Apple's AR/VR headset could be delayed, says analyst

apple mixed reality headset
(Image credit: Future)

Just yesterday we learned that Apple will kick off its WWDC 2023 event on June 5, and along with that came plenty of speculation that Apple will launch its long-awaited Apple AR/VR headset. In fact, it could wind up overshadowing the launch of iOS 17

But now respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says in a tweet that mass production for Apple's mixed reality headset could be pushed back by another 1-2 months. The reason? "Because Apple isn't very optimistic about the AR/MR headset announcement recreating the astounding 'iPhone moment.'"

Yikes. To be fair, the iPhone was revolutionary at the time of its debut in 2007, and it's hard to top that launch. And it certainly doesn't help that Kuo and others peg the starting price for Apple's headset at $3,000 to $4,000. The first iPhone started at $599.

Why delay the Apple headset launch?

In addition to lacking iPhone-level buzz, Kuo cites a few other reasons why Apple is not very optimistic. Those concerns include "the economic downturn, compromises on some hardware specifications for mass production (such as weight), the readiness of the ecosystem and applications, a high selling price (USD 3,000-4,000 or even higher), etc."

Within the last few weeks we've seen reports that Apple designers expressed concerns of their own that the Apple mixed reality headset — which could be called the Apple Reality Pro — wasn't up to the company's high standards and that it was too bulky and heavy to be released.

However, Apple CEO Tim Cook and COO Jeff Williams are said to have overruled the designers and decided to forge ahead with the launch. So how many Apple headsets could they sell? 

Kuo predicts that "due to the delay in mass production for assembly, the shipment forecast this year is only 200,000 to 300,000 units, lower than the market consensus of 500,000 units or more." 

So the new Apple headset could very niche, at least at first.

Why the Apple headset is still worth watching

Even if the Apple VR/AR headset winds up targeting only developers and power users at first, there will still be an enormous amount of interest in the device should it be unveiled at WWDC 2023.

For one, this would be Apple's first entry into a new product category since the Apple Watch. And at least based on what we've heard about the specs and features, this could be a very powerful headset, complete with an M2-level chip inside, dual 4K displays and hand tracking built in.

But it will really all come down to what you can do with the Apple headset that will make it a hit (or the start of one) or a flop. The Meta Quest Pro headset is pretty powerful, too, but it's already seen a huge price drop from $1,499 to $999

We've heard that the Apple Reality Pro features will include an 3D version of an iOS -like interface, the ability to extend your Mac's display and new FaceTime meeting capabilities. Other use cases include immersive video watching and gaming, though apparently you'll need a bulky separate battery pack.

Make sure you check out our Apple VR/AR headset hub and WWDC 2023 preview to keep up to date on all the latest headset news and rumors. 

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Mark Spoonauer

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.