Apple to reportedly start producing VR headset in March 2023

An artist’s  concept of Apple’s first VR headset (Antonio De Rosa)
An artist’s concept of Apple’s first VR headset (Antonio De Rosa)

Apple is reportedly planning to start production of its long-rumoured mixed-reality headset as early as March 2023.

This is according to “supply chain” sources cited by DigiTimes, a serial Apple leaker.

It suggests the headset will be made by Pegatron, a manufacturing partner Apple currently uses for iPhone 14 phones.

What is a mixed-reality headset?

The first Apple headset is expected to be what is known as a mixed-reality or extended-reality headset.

This combines AR, augmented reality, and VR, virtual reality. What’s the difference? In VR, you are transported wholesale to a fabricated world. In augmented reality, additional virtual elements are placed onto the real world.

In a headset like the Apple Reality Pro, this will likely entail the use of high-resolution cameras that can feed through what you would see normally. Meta’s Quest Pro has these “pass-through” cameras, despite being considered primarily a virtual-reality headset.

This technique allows for the most immersive experiences, although Apple reportedly plans to release smart glasses in the future, too. These will use a translucent screen, letting you see naturally rather than viewing your world through a camera.

When will the Apple VR headset be released?

In September, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman claimed the first Apple headset will be called the Apple Reality Pro. He’s a reputable source who also agrees the first Apple headset is coming in 2023. But when?

Apple typically holds three major events each year. There’s one in spring, one around its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) in June, and the big iPhone event in September.

Entering production in March makes it sound like we may see the Apple Reality Pro headset as early as April 2023. However, this is in reality a complex multi-stage process — to reach mass production by that stage, trial production runs would likely have to be going on right now.

How much will the Apple VR headset cost?

The Apple Reality Pro is expected to use processors similar to those seen in Apple’s laptops and iPad Pro, making it a standalone device rather than something you plug into a computer. It’s more Meta Quest 2 than Sony PSVR 2.

This means it’s a powerful computer in its own right, ramping up how much it costs to make. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggests it could cost more than $2,000 (£1,754), making it a niche product many will not be able to afford.

However, you might compare it to the Meta Quest Pro, which costs $1,500 in the US and £1,500 in the UK.

This helps to explain why the DigiTimes report’s claim that a supply of just 700,000 to 800,000 units for the first year may make sense. Apple sold more than two million iPhone 14 phones on pre-order in China alone. But Apple’s mixed-reality headset may demand a bolder sort of buyer: early adopters only.