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Apple's AR/VR headset could arrive in 2022 with this killer upgrade

apple mixed reality headset
(Image credit: Future)

We’ve heard a great many rumors about the upcoming Apple VR and mixed reality headset, including news of a possible delay caused by its complicated design. The latest tidbit may tell us a little more about how the headset connects.

According to a new investor note from Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5Mac), well known for his Apple predictions, the Apple headset will utilize Wi-Fi 6E to offer higher bandwidth and low latency connectivity. Which hopefully means you won’t need an awkward wired connection.

Kuo points out that mixed reality is currently reliant on wired connections because there’s so much data that needs to be transferred. Thankfully, Wi-Fi 6E’s higher bandwidth and low latency connections may allow Apple to skip the cable altogether, and offer its VR and AR experiences without having a physical connection to a separate device.

Wi-Fi 6E utilizes brand new spectrum and has been designed for moving large amounts of data through the air. While the available bandwidth is the same as Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 6E offers a great many additional advantages.

Wi-Fi 6E also takes advantage of 100 new data channels and seven ultra-wide 160 MHz channels, rather than the same congested spectrum and channels as Wi-Fi 6. Not only does this mean there's much less interference, it allows Wi-Fi 6E to offer lower latency (as low as 2 milliseconds) and avoid any immersion-killing lag. 

Wi-Fi 6E also needs fewer antennas, which means devices can be smaller and lighter.

Sadly, Apple may still need to rely on an external device, since all the hardware needed to power a standalone VR and mixed reality headset would end up increasing the headset's weight while simultaneously lowering the battery life. Doing it wirelessly means all the hard work can be handled by an iPhone or Mac instead.

Of course, Apple wouldn’t be the first headset-maker to add more advanced wireless capabilities in its products. The Oculus Quest 2 supports Wi-Fi 6 which it uses to stream in 120Hz, rather than the 90Hz refresh rate offered using Wi-Fi 5. Kuo also predicts that both Meta/Facebook and Sony are expected to join Apple in launching more Wi-Fi 6 and 6E-enabled headsets next year.

Apple VR/AR headset: Bloomberg's Gurman weighs in

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has also reiterated a number of Apple VR and mixed reality headset rumors in the latest edition of his ‘Power On’ newsletter. While there isn’t much new information, Gurman has a history of knowing his stuff. 

Gurman notes that the Apple VR and AR headset is going to be pricey, which also lines up with previous rumors, and that both its functionality and price will be similar to whichever headset Meta has lined up to succeed the Oculus Quest 2. 

Judging from previous comments made by Facebook/Meta employees, that’s likely to be the Oculus Quest Pro. But if what Gurman says is true, Apple is going to have some serious competition when its headset launches.

Previous reports claim that Apple's mixed reality headset isn’t really designed to be a consumer product. Instead, it’s a gateway device to prepare developers and consumers for the augmented reality Apple Glasses. The idea being that by offering an AR and VR headset ahead of time, Apple Glasses will have much better app support than it otherwise would have done.

Unfortunately, we don’t know when either device will launch. While initially expected to launch in early 2022, Minch-Chi Kuo now claims production on Apple’s mixed reality headset won’t begin until Q4 2022, a delay he blames on the headset’s complex design and the ongoing supply chain issues experienced across the tech industry. Meanwhile, Apple Glasses aren’t likely to arrive until 2023 at the absolute earliest.

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Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. 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 that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online.