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Apple VR headset news, leaks and what we want to see

Apple logo on a window
(Image credit: Unsplash/Laurenz Heymann)
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The Apple VR headset hasn't been officially confirmed yet but it is almost certainly in the works. With all the rumors and acquisitions surrounding virtual reality and augmented reality tech at the Cupertino company recently how could it not have a headset up its sleeve?

Rumored Apple VR headset Features

– Expected to launch in 2022 or 2023
– Predicted to cost around $3,000 / $2,200 / AU$ 4,400
– A slim, lightweight design
– Uses an M2 chip
– Support for AR and VR experiences
– Wearable hand trackers
– Short battery life

Despite the abundance of rumors surrounding the device, we don't expect to see it this year.

The reason the release date is so far away is that the headset has hit numerous development snags caused by Apple's very high expectations for the device. Not only must it create VR and AR experiences, but it must deliver them to a high-quality while also remaining a comfy standalone wearable.

As a result, Apple's VR headset is expected to be more expensive and less widespread than its other rumored project the Apple Glasses – but will arrive sooner in an attempt to recuperate early development costs while Apple's team continues its work on the company's AR glasses.

The delays are part of the reason why we didn't see the Apple VR headset at the most recent Apple event for the iPhone 14. Instead, we got new smartphones like the iPhone 14 Pro, the Apple Watch 8Apple Watch SE 2, Apple Watch Ultra, and the AirPods Pro 2

Apple VR headset: what you need to know

Apple VR headset release date: Apple hasn't yet confirmed that it's working on a mixed reality headset so we also don't have a confirmed release date. That said rumors indicate the project could launch in either 2022 or 2023.

Apple VR headset price: Pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but rumors have suggested we'll see something around the $3,000 / $2,200 / AU$ 4,400 mark.

Apple VR headset Features: Apple's headset is expected to use mixed reality – so it will have VR and AR capabilities. We've also heard it will be powered by the impressive M1 chip.

Apple VR headset Design: The Apple VR headset could look much less bulky than its rivals according to those familiar with the project. The display unit is believed to be fairly slim and would house every component, while a single strap goes around the head to keep it secure

Apple VR headset Battery life: Leaks have suggested the VR headset can only be used in short bursts, leading us to believe its battery life will be quite short.

Apple VR headset Controllers: Patents filed by Apple have led to rumors that the Apple VR headset will use either hand tracking or wearable ring controllers.

A selection of Apple Products, including the apple watch and macbook pro

(Image credit: Unsplash/Julian O'hayon)

Apple VR headset news and leaks

August 29, 2022 - Apple's VR headset might be called wither Reality One or Reality Pro based on trademarks. Most likely it'll be called the Reality Pro and the Apple Glasses will be the Reality One.

July 27, 2022 - The Apple VR headset might be controlled by wearing two Apple Watches (one on each wrist) based on an Apple patent.

June 27, 2022 - Apple's VR headset is expected to be more powerful than the world's best MacBook, with reports it'll use the new Apple M2 chip.

June 26, 2022 - noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that we'll see the Apple VR headset arrive in January 2023, a prediction that fits in with other recent speculation about the device's launch date.

June 6, 2022 - as expected the WWDC 2022 keynote came and went without any mention of the Apple VR/AR headset or realityOS. However, Apple did later announce a new RoomPlan feature (opens in new tab) coming to iPhone after it ended.

June 5, 2022 - it looks unlikely that we'll see the VR headset at WWDC 2022 after all, with sources saying the launch has been pushed back to 2023.

May 29, 2022 - more trademarks have come to light suggesting that Apple has trademarked the realityOS name, and could be making that trademark international right after WWDC 2022.

May 25, 2022 - Apple has been awarded a patent for an OLED screen cooling system for a VR/AR headset. It's designed to be much less complex and heavy than a typical OLED thermal management setup (via PatentlyApple (opens in new tab)).

Apple VR headset release date

More and more signs are pointing towards a 2023 launch for the Apple VR headset.

Numerous sources have claimed that Apple has faced near-continuous development issues while working on its VR headset. This has led to the device reportedly being pushed all the way back to 2023. While the above rumors suggest it could have been brought forward, some experts are confident that 2023 is still correct.

In particular Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo – who often accurately predicts Apple’s development plans – says that all signs point to the headset being held back until next year. Mass production hasn’t started yet and so Kuo says that Apple would be smart to hold the device back from events like WWDC 2022 to avoid copycats getting to market first.

More recently, Kuo pinpointed January 2023 for a launch window. He also said it was "the most complicated product Apple has ever designed".

VR headset

(Image credit: Mark Nazh / Shutterstock)

Apple VR headset price

Mark Gurman (a writer with a good track record for getting early access to information around Apple's upcoming product releases) has claimed that Apple's VR headset will be pricey – all thanks to its premium-level specs.

While a price hasn’t yet been confirmed, a report by The Information (opens in new tab) has the Apple VR headset priced at an eye-watering $3,000 / $2,200 / AU$ 4,400. 

This estimate has been somewhat corroborated by Bloomberg, whose sources have said Apple expects the VR headset to sell roughly one unit per store per day. These figures match up with the approximate sales of the Mac Pro Desktop which costs $5,999 (about £4,730, AU$8.720) suggesting the headset will carry a similar price tag.

We might be in luck though, more recent reports from Ming-Chi Kuo have said that Apple supposedly now wants to ship 3 million units – considerably more than previously suggested.

While the company may still decide to opt for a price in the region of around $3,000 it may struggle to achieve these targets with such a high price – especially up against much lower-priced competition. 

As such we could see Apple's VR headset be much less expansive at launch than first expected.

