Apple doesn’t launch entirely new products very often, so when there’s one in the works it sends the rumor mill into overdrive. Talk of an Apple VR headset has been doing the rounds for years, and the Cupertino-based company is still yet to make any official announcements, but it’s now starting to look like something concrete might be in the pipeline.
Apple doesn’t tend to jump on bandwagons unless it’s convinced the product being developed has ironed out any issues with existing competitors and that there’s a big enough demand for it. But reports say that Apple’s board was recently given a demo of a new mixed reality headset, suggesting things are at a reasonably advanced stage.
So what do we know so far? And when is Apple VR (or whatever it ends up being called) likely to see the light of day?
Apple VR: rumored specs
According to Bloomberg, Apple’s headset has been in the works since 2015, so the specs will have changed dramatically over time. The most recent version is said to be powered by a version of Apple’s own M1 chip, with 8K displays and eye-tracking technology on the inside, and multiple cameras on the outside.
The report also claims that the first device, codenamed N301, will offer both VR and AR capabilities, while a second pair of AR-only glasses (codename N421) will follow later.
Apple has been pushing AR apps pretty hard on iOS in recent years, but a new type of device will require a new operating system. References to a ‘realityOS’ have been spotted in pre-release iOS builds, App Store upload logs and trademark filings going all the way back to 2017.
Apple VR: rumored design
Apple has managed to keep any renders or mock-ups of its headset under wraps so far, but a report by The Information last year said it would feature a “sleek, curved visor” with “swappable headbands”, which sounded similar to the canopy on the AirPods Max. That knitted, breathable mesh is designed to reduce pressure on the wearer’s head, so would make sense for a device that you’d be likely to wear for long periods. It’d be a small departure from existing headsets like the Oculus Go (above), but still recognizable as a VR device.
The report also mentioned one prototype that included a physical dial, much like the Digital Crown found on the Apple Watch and AirPods Max. This would make sense from an ergonomic point of view, allowing the wearer to navigate menus without having to fiddle about looking for multiple individual buttons. You can bet it’ll support Siri for totally hands-free use as well, though.
Apple VR: rumored price and release date
There were rumors that Apple planned to launch its new headset at WWDC back in June, but that didn’t happen, possibly due to issues with the latest prototype overheating. A more recent update from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says it could be announced as early as January 2023 and ship out to faces before next year’s WWDC.
He also claims it’ll be the most revolutionary product since the iPhone, which would be easier to believe if he didn’t expect it to cost between $2000 and $2500, possibly more. Surely that’s no way to turn AR and VR into a mainstream success story like the iPhone?
Main image from Ian Zelbo