(Photo: Concept by Taeyeon Kim)There has been a lot of speculation on what Apple plans to bring to the table with its foray into mixed reality. It’s been widely reported the company has been working on some kind of virtual reality (VR) headset for many years now, possibly alongside a pair of augmented reality glasses. According to an analyst’s summary of the situation, both products are on track for future release. The VR headset will arrive first, then the AR glasses will follow, likely in 2024. Even more interesting, when the glasses finally arrive, they will reportedly launch with the second generation of Apple’s headset.
News of Apple’s plans comes from an analyst from Haitong Intl Tech Research named Jeff Pu, via 9to5mac. That site examined Pu’s recent report on a company named Luxshare. This company is one of Apple’s main suppliers, and appears to be an ODM/OEM like Pegatron. The report mentions they will be making the iPhone 14, Apple Watch Series 8, and its AR/VR hardware. Pu says based on his sources he believes Apple will launch its headset first, in 2023. This aligns with rumors that Apple would announce it at its October hardware event this year, then launch it in the following months. However, rumors about Apple’s timelines have been hard to nail down. Just a week ago even sites like The Verge were touting that AR would be the highlight of WWDC. That did not come to pass, obviously.
However, AR and VR are reportedly considered to be quite important to Apple’s future. Last year a prominent analyst stated Apple plans to replace the iPhone with an AR device by 2031. Right now the iPhone is responsible for almost half of Apple’s revenue, so that would be a gigantic shift for the company. Still, it’s apparently hard at work right now making all of its native apps — iMessage, FaceTime, Mail, etc. — for a VR/AR environment.
Previously it was rumored that Apple would launch the headset first as a way to get a foothold in the market. This would allow people to get used to a built-from-scratch mixed reality operating system. This new OS even has a name: rOS, for Reality Operating System. But, since nobody really likes wearing a headset for several hours, the AR glasses would theoretically arrive in the future as a solution to that problem.
Pu’s report says the AR glasses will arrive alongside a second generation of Apple’s headset. The glasses will also be dependent on an iPhone to do some of the heavy lifting. This is vaguely reminiscent of how the original Apple Watch worked with the iPhone. This indicates the glasses will be vastly less powerful than the headset, which isn’t a huge surprise. The headset is reported to be utilizing two custom SoCs from Apple that are on-par with the M1 chip. However, in two years time Apple will be pumping out 3nm M2 or even M3 chips possibly.