Apple's headset could actually be here much sooner than expected

Apple AR/VR headset mock up
An Apple AR/VR headset mock-up (Image credit: Future)

The buzz around an upcoming Apple AR/VR headset won't go away, and now one of the leading Apple analysts in the business has weighed in to say that the device might be unveiled as soon as January 2023.

In an industry note seen by 9to5Mac, the usually reliable Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that the new hardware is "likely" to be announced in January 2023 – but he also says that it may not go on sale to consumers at the same time.

There had been talk that the headset would see the light of day at some point during 2022, although more recent rumors had been predicting a 2023 launch as Apple continues to refine the technology and make it suitable for a full launch.

The most complicated Apple product ever

In his note, Kuo describes the AR/VR headset as "the most complicated product Apple has ever designed" and a "game-changer for the headset industry". There's also an acknowledgement that Meta may start spending less on virtual reality hardware.

"Although Apple has repeatedly reiterated its focus on AR, I believe Apple AR/MR supporting video see-thru could also offer an excellent immersive experience," says Kuo. "Therefore, the launch of Apple AR/MR will further boost the demand for immersive gaming/multimedia entertainment."

Earlier this week Apple CEO Tim Cook said that he "couldn't be more excited about the opportunities" in augmented reality and virtual reality, and that any future products should be "putting humanity at the center" in order to succeed.

Analysis: what we think we know so far

Apple executives have long been talking up the possibilities offered by augmented reality or AR, which is overlaying digital graphics on the real world. The rumor is that Apple is busy working on a pair of lightweight AR glasses at the moment.

At the same time, a more fully featured (and expensive) device is thought to be in the pipeline, which is what Ming-Chi Kuo is talking about here. It apparently combines AR with virtual reality or VR – digital worlds that are more or less completely enclosed, as we've seen with hardware like the Oculus Quest 2.

This combination of AR and VR, sometimes referred to as mixed reality or MR, would seem to be destined for Apple's next big product launch. The rumors are that it's going to be running the same M1 chips as can be found in Apple's laptops and tablets, and that it'll be based on a new software platform called realityOS.

From what we've heard, it's shaping up to be a premium device and is going to come with a premium price tag attached: perhaps something in the region of $3,000 (about £2,450 / AU$4,320). We might not have to wait too much longer to find out.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.