The long-rumored Apple augmented/virtual reality headset isn't going to be a standalone device, and will require a connection to an iPhone to operate, according to the latest information to leak out online.
Sources speaking to The Information (opens in new tab) (via 9to5Mac (opens in new tab)) say that the headset will need a connection to another device in order to run – the exact wording is "a phone or a similar device", so it sounds like iPads or even Macs could work as well.
It sounds as though a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of the processing and visuals is going to be done on the companion device, something older VR headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard did too. That should mean the headset itself should cost less and can be more lightweight.
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Chips with everything
The Information report says that the Apple AR/VR headset is going to have a chipset of its own, but that it won't be a particularly powerful one – it'll lack the artificial intelligence capabilities of the processors found in iPhones, iPads and Macs, apparently.
Another tidbit from the article is that the image sensor inside the device is "unusually large", though we'll have to wait and see how this impacts the overall size and design of the headset that's in the pipeline.
At the moment it seems as though this headset is separate to the Apple Glasses that have also been rumored for years: these are said to be coming after the main AR/VR headset, and are said to be along the lines of Google Glass rather than the Oculus Quest 2.
Analysis: Apple's next big venture
Apple hasn't launched itself into a new product category since the introduction of the Apple Watch back in 2015, but we know that company CEO Tim Cook is a big fan of what augmented reality can offer – he's gone on record saying that it "has the ability to amplify human performance".
More recently, it's been rumored that Cook wants to stick around for the launch of one more major device before stepping down as Apple chief, and an AR/VR headset would certainly fit the bill.
While there are some fine virtual reality headsets on the market, including the PlayStation VR and the Oculus Quest 2, it remains something of a niche market. Apple would hope to change that, much as it did with the Apple Watch and smartwatches.
While details of the headset are thin on the ground – and it hasn't even been confirmed by Apple – we do know that the company will want to get the hardware and software right before unveiling anything new. At this stage a 2021 launch looks unlikely, but we might see the device at some point in 2022.