Apple’s most radical product yet? MailOnline reveals what the AR headset could look like
Apple is less than two months away from unveiling a mixed reality headset that could ‘replace the iPhone’, according to an insider.
Expected to be called ‘Reality Pro’, the headset will transport notifications, messages, directions and more from your iPhone to right in front of your eyes.
After nearly eight years of development, it will be unveiled at Apple’s annual developer conference in June, according to respected leaker Mark Gurman.
But at a rumoured $3,000 (£2,400), the device could be restricted to only the most ardent – and wealthy – of Apple fans.
MailOnline takes a close look at the product and whether it’ll be Apple’s newest success story or a disastrous flop.
Expected to be called ‘Reality Pro’, the headset will transport notifications, messages, directions and more from your iPhone to in front of your eyes
WHEN WILL THE HEADSET BE LAUNCHED?
Reality Pro is set to be unveiled on June 5, the first day of the annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), which Gurman says will be ‘one of the most important days in its history’.
‘The headset will be a risky, but potentially monumental launch for Apple,’ says Gurman in his Power On newsletter.
‘It will herald mixed reality as its next major product category, offering a glimpse of a future where people are interacting with the world via headsets and not pocketable touch screens.
‘Many executives at the company believe the device will have a slow start but eventually has the opportunity to replace the iPhone.’
Apple has confirmed the dates for WWDC but didn’t make any official mention of the headset in the announcement.
However, Gurman is certain it will be revealed on June 5 – less than six weeks away – and released to stores in September, around the same time as the company’s next iPhone.
Apple’s promo image for WWDC this year features curving coloured lines, which look ‘similar to the curved shape of the Apple headset facing upward’, he added.
A glimpse of the new headset? A cryptic promo image for Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this year features curving coloured lines
This year’s five-day WWDC will be presented online, although there will be an opportunity for ‘developers and students to celebrate in person at a special experience’ hosted at Apple Park (pictured), the firm’s Cupertino HQ, on the opening day (June 5)
Apple is also working on a sleek pair of mixed reality glasses possibly called Apple Glass, which will come at a later date.
HOW MUCH WILL IT COST?
The headset ‘will start at around $3,000’ Gurman has said, which is around twice as much as some of the priciest smartphones on the market now.
Apple’s headset: Rumours
Release: September 2023
Type: Mixed reality
– One ‘higher-end’ similar to the M1 or M2
– One lower-end to manage ‘sensor-related aspects’
Operating system: xrOS
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E
Price: $3,000 (£2,400)
It’s possible that further versions of the device will get more affordable if the company wants to market them to a wider group of consumers.
Just like the iPhone and the Apple Watch, the headset will be followed by new updated iterations in the following years.
WHAT WILL THE HEADSET DO?
The headset will overlay digital images on real-life surroundings – technology known as augmented realty (AR).
But it will also be capable of virtual reality (VR), meaning it will project entirely virtual elements without the real life background.
AR layers computer-generated images on top of an existing reality – Pokémon Go being a famous example – while VR is wholly virtual, and mixed reality (MR) combines the two.
Whether it’s notifications, messages or map directions, wearers will be able to go along the street and constantly see their device interface in AR, without having to take their iPhone out of their pocket.
When the wearer is stationary, the device could be switched to VR, ideal for playing games, watching movies or having conversations with avatars online.
Reality Pro is expected to be launched with its own operating system, xrOS, which will host familiar Apple apps including FaceTime, Messages and Maps.
Gurman thinks the headset will be launched with a new portal for watching sports in VR as part of Apple’s push into streaming live games and news.
Rival tech firms such as Meta and Google have already launched AR or VR headsets, Pictured, Meta’s Quest Pro VR headset
They’ll also be advanced videoconferencing and virtual meeting rooms with realistic avatars, making users feel like they’re interacting in the same place.
However, Apple hasn’t really found a ‘killer app’ that will make the roughly $3,000 headset a must-have item, the expert added.
‘Instead, it’s trying another tactic – throwing everything but the kitchen sink at consumers,’ he said.
HOW WILL THE HEADSET WORK?
According to another leaker, Ming-Chi Kuo, the Apple headset will be marketed as an iPhone accessory and the two will need to be linked up.