Apple VR headset features and design

Apple has yet to confirm the existence of its VR headset, but numerous design details and features have been leaked already; giving us a pretty good idea of what it will look and perform like.

As with all leaks we have to remember to take this information with a pinch of salt, but that advice is especially true here. That's because Apple is supposedly working on two headsets, this one and a pair of Apple Glasses. This has led to some confusion in the past as to what device each rumor and leak is referring to.

That said, here are the details we believe we know about the VR headset.

Possible Apple VR Headset Design

This design was created by The Information (opens in new tab) based on accounts of what Apple's VR headset looks like (Image credit: The Information)

First off it's probably going to be a powerful device, with Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via AppleInsider (opens in new tab)) at one time predicting that the Apple headset will likely have the same M1 chip and similar computing power as the MacBook Pro (M1,2020). However, more recent reports suggest Apple's headset might actually use an M2 chip instead, which is around 35% more powerful than the M1 processor.

Either way, we can expect it to use dual 8K displays. At 7680 x 4320 resolution, that’s four times as many pixels as a 4K screen and significantly more pixels than any other commercially available VR device. Multiple leaks have confirmed this detail so we're feeling confident that these high-quality displays will appear in the final design.

To help these components conserve battery, Apple apparently has a plan to use sophisticated eye-tracking. Eye-tracking software in the headset is designed to follow where the user is looking and only activate that portion of the screen at the full 8K resolution. Other areas of the screen will allegedly become more blurred, to save on processing power, using a trick called foveated rendering.

This could help the device's rumored short battery life. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman (opens in new tab) cites multiple sources in saying that the Apple headset is designed to be used only in short bursts. Supposedly this is a mandated limitation to rebel against ideas like the Metaverse which would require you to use the headset for long periods of time.

We suspect Apple would achieve this by intentionally installing a small battery that requires frequent recharging rather than imposing any kind of time-out function.

A small battery would also help the headset maintain its lightweight design – with rumors indicating Apple wants to make the headset as light as 150 grams; this would be over two-thirds lighter than the Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as the Oculus Quest 2). Other rumors suggest it could actually end up in the (more realistic) 300-400 gram range.

One thing that could help the headset last a bit longer is a patented Apple design (via MacRumors (opens in new tab)) for a wireless charging unit that could be used while the headset is being worn.

Patents aren't a guarantee that a specific feature will be available – especially for an announced piece of tech  – but a method of keeping the VR headset charged up even while it's in use could help improve its usability.

Additionally, a patent in the same report hinted that Apple's VR headset could use one-way mirrors to hide critical electronic components, but still allow them to function – such as cameras and gaze tracking systems. This could help make the VR device look less scary if you're wearing them in public but opens up privacy concerns as some people may not be aware that you're wearing a camera on your face.

One final patent revealed that we might be using two Apple Watches to control the headset, though we definitely recommend taking this with a pinch of salt. Considering the Apple Watch 7 starts at $399 / £369 / AU$599, requring even one of them would make the VR headset even more expensive than it's already predicted to be.

A hand holding an iPhone scanning a kitchen

(Image credit: Apple)

While no announcements were made at the WWDC 2022 keynote, later during the event Apple unveiled RoomPlan. This new AR app uses the LiDAR sensor and cameras built into the iPhone 13 to map out a room and the objects in it (even identifying what they are).

While this feature seems to be aimed at apps for real estate and e-commerce (allowing users to see if a certain new item would fit in a room or with their decor) it would certainly help when using a VR headset. 

When immersed in VR it would allow users to dodge obstacles that could be in their way like the Meta Quest 2's boundaries that allow users to set up safe play spaces. Meanwhile, it could bring improved realism to AR experiences as virtual objects would be able to better interact with the real world space.

We'll have to wait and see what Apple announces at a future event.

Apple VR headset: What we want to see

Wireless headset

Previous rumors about the VR headset had suggested that it would be wireless, though these came just three years ago. The Information’s alleged design in the image above does maintain this look, but with many more months ahead before release, the design of the headset is still subject to change.

While wireless headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 might lose something in performance to the PC-powered alternatives such as the Valve Index, the freedom of movement and improved immersion of a wireless device are a massive benefit if they can be included.

If Apple’s headset is indeed sporting two 8K screens, it may need quite a lot of power pumped into its shell, so our wireless dreams may not become reality.

As light as a feather

Apple’s VR headset will have some weight to it, but we’re hoping it isn’t too much of a strain on a user’s neck. Given how powerful the thing sounds, such as having those high-resolution screens, there’s reason to worry about the weight we’ll be carrying around on our heads. 

Those rumors of a lightweight device listed above are promising, but we're still hoping Apple’s design team is able to devise a way to keep the VR headset as light as possible, or at least distribute the weight to make wearing it comfortable.

Apple Products

(Image credit: Unsplash/ Xiong Yan)

Haptic controllers

Haptic feedback has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, and we hope Apple’s team takes note of the success of the Valve Index and the PS5’s DualSense controller in this department. While it is then on software designers to implement haptic feedback effectively, having the hardware there will allow them the option to create more lifelike experiences.

While we've already detailed potentially-conflicting reports of both haptic fingertips and completely-virtual finger tracking on the headset, we're hoping that, whichever system Apple decides to pursue, this doesn't come at the expense of immersion.

Hamish is a Staff Writer for TechRadar (@Hamish_Hector (opens in new tab) on Twitter) and has been writing about tech for almost five years. He now lends his experience to cover news and reviews across everything on TechRadar (from Computing to Audio to Gaming and the rest). In his free time, you’ll likely find Hamish humming show tunes while building Lego or playing D&D with his mates.

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