As someone who lives in San Diego, I wear sunglasses often. I’ve owned a few pairs of Ray-Bans in the past and several different pairs of smart glasses. When Meta and Luxottica (the parent company of Ray-Ban) announced their own smart glasses collaboration, Ray-Bans Stories, I was immediately interested. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset, which I’ve had since launch, and was ready to be further impressed by the company. I jumped at the opportunity to review a pair of Ray Bans Stories, and now, after some long-term use, I’d like to offer my review of the smart glasses. I’ll also share my analyst take on where I believe the form factor could go from here.
The specs (pun not intended)
The Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses come in three classic Ray-Ban styles: the Wayfarer, Round and Meteor. They do not have an actual display, unlike the latest 4th generation of Snap’s Spectacles, which enables them to be available both as regular glasses or sunglasses. This fact also makes the Ray Ban Stories most comparable, in my opinion, to Snap’s Spectacles 3. For the sake of this review, I’ll use Spectacles 3 for comparison; I’ve had a pair of them since launch and I’m well acquainted with their features.
The Ray-Ban Stories promise three hours of use between charges and ship with a charging case that features its own battery and a USB-C port for charging. They are incredibly light for a pair of smart glasses, weighing only 49 grams. The Ray-Ban Stories’ two cameras support the capture of 2592 x 1984-pixel images and 1184 x 1184 video at 30 fps. This is limitedcompared to the Snap Spectacles 3, which can capture 1216 x 1216 at 60 fps video and 1728 x 1728 images. I was surprised by this, given the Spectacles 3 launched two years earlier than Ray-Ban Stories. This said, the Snap Spectacles are heavier, weighing 56 grams to Ray-Ban Stories’ 49.
The Ray-Ban Stories have a speaker for each side of the head and a three-microphone array. They also have 4GB of storage, which should be enough for 500 photos or 30+ 30-second videos. Soon, according to the makers, 15 one-minute videoswill also be an option. For transmitting captured audio, images and video, the glasses have 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) and BT 5.0 wireless connectivity.
All said and told, these glasses sell for $299. Snap still sells Spectacles 3 for $380. Both companies also offer prescription lenses.
My take on the specs
My first impression was that these glasses offer little improvement over Snap’s two-year-old Spectacles 3—a bit disappointing for a company like Meta that is capable of wonders like the Quest 2 (granted, the Quest 2 benefitted from the lessons learned from the Oculus Rift and the original Quest). On paper, the Ray-Ban Stories simply aren’t groundbreaking in a technological sense. I will say they are perfectly integrated into a very stylish pair of glasses, and many, I believe, would not be able to identify them as smart glasses if they passed them on the street. They are also much more comfortable than the Spectacles 3, in my opinion.
However, this same unobtrusiveness also presents one of my biggest concerns with Ray-Ban Stories: they could be the ones that truly normalize and mainstream smart glasses. That carries with it an extreme responsibility. Unlike the spinning bright white ring that encircles the Spectacles’ camera, the recording light on the new Ray-Ban Stories is extremely small and easy-to-miss outdoors. One could easily cover it with a small black sticker and violate someone’s privacy in a place where cameras would normally not be allowed. I think Meta should be much more careful and intentional around this product segment. It must be hyper-aware of the technological precedents it could potentially set. As we saw with Google and its infamous Google Glass, the consequences of any major mistakes could follow Meta for a long time.
Granted, Meta does have to work within certain restrictions, like price and available technology. Still, its somewhat hard to believe that a company as big as Meta would release a product with effectively the same capabilities as something that came out two years ago for roughly the same price and only slightly lighter weight. While this is only Meta’s first attempt at wearable glasses, I still would have expected it to offer more in terms of capabilities. I really would’ve loved to see 4K as an option and possibly better low-light performance when not using 4K. That could also be a limitation of the silicon inside of the headset, which I suspect is probably limited to 1080P @ 30 FPS based on the current specs and the fact that Meta has not publicly stated what chipset it is using. Perhaps they would’ve benefitted from something like a Qualcomm XR1 chip which can do up-to 4K 30 and 1080P 60 encode?
