavier, weighing in at 56 grams compared to Ray Ban Stories’ 49.
The Ray-Ban Stories have a speaker on each side of the head and an array of three microphones. They also have 4GB of storage, which should be enough for 500 photos or more than 30 30-second videos. Soon, according to the creators, 15 minute videos will also be an option. To transmit captured audio, images and video, the glasses have 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) and BT 5.0 wireless connectivity.
All told, these glasses sell for $299. Snap is still selling Spectacles 3 for $380. Both companies also offer corrective lenses.
My opinion on the specs
My first impression was that these glasses offered little improvement over Snap’s two-year-old Spectacles 3, a little disappointing for a company like Meta which is capable of wonders like the Quest 2 (admittedly the Quest 2 benefited from the lessons learned from the Oculus Rift and the original quest). On paper, the Ray-Ban Stories are simply not revolutionary in a technological sense. I will say that they fit perfectly into a very stylish pair of glasses, and many, I believe, would not identify them as smart glasses if they saw them on the street. They are also much more comfortable than the Spectacles 3, in my opinion.
However, that same discretion also presents one of my biggest concerns with Ray-Ban Stories: they could be the ones that really normalize and generalize smart glasses. This entails extreme responsibility. Unlike the bright white ring that surrounds the Spectacles camera, the Ray-Ban Stories news recording light is extremely small and easy to miss on the outside. You could easily cover it up with a little black sticker and violate someone’s privacy in a place where cameras wouldn’t normally be allowed. I think Meta should be much more careful and intentional around this product segment. He must be hyper-aware of the technological precedents he could potentially set. As we saw with Google and its infamous Google Glass, the consequences of any major error could follow Meta for a long time.
Certainly, Meta must meet certain restrictions, such as price and available technology. Still, it’s kind of hard to believe that a company as big as Meta would launch a product with effectively the same capabilities as something that came out two years ago for around the same price and slightly more weight. light. Although this is only the first attempt at wearable glasses from Meta, I always expected them to offer more in terms of capabilities. I really would have liked to see 4K as an option and possibly better low light performance when not using 4K. It could also be a limitation of the silicon inside the headset, which I think is likely limited to 1080P @ 30 FPS based on current specs and the fact that Meta hasn’t publicly stated which chipset it uses. Perhaps they would have benefited from something like a Qualcomm XR1 chip that can encode up to 4K 30 and 1080P 60?
The Facebook/Meta View app is probably my biggest complaint about this product. First off, I don’t think anyone wants to install another app to manage their smart glasses. It should already have seamless integration into Instagram and Facebook. By gathering users around their favorite app, Meta could have tailored the experience to specific user segments: Facebook and Facebook Chat for older audiences and Instagram Reels and Stories for younger audiences. While you can share videos in square, landscape, or portrait mode, it feels a lot less intuitive than my experience with Spectacles in the Snap app.
I think Meta has a lot of work to do on the software side. It should improve the app’s usability and make content sharing smoother. While editing and sharing videos within the app is relatively simple, the separate app makes it much less streamlined than if integrated with Meta’s existing social media apps, where many of those photos and videos end up inevitably. I also think Meta’s effort to develop an assistant for these glasses is a waste of time – everyone wants Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. I think these glasses would be much more powerful with these capabilities and many years of experience in AI natural language processing.
Initial setup was extremely quick and easy, although the glasses did require a bit of charging before use. Once connected, the glasses should remain connected to the device of your choice; if you decide to switch devices, you will need to unpair and reset them on the new device. For most people, I know this won’t be a big deal – most users don’t switch phones as often as I do. Still, even the headache of a phone switch might be enough to turn off some users. This gave me a few days of headaches.
Using the glasses was simple and easy overall, although I would have liked a button on both sides of the glasses and not just the right, in case one hand was busy holding a drink or my phone. That said, the Facebook Assistant (not yet Meta) works well; the ‘Hey Facebook’ feature lets you use voice commands to trigger hands-free photo and video captures. I haven’t tried this feature outdoors in a crowded environment, but given how close the glasses are to my mouth and the generally good audio quality of the Ray-Ban Stories, I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked well .
When it comes to the audio experience, though, I have to point out that unless you’re in an isolated environment, it’s nearly impossible to hear someone calling you on the phone through the Ray-Ban Stories. The speakers just aren’t powerful enough to overcome a stadium-type environment and require a quieter setting. People also had trouble hearing me while walking and talking on the phone in windy weather, which is a bit surprising with a three-microphone array. Aside from louder environments, the audio quality from both speakers is decent overall but could use a bit more bass (as is the case with most portable devices). I wouldn’t consider them a replacement for something like Bose smart glasses for music, or any other audio-only product, really. However, they work great for videos recorded on the glasses and for most social media content, including Instagram Reels, Snapchats, and TikToks.
In my experience, the goggles usually lasted about three hours, more or less the duration of a full baseball game, as I can attest. The glasses never felt heavy, uncomfortable or hot on my face. Sometimes I even honestly forgot I was wearing smart glasses. The video stabilization on the Ray-Ban Stories glasses was fantastic, and I noticed that the video resolution files vary depending on how much image stabilization the glasses had to do. This could produce different quality video with each capture session depending on the degree of electronic stabilization needed.
All that good stuff aside, I was disappointed with the low-light performance in photos and video, which makes these glasses very useful during the day. Although I haven’t had a chance to use them at a gig, I can’t imagine the images would look very good in a darkened room. I was really hoping that the lack of resolution in the spec would be compensated by better low-light performance and I was disappointed that it didn’t. My final complaint is that the device and case need to be able to charge faster. At maximum, it consumed a maximum of 5W while charging and mostly charged between 3-4W. Once you discharge the Ray-Ban Stories, it takes them a while to recharge. By the time they loaded, you probably forgot about them and moved on to the next part of our day.
I would say that my experience with the Ray-Ban Stories glasses from Meta was overall positive, despite its specs falling short of my expectations. Their form factor is probably the best of any smartglass I’ve seen and the most comfortable too. That said, the technology does not really innovate. Meta probably had to strike a difficult balance between form factor, performance and battery life for this product and the result was actually something very similar to Snap’s Spectacles 3 from two years ago . However, we also saw Snap switch from Spectacles 3 to the considerably more powerful New Spectacles AR glasses last year. Hopefully we’ll see the same level of improvements, if not better, with Meta’s next attempt at smart glasses.
Disclosure: My firm, Moor Insights & Strategy, like all research and analysis firms, provides or has provided research, analysis, advice and/or advice to many high-tech companies in the industry. I do not hold any ownership interests in the companies listed in this column.