Bloomberg: Apple's First AR/VR Headset 'Pricey, Niche Precursor' to More Ambitious AR Glasses and Could Launch Next Year

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.

Apple VR Feature

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 also 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.

The inclusion of the fan and powerful processors is said to have initially resulted in a device that was too large and heavy, so Apple reportedly brought the headset closer to the face and helped shrink the size. This meant users can't wear eyeglasses while using the headset, so to address this, Apple has developed a system where custom prescription lenses can be inserted into the headset over the VR screens. Apple is also said to be discussing how it might implement prescriptions at the point of sale online and in retail stores.

Meanwhile, the AR glasses, codenamed N421, are in an even earlier development stage and are "several years away," according to people with knowledge of the matter, although Apple had initially planned to to release them 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 has since departed the company, is said to have preferred the concept of the N421 glasses over the headset.

Apple was initially aiming for an ultra-powerful headset that came with a hub to house the processor, but Ive did not want to sell a device that would require a separate, stationary device for full functionality.

Ive instead wanted a headset with less powerful technology that could be embedded directly in the device, but the leader of the AR/VR team, Mike Rockwell, wanted the more powerful device. It was a standoff that lasted for months, and Tim Cook ultimately sided with Ive.

As a result, the headset is reportedly designed to work as a standalone device, meaning it can operate on a battery rather than be plugged into a wall or a Mac. According to Gurman, prototypes of the headset include external cameras to enable some AR features. Apple is said to be testing using the cameras for hand-tracking and is also working on a feature where a user can type virtually in the air to input text.

Apple's AR/VR ambitions have long been rumored, with many of the developments emerging from Gurman's reporting. Be sure to check out the full Bloomberg article, and for everything we know on Apple's AR/VR plans, check our dedicated roundup.

Related Roundup: Apple Glasses

Top Rated Comments

satcomer Avatar
9 months ago
This whole story that reminds me of wishful writing and not based in facts!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Relentless Power Avatar
9 months ago
Apple's first virtual reality headset will be a "pricey, niche precursor" to a more ambitious augmented reality product...”

Pricey? I wouldn’t be surprised if this headset ranges north of $2k or more. I don’t even think Apple knows what to expect from a product like this, and more than anything, it’s probably more about demoing the future than expectation of consumers to flock to something like this.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
G5isAlive Avatar
9 months ago
So Apple makes a computer without fans, but has to install fans in a headset?

The rumors coming out lately are so bizarre and so out of left field that I am starting to think someone at Apple is having fun putting out garbage rumors on purpose. These glasses have been talked about for years, I am surprised they are not further along... or are they? Maybe Apple is trying to put out misinformation to lure the competition into complacency, and then BOOM. They release a mature and great product when no one expects it. Okay, maybe thats fantasy but it makes just as much sense as these rumors.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Marbles1 Avatar
9 months ago
> all-encompassing 3-D digital environment for gaming, watching video and communicating.

Endless rumours and suggestions it's going to great for gaming. And yet Apple has done nothing serious about gaming.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DNichter Avatar
9 months ago
I am just not seeing the value of such a device in my life, but I guess as somewhat of a beta product to fine tune the software and experience - it makes sense. Glasses would be a much better experience in my eyes as you aren't closing yourself off from the outside world. With a headset, you're likely stationary. This seems to go in the opposite direction from where Apple has been trending as of late - health, fitness, interactivity, etc.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
djcerla Avatar
9 months ago
Hardly. No clear value proposition in such a device, that’s not how Apple rolls.

They are all in for AR, which is the game changer technology.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

eye iris

Apple's AR/VR Headset Could Use Iris Scanning for Apple Pay

Wednesday March 24, 2021 3:28 am PDT by
Apple's long-rumored mixed-reality headset may feature iris scanning for authentication, according to reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a recent note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that he has reached the conclusion that Apple's mixed-reality headset may sport iris recognition on the basis of the hardware currently understood to be inside the device. We are still unsure if...
AppleVRFeature

Apple Aiming to Announce Mixed-Reality Headset With In-Person Event in 'Next Several Months'

