We’re less than a month away from WWDC 2023, when Apple is expected to finally reveal its first Apple VR/AR headset, liked dubbed the Reality Pro.
Plenty of Reality Pro rumors have already leaked over the past few months, and the Wall Street Journal just published offered its own overview, corroborating a number of details from previous reporting in a long read on the next big thing from Apple.
The headset, according to those familiar with Apple's production, "resemble a pair of ski goggles," and will "fully enclose the user’s eyes" for greater immersion. As a mixed-reality product, external cameras will allow for a full view of the outside world, both for practical reasons and to enable augmented reality functionally where digital projections appear in the real world.
The WSJ also corroborates a key detail of how Apple is going to make the headset lightweight and comfortable. The device will have an external battery pack “expected to be the size of something that fits in one hand."
The report highlights that while this kind of design concession is anathema to Apple’s usual approach and that the headset will debut in a “still-experimental” mode, it is still expected to significantly outperform its rivals. According to some who have tried the headset, its “capabilities far exceed those of competitors,” the WSJ reports, both in terms of immersion and performance.
That perhaps shouldn’t be surprising given the rumored $3,000 price tag, reiterated in this report. To put that premium sum into a wider market perspective, that's three times the price of the Meta Quest Pro, which recently had to slash $500 off its MSRP. With that kind of mood music in the background, many wonder if Apple is setting itself up to fail in this brand new product category.
Apple, of course, is used to proving the critics wrong, having repeatedly entered unfamiliar markets before quickly becoming the dominant player. It did so in the smartphone market with the iPhone, wearables with the Apple Watch and true wireless audio with AirPods.
Outlook: Apple's headset faces strong headwinds
Mixed reality is a very different proposition, of course, and not just because of its high price of entry at a time when consumers are tightening their belts. Virtual and augmented reality headsets are still a niche interest, and Apple’s targets are suitably reduced for a first generation. Respect Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo is quoted as suggesting shipments of just 200,000 to 300,000 units in 2023, which is minor compared to Apple’s more established products.
That’s partly because Reality One isn’t expected to ship "until the fall at the earliest." While the headset will be introduced at WWDC, that’s largely to drum up initial buzz and to kickstart app development from the developers in attendance.
While the report name-checks September as the point when mass production is expected to begin, even that might turn out to have been an overly optimistic forecast. “Challenges with integrating the headset with new software, its production and the broader market” have employees and suppliers alike pondering whether it should be pushed back further. The company is already “anticipating some production issues,: the report says, adding that it could “make changes to its timeline.”
But whether or not the final release date slips, WWDC 2023 should still give us an early look at Apple’s first new hardware line since the HomePod emerged at 2017’s conference. Whether the demos wow or underwhelm could go a long way to deciding whether mixed reality remains niche, or if it’s finally ready to explode.