Apple hints and leaks all but confirm xrOS — here’s what we know

3D render of the Apple VR/AR headset
(Image credit: Marcus Kane/Sketchfab)

The Apple VR/AR headset looks set to debut at WWDC 2023, and it could come with a brand new operating system called xrOS.

Now, that new operating system — and its rumored name — appear to be all but a certainty. A series of leaks today combined with an Apple blog post makes it seem that Apple’s WWDC keynote will launch a brand new OS for developers to explore.

First, the blog post. In an update titled “Code new worlds,” Apple says that developers need to keep an eye out during the Apple keynote at WWDC on June 5 (1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT / 6 p.m. BT / 3 a.m. AET). The expectation is the reference to “new worlds” is for Apple’s new operating system for mixed reality apps. These apps will form the core of the new Apple headset, alongside a ton of iPadOS apps that are already rumored to work with the new headset.

xrOS reportedly in App Store Connect

(Image credit: Steve Troughton-Smith/Mastodon)

But other information has come to light that seemingly confirms this new operating system will be called xrOS. As reported by MacRumors, developer Steve Troughton-Smith tricked the App Store Connect into revealing xrOS in an error message.

xrOS has been one of the rumored names for an Apple mixed reality operating system for a while now, along with realityOS and xrProOS. There are indications that these names do not all refer to the same operating system — previous reports suggest that RealityOS is built on a similar platform to iOS whereas xrOS is more similar to macOS.

However, this instance of xrOS is the first time we’ve seen anything remotely official from Apple appear in the wild. So it seems that xrOS should become a reality, even if other VR/AR-focused platforms eventually come to fruition.

Apple’s new worlds could be blinding

Renderings of the rumored Apple VR/AR headset

(Image credit: Concept Central/YouTube)

But a new OS isn’t all that’s been leaked today. In a tweet from Ross Young (h/t AppleInsider), the Display Supply Chain Consultants insider has revealed possible specs for the displays in the Apple VR/AR headset. Initially, the Tweet appears to have been a subscriber-only tweet, but Young has since made a public tweet on the matter.

According to Young’s public tweet, the twin displays (one per eye) will be Micro OLED displays 1.41 inches in size (measured diagonally) with 4K resolution in each eye. They were also initially tipped to be "targeting" a 4000:1 contrast ratio and over 5,000 nits peak brightness, but "targeting" has since been removed from the tweet. 

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We’re not sure what Young meant by “targeting” — this could be in reference to an initial design goal for Apple rather than what we actually get. But given his public tweet has removed that word, these numbers could be accurate. If they are, the new headset will feature truly blinding displays. 

For reference, 5,000 peak brightness is far beyond the best phones and best TVs by a significant margin. And the Meta Quest 2 headset only hits around 100 nits, so 5,000 would be exponentially brighter in comparison. The only thing that is reported in that range is Meta’s Starburst headset which manages around 20,000 nits peak brightness, but it is still a prototype.

Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to see what the Apple VR/AR headset will actually achieve in terms of performance. So stay tuned for our WWDC coverage to see more of Apple’s potentially groundbreaking VR headset. 

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Malcolm McMillan
A/V, AI and VR Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a staff writer for Tom's Guide, writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment with a particular focus on artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-based tools like ChatGPT. He has written up much of our coverage on the latest AI tools including ChatGPT, the new GPT-powered Bing and Google Bard. He also covers A/V tech such as televisions, soundbars and more, in addition to covering VR headsets from the Meta Quest 3 to the PS VR2.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.