Apple AR and Mixed Reality headsets: understanding the latest rumors

It is likely that Apple will enter a new product category with headphones in the near future. So far, there have been two rumored products: the AR headset and the Mixed Reality headset, commonly referred to as AR/VR headset or “Apple Glasses”. While rumors of these products are gaining popularity, here’s what we know about each product so far.

All about Apple’s mixed reality headset

Design and Features

Apple’s Mixed Reality headset is the most rumored product to date. In January 2022, not only analyst Ming-Chi Kuo talked about it, but also analysts from Display Supply Chain.

In a DSCC article, analysts say Apple’s Mixed Reality headset will feature an “innovative three-screen setup,” featuring two 4K micro-OLED displays and another AMOLED panel for low-resolution peripheral vision. Not only that, but it will likely include a powerful mobile processor and GPU in the headset.

For example, Ming-Chi Kuo believes that Apple wants to position its mixed reality headset not only as a gaming device, but also as something ready for other app categories. According to Kuo, Apple’s solution is expected to have “the best industrial design yet.”

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman confirms with Kuo, saying the Mixed Reality headset will focus on gaming, media consumption and communication.

Gaming should be the main focus of the machine, especially as it will have multiple processors, a fan, very high resolution screens and its own App Store. Look to Apple to position the device as a game developers dream. Then media consumption. I expect Apple to work with media partners to create content that can be viewed in VR on the device. Third, communication. Look for Animojis and a VR FaceTime-like experience to be the zoom of the new era.

Price and availability

On the price, the DSCC paper corroborates an earlier report from Bloomberg stating that this headset will carry a “heavy price tag”. DSCC thinks Apple’s AR/VR headset will cost “several thousand dollars.” Rumors suggested it would cost about $3,000.

Our guess is that the first-generation headset will be a high-end device aimed at professionals and developers to expand Apple’s AR/VR ecosystem. The device is also rumored to have multiple cameras that allow for hand tracking and possibly a LiDAR sensor.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said the first-generation headset will weigh around 300-400 grams, which compares quite favorably with existing VR headsets on the market. However, he believes Apple is already working on a second-generation design that will be much lighter, as well as an updated industrial design, new battery system and faster processor.

Render of the Apple Mixed Reality headset

In May 2022, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported that Apple had “recently presented its upcoming AR/VR headset to Apple’s board of directors.” Bloomberg previously reported that a consumer launch of the headphones was planned for 2023, but an early announcement of the device is likely. This report also indicates that the development of the headset’s operating system has accelerated in recent months.

Kuo and DSCC expected Apple to launch the product in late 2022, but now say it’s planned for 2023.

In addition, a lighter, more compact and affordable model of the 2nd generation is already under development. Kuo recently suggested it wouldn’t launch until 2025, but the chosen ones says its supply chain sources indicate that Apple currently aims to put this model on sale sometime in 2024.

Everything about Apple’s AR headset

Apple's augmented reality headset

Apple loves augmented reality. The company’s CEO made a number of statements in 2021 about this technology and how Apple intends to embrace it as the “future” of the company. Not only that, but analyst Ming-Chi Kuo made a bold statement by saying that Apple plans to replace the iPhone with AR technology in ten years.

Unlike the Mixed Reality headset, which requires a nearby iPhone to work properly, Apple’s upcoming AR headset will work as a standalone product. Kuo wrote:

Positioning the AR headset only as an accessory for the Mac or iPhone is not conducive to product growth. An AR headset that works independently indicates that it will have its own ecosystem and provide the most complete and flexible user experience.

In another report from November 2021, Kuo said Apple’s AR headset will have a processor “with the same computing power as the Mac,” and that the chip design will be the main difference between Apple’s headset, AR, and its competitors. The analyst writes:

[I]has Mac-level (PC-level) computing power, (2) it can run independently without relying on a Mac (PC) or iPhone (phone), and (3) it supports a full suite of applications rather than specific applications .

Controversial Reports on Mixed Reality Headset and AR Headset

Launch of Apple AR headset in 2022, glasses in 2023

Beyond these reports, it’s important to note that most of the stories about Apple’s AR headset talk about “VR capabilities,” which would indicate that we’re talking about the Mixed Reality headset instead.

For example, in the same report Kuo talks about this headset’s processor, the analyst predicts that it will ship with two Sony 4K micro OLED displays, indicating that it could also support VR. Not only is it the same screen that DSCC backed up in January, but Ming-Chi Kuo also talks about the VR capabilities.

Apple’s AR headset requires a separate processor because the processing power of the sensor is significantly higher than that of the iPhone. For example, the AR headset needs at least six to eight optical modules to simultaneously provide continuous video seamless AR services to users. In comparison, an iPhone requires up to three optical modules to operate simultaneously and does not require continuous computing.

So what we really know so far is that Apple is indeed preparing an AR headset that will work without the need for an iPhone, but what we’re looking forward to this year and 2023 is a mixed reality headset, and most reports that AR headsets are actually for mixed reality.

For Apple Glasses, the company’s AR-only initiative is expected to be announced around 2024.

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In addition to all these reports, another indication that Apple is indeed preparing to enter a new product category is the fact that the company hired Meta’s head of AR communications at the end of 2021.

With all that in mind, expect Apple to introduce an expensive mixed reality headset, weighing around 350 grams, with a premium look, plenty of cameras, a LiDAR sensor, and more features than any competitor. As of now, it’s unclear whether this product will work with or without an iPhone nearby, but one thing’s for sure: when it becomes available, it will be nearly impossible to get one.

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