Apple is getting ready to debut its long-awaited AR/VR headset in June with a focus on software and services. Priced at $3,000, the headset is set to go on sale months later, and the company is investing heavily in apps that take advantage of the device’s novel 3D interface. The offerings will include gaming, fitness, collaboration tools, new versions of Apple’s existing iPad features, and services for watching sports.
[Update; April 23, 2023: Information on the headset’s ports and battery pack is added under the ports section.]
April 20, 2023: An Apple leaker with a good track record claims that the upcoming Apple mixed reality headset delivers an impressive performance. In a protected tweet, @Evan Blass shared on Twitter that a person he knows had the opportunity to test the AR/VR headset and was “blown away” by its experience. Blass’ source previously was disappointed by the headset’s “underwhelming” capabilities.
Features: A robust app ecosystem
As revealed by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple is also working on a version of Apple Books for the headset, which will allow users to read in virtual reality. The company is also testing a camera app that can take pictures from the headset, while an app will help wearers meditate with calming graphics, sounds, and voice-overs.
A big part of Apple’s effort involves adapting iPad apps for the new headset, which blends virtual and augmented reality. Users will be able to access millions of existing apps from third-party developers via the new 3D interface. The company is also developing a version of its Freeform collaboration app for the headset, an effort that it sees as a major selling point for the product. FaceTime will generate 3D versions of users in virtual meeting rooms, making participants feel like they’re talking together in the same place.
Apple aims to position the headset as a device for getting work done. The platform will support its Pages word processing, Numbers spreadsheet, and Keynote slide deck apps, as well as iMovie and GarageBand for video and music production. Gaming will be a central piece of the device’s appeal, too. The company has been working with a small number of developers for months to help them upgrade their existing software for mixed reality.
One selling point for the headset will be viewing sports in an immersive way. The company already offers games from Major League Soccer and Major League Baseball on Apple TV+, but it’s looking to make that a richer experience. In 2020, Apple acquired a Southern California company called NextVR to bolster this effort.
The challenge for Apple’s headset is to become more than a niche product. Existing mixed-reality models haven’t generated much momentum, and they’ve lacked the kind of killer apps that fueled the iPhone’s popularity. However, Apple is hoping to make the case that the headset is a compelling new way to both produce and consume content. The company hopes to create a platform that can eventually replace the iPhone, though that’s likely a long way out.
Mark Gurman claims that the new AR/VR headset will feature two ports: USB-C for data transfer and a magnetic port to attach the battery pack.
To keep the headset lightweight, Apple has allegedly designed a wired battery pack for it which would give up to 2 hours of battery life. The attachable battery pack will be small enough to be kept in users pockets.
Apple is hosting its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, where it is expected to announce the headset. Getting app creators on board is key to the mission, and that’s underscored by the place Apple chose for the headset’s unveiling. Some company engineers have been working 80-hour weeks in the run-up to the launch.