This year, Apple is expected to launch its first cross-reality (XR) device in the form of a long-rumored VR headset, and in 2024 or 2025, it was believed the tech giant would follow up with a pair of glasses. AR. However, those plans appear to have been put on hold, with new reports indicating that Apple will focus its efforts on a cheaper VR headset.
Rumored to support mixed reality and virtual reality experiences, the Apple VR headset is one of the worst-kept secrets in tech, closely followed by Apple Glasses (AR specs from the Cupertino tech giant). These devices were expected to be Apple’s first forays into the XR space, but apparently plans have changed.
Apple’s XR headphones stay in place, but its AR glasses are on hold, according to a new Bloomberg (opens in a new tab) report, with sources familiar with the project telling the site that the launch of the glasses has been delayed “indefinitely.” Instead, Apple will apparently release a scaled-down (and cheaper) headset that will focus on MR and VR applications.
Mind you, when we say they’re cheaper and cheaper, you have to keep in mind that we could still be talking about a headset that costs $1,500 / £1,500 / AU$2,500, or the same as the Meta Quest Pro.
Apple’s full-power XR earbuds are expected to cost around $3,000 / £3,000 / AU$5,000, a price that’s inflated by its premium specs. Not only will it feature a high-resolution micro OLED display, but the device is also believed to incorporate a suite of cameras and sensors to support face and step tracking, as well as an M2 chip (the same one found in some of the best MacBooks and Macs) and another processor dedicated to AR and VR tasks.
Basically, it’s a MacBook for your face. The paired headphones are more likely to be an iPhone 15 to your face, with its M2 chip and part of its sensor suite expected to be lost in the transition to a cheaper device.
Are we there yet?
Apple’s trademark filings have been teasing a dual-XR device strategy for some time, with documents referring to separate “Reality Pro” and “Reality One” models. The Pro was long expected to be the high-end (and high-priced) MR headset, while the Reality One was thought to be probably the cheapest (and least capable) of the AR glasses. With the AR glasses now supposedly shelved, the name will most likely be assigned to the more consumer-friendly line of headsets that will come to replace it.
And while we have to take all rumors and leaks with a grain of salt, I hope this is true; the world is not ready for the AR glasses that Apple wants to make. I don’t mean that nobody wants to buy them, I can already see the lines around the block of Apple fans looking for a pair, I mean that the parts needed to do the product justice aren’t ready yet.
I’ve tested some recent AR glasses, like the VITURE XR One and Nreal Air specs, and my main takeaway is that the devices are inherently great but not all that capable. This is because these glasses aren’t exactly what most of us would expect from AR glasses, based on what we’ve seen in science fiction. Instead, they’re basically just a private projector for your phone’s screen, without the cameras and sensors that would be required to turn them into ‘real’ AR glasses.
But the introduction of these components would not only add cost, it would also add weight. And not just the sensors themselves, you’d need a battery to power them if you want the device to last longer than an hour. Thanks to all this extra bulk, our sleek, slim glasses have been transformed into the somewhat cumbersome headphone design we were trying to avoid, albeit with lenses instead of a traditional screen.
Apple had ostensibly developed a portable battery pack to try to take the weight off your head, but the idea clearly wasn’t enough to turn Apple glasses into a product worthy of the tech company’s seal of approval. By delaying the Glasses again, Apple is giving itself (and the world) more time to develop the technology needed to achieve them, leading to a much better product than we would have seen in 2024.
With Meta and Google developing their own AR glasses, we’ll almost certainly see Apple launch a competing product in the future. But for now, we’ll have to make do with their headphones, assuming they don’t lag any further.
Can’t wait for Apple to release its headphones? Take a look at our picks for the best VR headsets you can buy today.