New Apple mixed-reality headset might have issues before it’s even released

·4-min read
An Apple VR headset render (Ian Zelbo)
An Apple VR headset render (Ian Zelbo)

Apple is expected to announce its virtual-reality headset at the WWDC23 show in June.

And, with new iPhones coming in September, Apple seems to have truly groundbreaking gadgets coming down the pipeline.

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The WWDC announcement was predicted by Apple commentator Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg. Last year, it was thought the long-rumoured Apple headset would appear earlier in 2023, but issues with its hardware and battery life have reportedly pushed it back.

It’s not the first time the Apple headset has been delayed either. It was initially expected in mid-2022. Still, this is a big move for the biggest name in tech. Apple needs to get this one right.

However, it seems a spanner may already be in the works for the headset, as the Wall Street Journal reports that the company is already anticipating manufacturing issues.

But how serious are these issues? What will the headset actually do and, importantly, how much will it cost?

What is Apple’s VR headset?

It rumoured to be called Apple Reality Pro.  Apple’s headset will offer augmented (AR) and (VR) reality experiences. Apple may describe it as mixed reality. You’ll use it to explore virtual worlds or overlay useful information, such as travel directions.

4K OLED displays will sit behind each eye and heavyweight processors like those in MacBooks will mean you don’t need to connect a laptop or PC. Previous reports claimed the glasses will carry a dozen cameras with advanced sensors that will watch your eye and hand movements, and support gesture controls. You may be able to select items by pinching your fingers.

The headset’s user interface will be familiar if you’ve used an iPhone, complete with widgets (like weather or messages) you can pin to your screen.

Collaboration tools are part of the mix. You’ll make FaceTime calls with highly realistic avatars, according to Bloomberg. Apple’s SharePlay could let friends wearing headsets watch TV remotely, as if they were together.

But what happens if you wear glasses? No problem. People with prescription glasses will be able to fit custom lenses in the headset.

What issues might Apple’s headset be facing?

According to the WSJ’s report, Apple is “already anticipating some production issues” with the device, amid rumours of a $3,000 (£2,400) price tag and a retro external battery.

The mass production of the headset won't start until September, the WSJ writes, “due to manufacturing delays” told to the publication by people “familiar with the issue”.

At the time of writing, details are not mentioned by the publication, or elsewhere.

Nonetheless, it’s also claimed that the team behind the headset apparently planned to ship it a number of times over the past few years, but faced fresh obstacles on every occasion.

These instances included delays related to “co-ordinating the software to run properly with the hardware”, among others.

How much will Apple’s headset cost?

With an eye-watering rumoured cost of up to £2,500, the first Apple headset is likely to be expensive. However, a significantly cheaper model is expected in 2024 or 2025, turning it from an early-adopter-only buy into something more of us can stomach as it trickles down.

Don’t like the idea of a bulky headset? Apple is working on smart glasses, too, which will paste bits of info onto your normal vision. However, recent reports suggest these could be pushed as far back as 2026. The tech needs a bit more time in the oven.

Will there be Apple gadgets compatible with the headsets?

Health and wellness are critical to Apple. It has reportedly developed a meditation app and may also make its Fitness+ service available, turning its headsets into virtual gyms. You’ll be able to watch Apple TV+ shows and the company is speaking with Disney and others to provide VR content.

With that in mind, it’s notable that one reason Apple allegedly failed to get the deal to stream NFL Sunday Ticket matches was because they couldn’t agree on streaming rights for “as yet non-existent platforms”. Perhaps Apple’s rumoured interest in UK football hints VR/AR streaming is part of its plan?

Make your own apps with the headset

There will be a creative side to the Apple headset, too. In January, The Information’s Wayne Ma claimed the first headsets will have software that lets users easily create apps.

He suggests you’ll be able to place digital creatures and other items in AR space using your voice and Siri. He says this is based on a procedural generation tech Apple acquired with Canadian firm Fabric Software. You’ll also be able to scan and import objects from the real world to place in virtual environments.

Apple doesn’t just want people to build apps for their own entertainment, it also wants to make them easy to sell or share. To make this happen, Apple will introduce an App Store for the headset, as it works to make a profitable developer environment to support innovation.

Even if the first Apple headset ends up too pricey for your budget, it’s hard not to conclude this is the most exciting new Apple product in years.