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Apple VR headset: Release date, features, and price

It is clear that Apple is exploring both VR and AR, but when can we expect an actual product?

apple logo with apple products blurred in the background
Image: KnowTechie

It’s one of the most open secrets in the tech world that Apple is working on a virtual reality/augmented reality (VR/AR) headset. Apple hasn’t confirmed this to be true but does consider AR “critically important.”

That could indicate that AR will be more important to Apple as a tool to improve user experience.

A recent interview with China Daily USA seems to support that, with CEO Tim Cook being “incredibly excited about AR” while wanting to keep humanity at the center of the new technology.

We’ve been hearing more rumors about the headset lately, indicating a looming release. Apple also reportedly showed off the hardware to the board of directors, which they wouldn’t do if it wasn’t almost ready for release.

Here’s what we know, what we think is coming, and what we want to see.

When will the Apple VR headset launch?

apple ceo tim cook standing on stage holding an iphone while wearing an apple watch
Image: Apple

Apple hasn’t publicly acknowledged the existence of the VR/AR headset. Many supply chain indicators point to an early 2023 launch date.

But now, some experts believe Apple’s mixed-reality headset won’t make an appearance until later in the year. That’s according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has a solid track record when it comes to Apple.

A report from DigiTimes (via MacRumors) says that mass production will start in March 2023. That would mean the release event would be after that.

The report also mentions that “initial production is said to be very limited,” with the marketing focus on commercial markets.

That’s for Apple’s first headset, which might be developer-focused. Then another headset is tipped to arrive in 2025, or possibly two, one cheaper and one more premium.

UPDATE 12/15/2022 8:14 AM ET: A new report from BGR states that Apple is planning to launch its first headset at WWDC 2023 in June. Software issues are apparently to blame for the delays.

Isn’t this Apple Glass?

apple ar glasses
Image: iDropNews / Martin Hajek

Apple Glass, the AR-only, looks-like-normal-glasses device, isn’t coming until 2025, at the earliest.

Supply-chain analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, says that contact lens-type AR glasses are also in the works, with a 2030-2040 release window.

The headset that’s believed to be coming early next year is a more traditional helmet-style mixed-reality headset.

What will the headset be called?

Bloomberg reported that Apple has new trademark filings for names that could be associated with virtual reality. Those include “Reality One,” “Reality Pro,” and “Reality Processor.”

Could that be the name(s) of the upcoming headset and the chip that will power it? We won’t have long to wait to find out.

What features do we know about?

apple view ar glasses concept render
Image: Antonio De Rosa

Apple’s first headset won’t be restricted to VR or AR content – it will feature both.

That means a closed-off helmet-style headset, with external cameras for positional tracking, AR overlays, hand-tracking, and gesture control.

One report from TomsGuide via The Information says Apple’s headset will introduce a new biometrics security feature. The headset will reportedly feature iris scanning as an extra layer of security.

UPDATE 9/14/2022 1:30 PM ET: Apple has now been granted five patents for mixed reality headsets. These patents are related to eye-tracking, image-capturing, and controller processors.

The displays are supposedly 4K (4000×4000) using micro-OLED. Some reports say there will be a third AMOLED display behind those two high-resolution screens, to make a foveated display.

That type of display works in the same manner as our eyes. Essentially, the spot we’re looking at it will appear high resolution, while the periphery is lower quality.

What kind of processor will the headset have?

m2 chip from apple
Image: Apple

Early reports said that the headset wouldn’t do its own processing, instead it would need to be connected to an iPhone or Mac.

Since then, we’ve seen reports of it having multiple chips inside, one of which would be “similar computing power as the M1 for Mac.”

An even more recent report says that Apple will put the M2 chip into the headset. That will pair with 16GB of DRAM, which means you’ll be wearing a MacBook on your face.

UPDATE 11/14/2022 7:40 AM ET: A new report from Bloomberg’s Marc Gurman states that the unit will feature an M2 chip and run realityOS.

The headset will reportedly come with a 96W MacBook charger to power all of that. That’s the same one bundled with the 14-inch MacBook Pro with the M1 Pro chip.

Hardware is cool, but content is king. Apple has reportedly been courting Hollywood directors to create adaptations in AR for their headset.

Expect series like Prehistoric Planet to appear on the device, and more.

How much will the headset cost?

Apple devices are typically sold at premium prices, to match their premium build. Early predictions say the AR/VR headset could cost over $2,000.

This quote was from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman, whose sources say that value was floated around in Apple’s internal discussions.

