The launch of the Apple mixed reality headset is coming soon, but possibly only when it's safe for an in-person event.
That's right — we may see Apple's first official step into VR "sometime in the next several months." However, it ideally won't happen before the world returns to normal, as Apple wants a pre-COVID-style launch event rather than a livestreamed one.
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These details come from a newsletter written by Mark Gurman for Bloomberg (opens in new tab). Gurman writes how, despite the success of online product launches and last year's virtual WWDC 2020, Apple wants to unveil its headset at a normal event.
Gurman explains that Apple wants to get the launch of its headset perfect, since it's a whole new product category for the company; the first new one since the Apple Watch launched in 2015. Therefore, that means being able to more closely control how the headset is introduced and demonstrated, and that's best achieved at an event at Apple headquarters — so long as doing so won't pose a threat to attendees' health.
That may not stop Apple from revealing officially that it's entering the VR headset market before then, though. A pre-announcement would let it more openly work with developers to make sure there's a VR app ecosystem ready for users when the headset launches. It's similar to how there's a three-month gap between the reveal of the latest version of iOS at WWDC in June and the September rollout to iPhones.
From the rumors we've heard so far, it sounds like Apple's mixed reality headset will have some impressive features. Dual 8K displays, eye-tracking- and hand-tracking-cameras and LiDAR sensors are all expected to be included on the headset, plus possibly a minimalist controller that takes the form of smart rings worn on the user's finger.
The price is impressive in a less enjoyable way; it's rumored to cost between $1,000 and $3,000, depending on which source you read. That high price tag is apparently because Apple is aiming the headset at a professional userbase rather than general consumers, and is expecting to sell a small number of units a year as a result.
The Apple Glasses, conversely, are expected to be a consumer-focused product — but on the downside, they're not likely to arrive for another few years.
The Apple headset's rumored specs likely means it will quickly become one of our picks for the best VR headsets around, whether Apple unveils it in person or via digital means. However that price also means it'll be some time before Apple's VR offerings become as mainstream as the iPhone.