A report from Mark Gurman of Bloomberg says the device is expected to be a niche product, bears an expensive price tag, and a precursor to a more advanced augmented reality (AR) product that will take a while longer to develop.
The headset will be largely centered on virtual reality (VR), but will also contain some augmented reality features to help overlay images on real-world views fed in by external cameras.
The plans imply that the first-ever headset by Apple will be pricier compared to its rivals, which may cost between $300 up to $900. Some Apple insiders believe the company might make it a rule to sell only one headset a day for each retail store. As Apple has around 500 stores, the annual sales would only be roughly 180,000 units, excluding other sales outlets.
Apple has also included a fan in its headset design, something the company typically tries to avoid on its mobile devices. Codenamed N301, the headset is currently in its late prototype phase, but not yet finalized so it may change or be scrapped entirely prior to launch. Meanwhile, codenamed N421, the AR glasses are in an early phase named “architecture”, which means Apple is still working on its core technologies, though it was previously targeted to be unveiled as early as 2023.
If Apple pushes through with the VR headset, it then would become a precursor to an eventual pair of AR glasses. The headset is reportedly designed to work as a standalone device, which meant it can operate on a battery instead of being plugged in to a wall or a Mac.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said that both augmented and virtual reality have potential, but the AR is the larger opportunity. The product is set to launch as early as 2022, going up against headsets from HTC, Facebook’s Oculus and Sony’s PlayStation VR.