But considering Apple’s wearables will allegedly one day replace the iPhone, future iterations of the headset could work independently.
For now, not having to pack a load of hardware into the headset and instead rely on the iPhone is allowing Apple to keep it light so it doesn’t weigh down the wearer’s head.
Even so, the headset will contain sensors and its own processors – one ‘similar’ those used in its Mac computers and iPads, and another to manage ‘sensor-related aspects.
It’s thought it will work with the iPhone so that any alerts that come through on the phone will be displayed on the headset, but the new product will give Apple fans a whole new level of immersion and touchless control.
Reality Pro will have an interface similar to iOS that users can control with their hands through in-air typing and scrolling, while sensors in the device could track users’ eyes, potentially allowing them to select an app just by looking at it.
AREN’T THERE ALREADY VR AND AR HEADSETS?
Yes, rival tech firms such as Meta, Samsung and Microsoft have already launched AR or VR headsets, but Reality Pro is expected to be more like using a smartphone, except it’s over your eyes.
Meta – the company that owns Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram – launched its mixed reality Meta Quest Pro VR headset last autumn.
The $1,499 headset boasts new features that are meant to improve users’ perception of actually being in the presence of others.
However, Meta Quest Pro VR is mostly targeted at professionals in creative fields, businesses and enthusiasts, so it shouldn’t be a direct rival for Reality Pro.
Other big sellers in the space are the HTC Vive brand, owned by Taiwanese firm HTC, Samsung Gear VR and Microsoft’s mixed reality HoloLens headset – but these are quite bulky devices that target mostly gamers or professionals.
WHY IS APPLE DOING THIS NOW?
Apple has long been rumoured to be developing an AR wearable; the tech giant filed a patent in 2019 that gives a glimpse into what it may be developing behind closed doors, but work on the headset has been going on for the best part of a decade.
According to Gurman, Reality Pro could be the next major platform beyond the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch, which was first released to much hype back in 2015.
Gurman has called the June 5 launch ‘one of the most critical events in the company’s history’ and an opportunity ‘to herald a post-iPhone era’.
With Reality Pro, Apple is ‘preparing for a future beyond the iPhone and iPad’ – but execs are ‘clear-eyed about Apple’s challenges pushing into this new market’.
While Gurman thinks the first version will be a ‘dud’ in terms of sales compared with the company’s existing hardware, future versions will likely do better as the product finds its place.
For now, Apple will have to explain to consumers why they’d want to own such a device and how it’s an improvement over the likes of iPhone and iPad.
Paolo Pescatore, analyst at PP Foresight, said the device will appeal to loyal fans and those who want ‘an immersive experience in areas such as games and live events’.
But among the general public, adoption and awareness of AR and VR technologies ‘remains lackluster’ and could hamper sales of the headset.
‘The device will provide a much needed boost and reignite interest in the virtual and augmented reality market,’ Pescatore told MailOnline.
Apple has long been rumoured to be developing an AR wearable. The tech giant filed a patent in 2019 (pictured) that gives a glimpse into what it may be developing behind closed doors
‘Ultimately this is still at early stage and has some way to go before its mass market and widely accepted.
‘People are not rushing out of their seats to buy a VR headset or even watch 360 degree videos.’
Pescatore also said Apple ‘cannot solely rely on the iPhone forever’ given intense competition from rival firms in new product categories such as foldable devices.
‘The company has placed strong focus on the iPhone as a gateway to the Apple universe,’ he said. ‘This might suggest it is behind the curve on new hardware.’
Leaked video claims to show Google’s ‘Pixel Fold’ – leaving Apple as the last big smartphone maker to develop a foldable
Unlike Samsung, Huawei and many more of its smartphone rivals, Google is yet to release a foldable phone – but this may soon be about to change.
Leaked footage of what’s thought to be Google’s first foldable phone – called the Pixel Fold – has been posted to Twitter.
It shows a stylish black smartphone with a screen on the outside that unfolds to reveal a second tablet-sized display within.
Although it’s not known for certain if this is a Google device, the US tech giant is already expected to announce the Pixel Fold next month.
Apple is another tech giant that is yet to launch a foldable phone, although some iPhone fans previously created a prototype of what this might look like.