Report: Apple’s First AR Headset Expensive and Heavy, Could Launch in 2022

AR VR Headset

Multiple references in iOS 13 and iOS 14 have confirmed that Apple is working on an AR headset. It has been heavily rumored that the company will announce its first AR headset in 2023 followed by a sleeker Apple Glasses in 2024. A Bloomberg report has now detailed Apple’s first AR/VR headset.

The first AR headset from the company codenamed N301 is going to be a “pricey, niche precursor to a more ambitious” AR product that is still some time away from launch. Reportedly, the AR headset has faced a number of development hurdles and Apple is even setting low sales expectations — a clear sign of the uphill task it has of bringing VR headset to the masses. It is not expecting the AR headset to be a hit like the iPhone, instead, it is building it as a high-end product to get developers onboard the platform.

The AR headset is in a late prototype stage but since Apple’s plans are not finalized, it could be scrapped entirely. As for the AR glasses codenamed N421, they are in the early “architecture” stage. This means that Apple is still working on the underlying technology for the glasses and they are still years away from launch.

Many insiders believe Apple is looking to sell only one headset per day per retail store which translates into annual sales of about 180,000 units. The price tag is also going to be a deterrent as the headset is expected to be more expensive than other similar offerings in the market. Most AR headsets are currently available for anywhere between $500-$900 but Apple’s AR headset could very well be priced around $1,000.

The company does plan to use higher-resolution displays, faster processors, and chips in its AR headset than what the competition uses. The report says that some of the chips perform even better than the M1 Macs. One of the prototypes of the headset even features a fan for efficient cooling, though this has made the prototype too heavy and led to neck fatigue in early testing.

Apple removed the space VR gadgets usually reserve for users who need to wear eyeglasses, which brought the headset closer to the face and helped shrink the size. And to address consumers with poorer eyesight, it developed a system where custom prescription lenses can be inserted into the headset over the VR screens, the people said.

To keep the weight in check, Apple is planning on using a fabric exterior instead of metal that it usually does for its products.

The report notes that Apple’s first AR headset will be suitable for 3D gaming, watching videos, and AR communication. The ability to overlay and display information on real-world objects will be limited. Apple is planning on launching the AR headset in 2022 to take on other similar AR headset offerings from HTC, Sony, Oculus, and others. Apple is also testing cameras for hand-tracking so that users can type virtually in the air for text input.

Apple is still deciding on what kind of content it wants to ship with the AR headset. Despite the company being bullish on AR, the technology is still in nascent stages and there are very limited use cases for it right now.

Apple had initially planned on including a less powerful process on the AR headset and rely on a hub for all the processing. However, Apple’s design guru Jony Ive scrapped that idea and ensured that Apple builds a standalone headset.

Our Take

Apple has met with major success with almost all of its products in recent years. However, it’s clear that the development and launch of the AR headset are going to be a major challenge for the company. The technology itself is nascent and requires a lot of breakthroughs on Apple’s part to bring the tech to the masses on a level that is actually useful and widely adopted.

[Via Bloomberg]