The Facebook/Meta View app is probably my biggest gripe about this product. First, I don’t think anyone wants to install yet another app to manage their smart glasses. It should already have seamless integration into Instagram and Facebook. By corralling the users around their preferred app, Meta could have tailored the experience to specific user segments: Facebook and Facebook Chat for the older audience and Instagram Reels and Stories for the younger audience. While you can share videos in the square format, landscape or portrait mode, it feels far less intuitive than my experience with Spectacles in the Snap app.
I think that Meta has a lot of work cut out for it on the software side. It needs to improve the app’s ease-of-use and make thingslike sharing content feel more seamless. While editing and sharing videos in the app is relatively simple, the separate app makes it feel a lot less streamlined as it would if it was integrated into Meta’s existing social media apps where many of these photos and videos inevitably end up. I also think Meta’s efforts to develop an assistant for these glasses is a waste of time—everyone either wants Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. I think these glasses would be a lot more powerful with those capabilities and many years of AI natural language processing experience.
Initial setup was extremely easy and quick, though the glasses did require a bit of a charge before using. Once connected, the glasses must stay connected to your device of choice; if you decide to switch devices, you’ll have to unpair them and reset them on the new device. For most people, I know this won’t be a huge deal—most users don’t switch phones as often as I do. Still, even the headache of one phone switch could be enough to turn off some users. It caused me a few days of headache.
Using the glasses was simple and easy overall, although I would have liked a button on both sides of the glasses and not just on the right, in case one hand is occupied holding a drink or my phone. That said, the Facebook assistant (not Meta, yet) does work well; the ‘Hey Facebook’ function allows you to use voice commands to trigger photo and video captures hands free. I have not tried this feature outdoors in a crowded environment but considering the proximity of the glasses to my mouth and the generally good audio quality of the Ray-Ban Stories, I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked well.
On the topic of the audio experience, though, I must point out that unless you’re in an isolated environment it’s next to impossible to hear anyone calling you on the phone over the Ray-Ban Stories. The speakers simply aren’t loud enough to overcome a stadium-like environment and require a quieter setting. People also had a hard time hearing me while walking and talking on the phone on a windy day—a bit surprising with a three-microphone array. Louder environments aside, the audio quality of the two speakers is overall decent but could use a bit more bass (as is the case with most wearables). I wouldn’t consider these as a replacement for something like the Bose smart glasses for music, or any real audio-only product, really. However, they work great for the videos recorded on the glasses and for most social media content, including Instagram Reels, Snapchats and TikToks.
In my experience, the glasses generally lasted about three hours—more or less the duration of a full-length baseball game, as I can attest. The glasses never felt heavy, uncomfortable or warm on my face. Sometimes I would honestly even forget I was wearing smart glasses altogether. The video stabilization on the Ray-Ban Stories glasses has been fantastic, and I noticed that the video resolution files vary based on the amount of image stabilization the glasses needed to do. This could produce a different quality video with every capture session depending on how much electronic stabilization is needed.
All those good things aside, I was disappointed by the low-light performance of both the photos and video, making these glasses most useful during the day. While I haven’t had a chance to use these at a concert, I can’t imagine the footage would look very good inside a dark venue. I was really hoping that the lack of resolution in the specs would be compensated by better low-light performance and I was disappointed that it had not. My last complaint is that the device and the case need to be able to charge faster. At the peak, it drew a maximum of 5W while charging and mostly charged between 3 and 4W. Once you discharge the Ray-Ban stories, it takes a while for them to charge back up. By the time they’ve charged, you’ve likely forgotten about them and moved on to the next part of our day.
I would say that my experience with the Ray-Ban Stories glasses by Meta was overall positive, despite its specs falling short of my expectations. Their form factor is probably the best of any smart glasses I’ve seen and the most comfortable as well. That said, the technology doesn’t really break any new ground. Meta likely had to strike a difficult balance between form factor, performance and battery life for this product and the result was effectively something very similar to Snap’s Spectacles 3 from two years ago. However, we also saw Snap graduate from Spectacles 3 to the considerably more powerful New Spectacles AR glasses last year. One can hope we see the same level of improvements, if not better, with Meta’s next attempt at smart glasses.