Apple’s first virtual reality headset will be a “pricey, niche precursor” to a more ambitious augmented reality product, according to a new report from Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman.
As a mostly virtual reality device, it will display an all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating. AR functionality, the ability to overlay images and information over a view of the real world, will be more limited. Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, going up against Facebook Inc.’s Oculus, Sony Corp.’s PlayStation VR and headsets from HTC Corp., the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private plans.
According to the report, the initial device has hit “several development hurdles” and the company has “conservative” sales expectations. However, the high-end, niche product reportedly aims to prepare outside developers and consumers for more mainstream AR glasses further down the line.
The plans suggest that Apple’s first headset will be far more expensive than those from rivals, which cost about $300 to $900. Some Apple insiders believe the company may sell only one headset per day per retail store. Apple has roughly 500 stores, so in that scenario, annual sales would be just over 180,000 units — excluding other sales channels. That would put it on par with other pricey Apple products, such as the $5,999 Mac Pro desktop computer. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
According to the report, Apple plans to put much higher resolution displays in the headset than those in current VR offerings, and it aims to include advanced chips more powerful than even its latest M1 processors found in Apple Silicon Macs.
Apple is said to have included a fan in the design of the headset, which is codenamed N301 and in a late prototype stage and yet to be finalized, suggesting the company’s plans could change or the device could even be scrapped.
Meanwhile, the AR glasses, codenamed N421, is in an even earlier development stage and is “several years away,” according to people with knowledge of the matter, although Apple had initially planned to to release then as early as 2023.
Current prototypes of the AR glasses are said to resemble high-priced sunglasses with thick frames that house the battery and chips. Former chief designer Jony Ive, who left Apple last year after almost three decades at the company, is said to have preferred the concept of the N421 glasses over the headset.