Apple's Unusual Headset Design Has Led to Unprecedented Production Challenges

Apple's mixed-reality headset will reportedly be the most complicated hardware product ever made by the company, sporting an unusual design that has proven to be an unprecedented challenging to manufacture, The Information reports.

apple mixed reality headset concept by david lewis and marcus kaneApple headset concept by Marcus Kane

The headset apparently features an "unconventional curved design, thinness, and ultralight weight." Several renders seen by The Information "show a piece of curved glass with edges wrapped in a smooth aluminum frame that appears to be slightly thicker than an iPhone." The thin profile requires users who wear glasses to buy prescription lenses that magnetically clip into the headset.

Apple had to develop a first-of-its-kind "bent motherboard" to fit inside the headset's curved outer shell. Carbon fiber is used inside the headset to reinforce the structure without adding additional weight.

A small dial is located above the right eye, allowing users to transition between augmented and virtual reality, and a power button is located above the left eye. A round connector that looks similar to an Apple Watch charger attaches to the headset's left temple and runs down via a cable to a waist-mounted battery pack.

The headset's headband is primarily made of a soft material and attached to two short, hard temples which also contain the left and right speakers. A soft, removable cover attaches to the back of the headset for comfort against the wearer's face. Apple is said to have debated adding additional eye-tracking cameras or further adjustments to the motorized lenses to accommodate more face shapes.

Apple's industrial design team apparently pushed for the front of the headset to be made of a thin piece of curved glass, requiring more than a dozen cameras and sensors to be concealed for aesthetic reasons. There have apparently been concerns about the glass warping the images captured by the cameras, which could cause nausea if left unfixed, and the material is more prone to shattering than an ‌iPhone‌ screen due to its shape, leading to worries about broken glass from the headset injuring users.

The design is said to be the main driver behind the device's ~$3,000 retail price. Assembly workers apparently struggle to maneuver tools and install components at awkward angles inside the device due to its shape and densely packed electronics. Testing of the glass housing and cameras also takes far longer than equivalent processes for other Apple devices.

The headset's microOLED displays are also said to be so expensive that Apple has to fix defective units rather than discard them. Sony, the displays' supplier, could struggle to manufacture enough panels for more than 250,000 headsets this year due to their small size and pixel density.

Apple has struggled to build prototype headsets due to its complicated design. At an earlier stage in development, Apple was making 100 headsets a day, but only 20 units were up to the company's standards. In mid-April, the headset underwent design validation testing, where it reportedly remained for an unusually long period compared to more mature products like the ‌iPhone‌. Apple apparently made unusually late design tweaks as late as April, to make it easier to manufacture.

While mass production of the headset has not yet begun, Luxshare, its sole manufacturer, has purportedly told workers that the factory that will make the headset must be fully staffed by July. The Information believes this points to a launch in the fall or winter. Apple is expected to ship less than half a million headsets during the first year of its release. For more details, see The Information's full report.

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Top Rated Comments

robbietop Avatar
12 months ago
Here is what we know so far:
[LIST=1]
* It's difficult to manufacture
* Software has been difficult to tailor for it
* Many executives seem to doubt market penetration and success
* Potential competitors have struggled in the market to grow
* It will be prohibitively expensive, putting it outside of average consumer affordability
* Not very portable, making it useless in a public use case outside of the home
* Most software made for the device category has been video gaming or severely niche industries requiring post-graduate education and government licensing.

So, how is this the next iPhone?
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
sunapple Avatar
12 months ago
I know I should be cynical and negative because a) new Apple product and b) MacRumors Forums, but I’m very excited to see what the hardware and software experience will be like. Even if I’m not going to stand in line for it. Or maybe I will, who knows.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
DelayedGratificationGene Avatar
12 months ago

That’ll be a pass from me.
So many people said that when the iPhone premiered
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Lounge vibes 05 Avatar
12 months ago

gHere is what we know so far:
[LIST=1]
* It's difficult to manufacture
* Software has been difficult to tailor for it
* Many executives seem to doubt market penetration and success
* Potential competitors have struggled in the market to grow
* It will be prohibitively expensive, putting it outside of average consumer affordability
* Not very portable, making it useless in a public use case outside of the home
* Most software made for the device category has been video gaming or severely niche industries requiring post-graduate education and government licensing.

So, how is this the next iPhone?
The original iPhone was hard to produce.
Anyone remember the story of Steve Jobs at the very last minute demanding it have a glass screen instead of a plastic one?
The original iPhone had absolutely no third-party compatibility.
The original iPhone was basically useless in the enterprise market, no Microsoft exchange support, no MMS, no third-party applications. BlackBerry already dominated this market.
The original iPhone was entering a market that was very much not mature. There were iPods, there were pocket PCs, and there were primitive smart phones, but nothing like the iPhone.
The original iPhone had some very famous doubters, Steve Ballmer included. There was even an entire different team inside of Apple that were developing a click wheel powered iPod phone just in case the touchscreen OS didn’t work out.
if anything, the original iPhone had an even harder job selling itself to become a big product.
There were 1 billion phones sold in 2006, a year before the iPhone launched.
The iPhone launched several hundred dollars more expensive than any other phone on the market, as an AT&T exclusive, and only in… *checks notes*… oh yeah, US only for its first several months on the market.
In its first year, Apple only sold 6 million iPhones in six countries.
So yeah… I’d say these products have plenty of similarities.
The original iPhone was not the instant absolutely world conquering success people like to think it was.
I’d even argue it wasn’t even the 3G or 3GS that did it, although it’s undeniable, they were way more successful than the original.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ignatius345 Avatar
12 months ago
I'm mainly looking forward to this product release so we can stop seeing these corny "ski goggle" renderings.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
WWPD Avatar
12 months ago

Can't be more challenging than producing these designs with a straight face.
What are you talking about? Those clothes are totally rad.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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