Don't have $3,000? Apple’s cheaper VR/AR headset reportedly in development now

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

The first Apple VR/AR headset hasn’t been announced yet, but we’ve already started hearing rumors about the second generation model. Now a new report goes one step further than that. Not only is the new cheaper headset supposedly coming, Nikkei Asia claims Foxconn has already started work on it.

Foxconn is best known as the company that manufacturers iPhones and various other Apple products — and has done so for several years. It makes sense that the company would have some role to play in the development of the mixed reality headset and its successor.

The report itself cites an unnamed “executive with knowledge of development” who claims Apple’s first still-unannounced headset will be “extremely expensive”. Rumors have varied throughout the years, with a $3,000 price tag popping up fairly regularly. The executive claims that the second-generation headset will be similar to a “high-end Mac computer”

Presumably this is not referring to the Mac Pro, one of the most powerful machines Apple offers right now, which starts at $5,999. But even the cost of more affordable Macs varies depending on which model you get. A Mac Mini with an M2 Pro chip will set you back $1,299, while a 14-inch MacBook Pro with the same chip will cost at least $1,999. That’s still a lot of money to ask people to pay.

Past rumors have claimed that the initial Apple headset will run on a “Mac-grade” M2 processor, rather than one of the more powerful variants. Hopefully that will help offset the costs when Apple launches a cheaper model.

Considering early rumors suggested the headset was primarily aimed at developers, rather than consumers, a high price tag could be justified. However, if Apple really does want to enter the mixed reality space, it needs ordinary people on side — which is where a cheaper model comes in.

But, most importantly, the headset will need a price tag that doesn’t cause people to think twice, especially in a challenged economy. That may be difficult with new technology like this, but we’d hope that a second-generation Apple headset will have a price tag closer to that of an iPhone 14 Pro Max than a top-of-the-line MacBook.

According to the report from Nikkei Asia, Foxconn will help lower overall costs by focusing on increased automation and performance of the production process. It’s also likely that we’ll see the headset use cheaper components than its predecessor, which could play a huge part in keeping it more affordable.

Considering the first generation Apple headset is expected to come with dual 4K lenses, over a dozen cameras and sensors, plus advanced hand and eye-tracking technology, there’s likely to be plenty of opportunity to trim back features. 

The first Apple headset is expected to launch at WWDC 2023 in June, presumably ready to release later this year. It’s unclear when the cheaper headset could arrive, but rumor is that it could arrive at some point in 2025. Let’s just hope this one doesn’t get delayed too much.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.