Apple headset rumor roundup: Everything we’ve heard

Bloomberg, The Information and supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo all say Apple plans to release standalone headphones sometime next year.

The standalone headset market is currently dominated by Meta’s $299 Quest 2. Reports suggest that Apple’s headset – codenamed N301 – will be a much more expensive high-end product aimed at delivering both virtual reality and mixed reality experiences.

It will feature color passthrough cameras, super high-resolution displays, and a MacBook-level processor, all in a slim and relatively light design.

Here’s everything we’ve heard about Apple’s headphones so far:

High quality mixed reality

The existence of Apple’s headset was first reported by information in late 2019. This report claimed that the N301 would “offer a hybrid of AR and VR capabilities” with cameras “mounted on the outside of the device, allowing people to see and interact with their physical surroundings.”

This report also states that Apple executives claimed that the headset can “map surfaces, edges, and room dimensions with greater accuracy than existing devices on the market.”

In February 2021 information claimed the device had more than a dozen cameras, including eye-tracking cameras.

How it compares: Quest 2 can only show a grainy black-and-white view of the real world without automatic scene understanding, but Meta plans to release a high-end headset this year, dubbed Project Cambria, with color cameras and enhanced mixed reality. . French startup LYNX also plans to launch a color mixed reality headset by July.

Thin and relatively light design

In January 2021 Bloomberg claimed that Apple plans to use “a fabric exterior” to reduce the weight of the device.

In informationThe outlet’s February 2021 report claimed to have viewed images of a late-stage prototype “which show a sleek, curved visor attached to the face by mesh material and interchangeable headbands”, giving this impression:

In March 2021, Apple supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed that the prototypes weighed 200-300 grams with a target of 100-200 grams. But in December, Kuo revised that claim, saying the first-gen model will weigh 300-400 grams while a future second-gen will be “significantly lighter”.

How it compares: Quest 2 weighs just over 500 grams.

High resolution OLED micro-displays

informationThe February 2021 report claimed Apple’s headset would feature two 8K displays, but didn’t go into detail on the display technology.

But in November, supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed the headset would feature two 4K OLED micro-displays. It’s a much more realistic prospect – information could have misinterpreted dual 4K screens, which some would describe as 8K, as dual 8K.

Micro OLED displays offer the true blacks and infinite contrast of conventional OLED displays, but are much smaller, allowing for very compact headset designs. However, micro displays are significantly more expensive.

How it compares: Quest 2 uses LCD panels with a resolution of 1.8K×1.9K per eye. The leader in PC VR pixel density, Varjo Aero, has a resolution of 2.9K×2.7K per eye.

rOS: a new operating system

From 2017, Bloomberg reported that Apple was working on a new operating system dubbed “rOS” for “real operating system”.

In December, Apple posted a job posting for “AR/VR Frameworks Engineer”, with the role described as “developing an entirely new application paradigm” for “software deeply integrated into our operating systems”.

In January, iOS developer Rens Verhoeven spotted a new “com.apple.platform.realityos” platform in the App Store app download logs.

In February, “award-winning git repository surgeon” Nicolás Álvarez spotted that Apple was committing code to its open source GitHub repository referencing “TARGET_FEATURE_REALITYOS” and “realityOS_simulator” – the latter likely being a feature allowing headsetless developers to test the creation of AR or VR applications. .

How it compares: Quest 2, Vive Focus 3, and Pico Neo 3 Pro all use heavily modified versions of Google’s Android, an operating system not originally designed for low-latency virtual reality and augmented reality.

MacBook-Level Performance

Ming-Chi Kuo’s November note claimed Apple’s headset would have a new chip with “similar computing power to the M1 for Mac.”

M1 is Apple’s first in-house PC processor, the first in a line designed to move its Mac products from the x86 architecture that dominated PCs for two decades to the more power-efficient ARM architecture used in smartphones. and tablets.

An M1-level chip would outperform any current standalone VR headset, thereby closing the performance gap between mobile and PC-based VR.

How it compares: Quest 2, Vive Focus 3 and Pico Neo 3 Pro all use Snapdragon XR2, a variant of Qualcomm’s early 2020 flagship smartphone chip. Apple’s M1 is about twice as powerful.

“Thimble” controllers?

The biggest unknown is the input method used by the Apple product. Bloomberg’s The January 2021 report claimed that the headset’s high-resolution cameras will enable controller-less hand tracking with a floating keyboard for text input.

Corn informationThe February 2021 report claimed that Apple was developing a “thimble-like device to be worn on a person’s finger.”

apple dice

Shortly after this report, Apple obviously spotted a patent application titled Self-mixing interferometry-based gesture input system comprising a wearable or wearable device. The patent described a device for “track the movements of a user’s fingers by reference to any surface, including, in some cases, the surface of another finger, the user’s palm, etc.” which”can in some cases be used to provide input to an AR, VR or MR application“. The filing even cites the example of detecting when the user is holding a stylus, and possibly even providing useful information about what is being drawn.

How it compares: The Quest 2 and PC VR headsets use gaming-focused controllers, which look like an Xbox or PlayStation controller split in half for each hand.

Price?

informationThe February 2021 report claimed that Apple had internally discussed pricing the headset at around $3,000, with a target of 250,000 units in the first year.

But in Ming-Chi Kuo’s March 2021 note, he said he expects it to cost around $1,000, “similar to a high-end iPhone.”

Finally, in January Bloomberg claimed that Apple had “assessed prices north of $2,000”. Despite this, the report also states that Apple expects sales of up to 10 million units in the first year.

Although these reports cite very different price expectations, it is clear that this will not be a cheap product for the mass market. Expect a four-figure price, not three.

Release date?

informationThe February 2021 report said Apple was aiming to release the headset in 2022.

In September, Taiwanese news outlet DigiTimes claimed mass production was scheduled for Q2 2022, in time for a second-half release.

Ming-Chi Kuo’s November note predicted the headset would launch in Q4 2022.

However, in January Bloomberg claimed that Apple intended to announce in June at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) and ship it later in the year. But “overheating, camera and software challenges” mean the announcement could be pushed back to the end of this year and release in 2023. The overheating issue is believed to be caused by attempting to use a laptop-grade processor in a lightweight headset.

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