Apple typically charges a bit more than its competitors for products, locking in margins that have helped it become one of the most profitable consumer-electronics companies ever. The new headset won’t be an exception, but the main reason why the company has discussed price points above $2,000 is because of some of its internal technologies.

If so, this isn’t going to be the mass-market device that Meta’s Quest range is.

Instead, this will be a premium device, possibly aimed at developers and other users that will build the next apps for Apple’s future devices.

realityOS: What is it?

apple headset render
Image: 9to5Mac

UPDATE 12/8/22 8:05 AM ET: According to multiple reports, it’s possible Apple could use two different names here. One is realityOS, and the other is xrOS. These could be interchangeable or possibly attached to iOS (realityOS) and macOS (xrOS).

Back in February of this year, developers found multiple references to “realityOS” in Apple’s codebase.

Apple isn’t telling you to go touch grass with that name. Instead, it points toward a new device family, which uses a previously-unknown operating system.

The most likely home would be on the VR headset and subsequent devices. Apple has been working on realityOS since at least 2017, when mentions of “rOS” were found in iOS 13 code.

rOS was built on iOS code, but anything could have changed since then. Apple could have gone the desktop replacement route and built realityOS on macOS.

Will you want the Apple VR headset?

virtual reality experiences vr
Image: Unsplash

The $2,000 question: will you want it? Well, that depends on you, really.

If you’re a professional or developer that wants a stable AR/VR platform to create on, the answer is yes. You’ll want this headset to create programs for the next, cheaper Apple headset, slated for a 2024 release.

Home users might want to pass on this, however. The high price and relative lack of content mean this probably isn’t the headset for you.

Unless you’re a serial early adopter, in which case, you’re going to buy it when it’s available, just because.

What will be Apple’s competition?

meta quest 2 headset
Image: KnowTechie

The VR market is about to get very crowded. Multiple large brands are coming out with their own headsets, starting with Meta’s Quest Pro later this year.

Meta’s device is aimed at business users to transition their jobs from typing on a keyboard (boring!) to a metaverse virtual keyboard (ooh, snazzy!). It will cost upwards of $1,000.

Microsoft is also releasing a new HoloLens early in 2023. The enterprise-focused AR headset will cost thousands. Not one for consumers, but still exciting and likely to push the AR market forward.

Then it’s on to an entertainment-focused headset, the PS VR2. Sony’s second VR headset should sell millions of units. The only drawback? You need a PlayStation 5 to use it.

HTC is estimated to sell higher amounts of headsets in 2023. VR is one of the things HTC does well, and its recent headsets are all quality.

Then it’s Pico‘s turn. The largest brand for VR in China, they’re on track to ship at least a million headsets this year. Expect to see a new headset from them in 2023, as we’re due based on their historical release cadence.

What we’d like to see from Apple’s VR headset

vr game playing on oculus quest showing the upcoming in-game advertising
Image: Facebook

We’ve used multiple AR and VR headsets over the years, and most suck. The bar Apple has to surpass is a low one, but that doesn’t make it easy. The company still has to address major pain points.

The biggest is comfort. Most VR headsets are weighty, have uncomfortable straps, and aren’t the easiest to adjust to your head. If Apple can nail comfort, the growing market is theirs.

Most headsets have terrible, or barely-capable, audio playback, but that could change this time. Apple won’t be happy with poor audio, as it focuses on providing solid audio quality on its other devices. Spatial audio in VR content will be awesome.

We’d also love battery life to be a big focus. Power efficiency is there, if it uses the M2 chip. With the average headset running out after two or three hours, Apple knows what it has to do.

That said, if it’s coming with a 96W charger, it might not have much of an internal battery, if any at all.

Interconnectivity between the rest of Apple’s product stack would be great.

Apple Fitness Plus would have a natural place on the headset, as would Maps, or other programs. Imagine using Garageband in AR, while you’re playing your instruments.

The future is virtual

UPDATE 9/29/2022 8:30 AM ET: Apple is already looking to future headsets, as well. According to a new report from The Elec, Apple is asking LG and Samsung about future displays that reach 3500 pixels-per-inch (PPI). Theoretically, this will make future displays even more immersive.

Whatever form Apple’s first VR/AR headset takes, it’s clear the company thinks other forms of reality are the future.

Apple isn’t one to jump into a market, they like to study things first (assuming they’re not creating the category).

The first device might be another “iPhone moment,” changing the face of how we interact with technology. If anyone can get VR and AR mainstream, it’ll be Apple.

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