Despite taking different forms and serving different purposes, all Apple devices feel like they’re from the same company. Apparently, for the long-rumored Apple VR/AR headset, consistency might not be the case.
A lengthy report from Bloomberg discusses the monumental moment that could be coming at WWDC 2023, where Apple is expected to reveal its Reality Pro headset and xrOS interface in front of developers. According to the report, the headset is not only far from the original vision, but is ‘un-Apple-like’ in more ways than one.
In fact, consultant and former Apple exec Michael Gartenberg says the Apple headset could be “one of the great tech flops of all time."
Perhaps the most uncharacteristic thing is the Apple VR/AR headset price. Apple devices aren’t strangers to premium price tags, but with multiple tips pointing to a $3,000 cost, this headset will make the best VR headsets look cheap. What’s more, the company is “reported to be planning to sell Reality Pro at a breakeven cost.” For comparison, Apple usually makes a 37% margin on its products.
Similarly, Apple has lowered headset sales hopes from 3 million units to 900,000 units. On average, the company sells past 200 million iPhones per year, so the headset is not expected to become as ubiquitous as other Apple products. At least, not at first. If the company adds new features and lowers the price down for next-gen versions, internal projections suggest the headset will reach Apple Watch-level adoption.
A world-facing display (and external battery)
Apple is hoping an external display will warm people up to the product by keeping “wearers engaged with the real world.” The headset will reportedly feature a world-facing display that demonstrates eye movements and facial expressions. One of Bloomberg’s sources said this display will let others “interact with a headset wearer without feeling as if they’re talking to a robot.” It’s hard to say without seeing it in action, but it sounds a bit creepy based on the description.
Another reason for the external display is to promote all-day wear. According to the report, the headset may be able to replace tasks otherwise done on iPhones and Macs. Think: gaming, web searching, FaceTiming and even exercising. Apparently, the company also hopes third-party apps will help with the headset’s popularity.
The final “un-Apple-like” element of the headset as it is currently rumored is the external battery. It's difficult to name a modern Apple product that lacks intuition, so the expectation that wearers will have to awkwardly tote around an external battery tethered to the headset sounds very off-brand. Even if the headset comes bundled with a chic battery carrying pack, the setup seems like it would still lack grace.
Will Apple Reality Pro be a letdown?
Based on this Bloomberg report, the VR headset we'll see at WWDC has strayed far from the company's original vision and will need more time to marinate in the market than other Apple devices. Apples foray into mixed reality could certainly make the category as a whole more mainstream, but it seems like some sacrifices have been made along the way.
That said, there are ways the Apple headset can prove skeptics wrong. Beyond reports of 'far exceeding' the capabilities of competing headsets, a controller-less experience, brilliant AR pass-through and the power of Apple silicon could all help to generate excitement for the Reality Pro.