Apple VR/AR headset launch looks imminent — but insiders are skeptical

apple mixed reality headset render
(Image credit: Ian Zelbo)

We could be edging closer to the Apple AR/VR headset's debut, but reporting from Bloomberg and the New York Times paints a mixed picture of how ready the device is for its introduction.

The Apple Technology Group, responsible for Apple's mixed-reality project, has reportedly demonstrated the headset for the company's top 100 executives. The device (possibly named Reality One) was showcased at the Steve Jobs Theatre, according to the Power On newsletter from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman

Apple's biggest venue is normally used for its most major public launches and it's further evidence the project is gathering momentum. It's widely expected to receive a public launch this June at WWDC 2023.

Fears from within Apple

Despite the developers putting on their biggest show so far, there are worries within Apple about what the future holds for the AR/VR headset. The New York Times spoke to eight anonymous Apple employees who don't believe the headset is ready for launch. Others question whether this is even the kind of product Apple should be making, arguing there's no distinct intended use case for the headset.

Despite AR/VR enthusiasm from Apple CEO Tim Cook, and the tech community in general, the sector's still young, with lots of new technology required to make a headset work. Unlike Apple's previous hit products like the iPhone, which were based on more mature technologies.

As a result, the NYT's sources allege that some working on the project left after feeling unsure about the product's chances, with others fired for failing to develop certain areas of functionality, such as Siri integration.

These accounts match recent reporting from the Financial Times, which claimed designers working on the headset thought it wasn't ready, but that Tim Cook and COO Jeff Williams decided to press ahead with the planned June launch anyway.

Gurman's newsletter echoes these concerns, also claiming the headset has more material problems. This includes hardware concerns like short battery life and an uncomfortable design, limited apps ready for launch, and the rumored $3,000 price tag, which is expensive even for a VR headset.

Still hope? 

Tim Cook opening WWDC 2022

(Image credit: Apple via YouTube)

But Gurman says the attitude among the top echelons of Apple, as well as NYT interviewee and Creative Strategies analyst Carolina Milanesi, is the headset could be like the Apple Watch: a product that slowly builds from a tepid launch to become an important part of the Apple ecosystem, and hopefully take up a strong position among rivals in the market.

This makes more sense when we consider the rumors of a cheaper Apple Glasses product supposedly in the works. This would be a follow-up to the headset that will benefit from the same AR ecosystem as the headset, but offer a more approachable user experience and price.

If the Reality One headset is indeed launching in a few months, then whether it's a good product or not, it'll cause massive waves in the AR/VR sector. We'll just have to cross our fingers that any outstanding concerns with the headset can be fixed quickly. Be that prior to the reveal, or before the device goes on sale to eager-but-discerning buyers.

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Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.