Apple’s been rumored to be working on some kind of mixed reality headset for some time now. But like most gadgets these days, it appears that the headset will be delayed until the end of 2022 due to production issues.
The news comes from prolific Apple prognosticator Ming-Chi Kuo (via 9to5 Mac, Apple Insider). In an investor note, Kuo says the main reason for the production delay is the headset’s complicated design. The head-mounted display purportedly requires “much more industrial design requirements” compared to smartphones because you have to actually wear it. If any HMD is going to be successful, it’s got to at least be comfortable enough to wear for an extended period of time.
Another factor is that Apple reportedly isn’t looking to make a single-purpose device. For example, Kuo points to the Playstion VR and Facebook’s Oculus headsets as HMDs that are primarily used for gaming—and not much else. Instead, Apple supposedly wants to build a multi-purpose device. That comes with its own challenges, such as building out an entire ecosystem of software and services. Right now, no consumer-focused mixed reality device has managed to create a robust app ecosystem that works outside of gaming or enterprise.
Previously, Kuo had claimed the mixed reality headset would enter mass production in Q2 of 2022. Now it appears that’ll be pushed back to Q4 2022. And that’s if things continue to go swimmingly. Given the global chip crunch, supply chain issues, and the complexity of HMD designs, that timeline could very well creep further and further behind schedule.
As for how this secret headset will look and operate, that’s anyone’s guess. So far, we’ve heard that it’ll be wirelessly connected to an iPhone for computing, much like every other HMD that’s currently out there. A Bloomberg report earlier this year also contended the headset would feature beefier chips than those currently available in mixed-reality headsets. The report also says the headset will be a standalone device, much like the Oculus Quest 2. Kuo has also previously stated that this headset will be light AF, at about five ounces, and adopt a hybrid Fresnel lens design. Meanwhile, an Information report says this thing will have two 8K displays, more than a dozen cameras for hand-tracking, and will cost a jaw-dropping $3,000.
Some of these things may turn out to be true, but it’s better to take all of it with a heavy grain of salt. We won’t really know until Apple trots out the goods onstage. Recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he doesn’t expect to be at the helm in 10 years but wants to stick around for “one more major new product category.” That increasingly sounds like whatever this mixed-reality headset is—as well as a rumored pair of smart glasses in 2025.