Wednesday March 31, 2021 8:25 am PDT by
Apple is aiming to announce a mixed-reality headset at an in-person event sometime in the "next several months," according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. In a newsletter outlining the possible future of the company's WWDC conference taking place in an in-person format, Gurman says that Apple aims to release a mixed-reality headset, the first major new device since 2015, at an in-person sometime ...
apple mixed reality headset mockup feature

Kuo: Apple's Upcoming Mixed Reality Headset to Feature 15 Camera Modules

Monday March 8, 2021 9:25 pm PST by
Apple's upcoming mixed reality headset will feature a total of 15 optical camera modules, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said this evening in a research note obtained by MacRumors. Eight of the 15 camera modules will be used for see-through augmented reality experiences, six modules will be used for "innovative biometrics," and one camera module will be used for environmental detection. Largan...
snap spectacles

Snap Working on Advanced Smart Glasses With Augmented Reality Capabilities

Tuesday March 30, 2021 2:33 pm PDT by
Snap is designing a new set of "Spectacles" smart glasses that have augmented reality capabilities, reports The Information. Snap has sold several versions of its Spectacles, but current options do not have AR features and are instead equipped with a camera for uploading content to social network Snapchat. The augmented reality Spectacles will be aimed at developers and creators rather than...
apple mixed reality headset mockup feature yellow

Kuo: Apple Aiming to Keep Mixed Reality Headset's Weight Under 150 Grams

Monday March 22, 2021 8:34 pm PDT by
Apple is planning to adopt a hybrid Fresnel lens design for its mixed reality headset, a move that will improve optical performance while allowing for a broad field of view and keeping the headset's weight under 150 grams (a third of a pound), according to a new report from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo notes that most virtual reality headsets use Fresnel lenses, first invented ...
Apple VR Feature

Apple VR Headset May Launch in Q1 2022 With LiDAR and $500+ Price Tag [Updated]

Wednesday February 3, 2021 6:09 am PST by
Apple's rumored virtual reality (VR) headset may be released as soon as the first quarter of 2022, according to JP Morgan analysis seen by China Times. The report, spotted by iMore, explains that the "industrial design of Apple's headset will be close to that of other brands of VR headsets." The headset is said to feature six lenses and an optical LiDAR scanner to map the wearer's...
record gaze tracking patent

Apple Outlines How Smart Glasses Could Record Jitter-Free, Gaze-Driven Video

Tuesday March 16, 2021 6:30 am PDT by
Multiple reports suggest that Apple is developing an augmented reality headset as well as smart glasses, and a newly granted Apple patent may provide a clue about one of the potential features that could be included in the latter device. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a patent describing "systems and methods for gaze-driven recording of video." Apple's...
apple mixed reality headset mockup feature orange

Kuo: Apple Still on Track to Release Mixed Reality Headset Next Year

Friday April 23, 2021 5:53 am PDT by
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo had previously stated that Apple's mixed reality headset would debut in the middle of next year, and in a new note today obtained by MacRumors, the highly-respected analyst is once again doubling down that Apple plans to showcase its mixed reality headset in 2022. The information we know on Apple's headset is somewhat scarce, but according to one report, the...
apple dan riccio

Apple Executive Dan Riccio Reportedly Shifting Focus to AR/VR Headsets

Monday February 8, 2021 6:46 am PST by
Last month, Apple announced that its hardware engineering chief Dan Riccio would be transitioning to a new role focusing on a "new project," and Bloomberg's Mark Gurman today claimed the focus area will be AR/VR headsets. From the report:Riccio's move is similar to the approach taken last year by Phil Schiller, the company's former marketing chief. Both executives left senior roles but held...
apple mixed reality headset mockup feature

Kuo: Apple to Launch Mixed Reality Headset in Mid 2022 and Augmented Reality Glasses by 2025

Sunday March 7, 2021 8:27 am PST by
Apple plans to release its long-rumored mixed reality headset "in mid-2022," followed by augmented reality glasses by 2025, well-regarded analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a research note with TF International Securities, obtained by MacRumors. "We predict that Apple's MR/AR product roadmap includes three phases: helmet type by 2022, glasses type by 2025, and contact lens type by...