Apple's mixed reality headset could still be a long way off — here's why

An image of a woman wearing a mock up of Apple's mixed-reality headset
(Image credit: Future)

Update: Three things we just learned about the Apple AR headset, and four big unknowns

Apple may have just launched new MacBook Pro 2021 models and the AirPods 3 at its Unleashed event, but it looks like we might have a longer wait on our hands for the Apple mixed reality headset.

That's according to Apple supply-chain expert Ming-Chi Kuo, writing in an investor note seen by 9to5Mac, who claims there'll be a delay before you can dive into Apple-made virtual worlds. Kuo now says the headset will begin production in the fourth quarter of 2022, about half a year later than his earlier prediction of Q2 2022.

The reason for this delay is apparently the complex design of the headset, combined with Apple's industrial design standards, which are supposedly “much higher than competitors’ products.” Apple has historically prided itself on making top-notch hardware that's attractive, powerful and easy to use. With the rumored headset being the company's first attempt at a product of this type, it's easy to understand why Apple would want to take its time over it.

In addition, Kuo says that Apple wants to have a full ecosystem of hardware, software and services ready to go alongside the headset. This wouldn't be a surprise, either. Apple is very keen on vertical integration and on ensuring that it's simple, and often sensible, to remain within its ecosystem. Plus, waiting longer gives developers more time to fill out whatever the headset's equivalent of an App Store may be.

Kuo adds that Apple doesn't foresee the headset being used just for gaming. While many VR headsets are primarily gaming devices, they are slowly becoming work and productivity tools, too. Given Apple's headset is expected to cost as much as $3,000, it's likely the company expects it to be used by professionals for work applications, rather than just as an entertainment device.

Happily for those of us who don't have very deep pickets, Apple may have an alternative AR/VR product in the form of the Apple Glasses. These may not arrive until a year or two after the headset, but they're expected to be cheaper and made for experiencing VR/AR experiences, rather than designing them.

Beyond its three-grand pricetag, Apple's headset has been tipped to feature dual 8K, 4,000DPI displays, plus LiDAR sensors built around the exterior to track your position. There may even be a virtual keyboard that you use with the help of a "thimble-like" device worn on your fingers

However, it's not certain yet whether this will be a standalone device or if it will need tethering to a Mac or iPhone. And of course with a whole year between now and the start of production (assuming there are no further delays), much could change before Apple's ready to show off the headset to the world.

If you're hungry for new Apple hardware, though, you're in luck. Check out our Apple Unleashed event recap for the details on everything that was launched yesterday.

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.