Apple’s developer conference WWDC 2023 is mere days away and it's all but certain that the Apple VR headset will be announced during it. The long-awaited gadget is believed to be a mixed-reality headset like the Meta Quest Pro but with significantly better specs – and a much higher cost to boot
– Announcement expected at WWDC 2023
– Predicted to cost: $3,000 / £2,200 / AU$4,400
– Slim, lightweight design
– Two chipsets (M2 and one for XR)
– Support for VR and MR experiences
– No controllers, just hand tracking
– Short battery life
Numerous leaks have suggested a WWDC 2023 reveal is happening, and Apple may have spoiled the surprise by inviting VR specialists to WWDC 2023 – many of which are guests it hasn't invited to events previously. That said, we won’t know what the handset will be like or if it will indeed be announced until Apple itself says something about the topic.
Hopefully, it won't be long before we know for certain what Apple’s VR headset is capable of. But even if we are kept in the dark a bevy of rumors and leaks paint a pretty clear picture of what we should expect to see. This so-called laptop for your face will boast two chipsets – one for VR like the Snapdragon XR2 Plus found in the Meta Quest Pro and also an M2, the same chip found in the very best MacBook and Macs. What's more, it'll apparently use a 2,800 pixel-per-inch micro OLED display and instead of controllers, it's believed you'll control it with just your hands, voice, and eyes.
Apple VR headset: what you need to know
Apple VR headset release date: Apple hasn't yet confirmed that it's working on a mixed-reality headset but rumors indicate the project will be revealed at WWDC 2023, and launch later in the year
Apple VR headset price: Pricing is also yet to be confirmed, but rumors have suggested we'll see something around the $3,000 / £2,200 / AU$4,400 mark.
Apple VR headset features: Apple's headset is expected to use have both virtual and mixed reality capabilities. We've also heard it will be powered by the impressive M2 chip.
Apple VR headset design: The Apple VR headset could look much less bulky than its rivals according to those familiar with the project. The display unit is believed to house every component, while a single strap goes around the head to keep it secure, though there has been talk of it using an external battery pack.
Apple VR headset battery life: Leaks have suggested the VR headset can only be used in short bursts, leading us to believe its battery life will be quite short.
Apple VR headset controllers: The most recent rumors suggest the headset won't have controllers and that'll it rely solely on hand tracking.
Apple VR headset news and leaks
May 31, 2023 – If this analyst is correct the Apple VR headset will have a 4K display that's 50 times brighter than the Oculus Quest 2’s
May 24, 2023 – Apple has invited several VR specialists to WWDC 2023 suggesting it will have some kind of big VR or AR announcement.
May 14, 2023 – Another rumor says the Apple VR headset will in fact be revealed at WWDC 2023, but won't go on sale until late in 2023.
March 30, 2023 – There are reports that the Apple VR headset might miss WWDC 2023, though it might still get revealed there and just launch at a later date.
March 27, 2023 – according to leaks from a secret Apple VR headset demo the Apple VR headset might not fit over your glasses.
March 13, 2023 – a new report suggests that Apple's first-gen mixed-reality headset has divided opinion within the company, with CEO Tim Cook pushing for a launch this year.
March 5, 2023 – the upcoming headset is likely to feature Continuity features similar to those offered by existing Apple products, according to a patent.
February 26, 2023 – we're hearing that Apple's 1st-gen headset is likely to launch alongside the iPhone 15 in September, and will be followed by two 2nd-gen headsets (one high-end, one low-end) in 2025.
February 16, 2023 – the Apple VR Headset is now expected to be announced at WWDC 2023 in June instead of an event in April.
January 24, 2023 – instead of controllers the Apple VR headset might rely solely on hand tracking and voice commands according to reports.
January 8, 2023 – one of the most reliable analysts in the Apple business says the headset will go on sale in the third quarter of 2023.
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December 2, 2022 - Apple's VR headset might no longer run on software named realityOS instead it's expected to use the newly-christened xrOS platform.
November 13, 2022 - According to one report, mass production on the headset is due to start in March 2023, with a grand unveiling in April 2023.
October 16, 2022 - It would seem that the Apple VR headset is going to offer iris scanning as a way of authentication, enabling account and payment authorization, and easy multi-user switching.
August 29, 2022 - Apple's VR headset might be called either Reality One or Reality Pro based on trademarks. Most likely it'll be called the Reality Pro and the Apple Glasses will be the Reality One.
July 27, 2022 - The Apple VR headset might be controlled by wearing two Apple Watches (one on each wrist) based on an Apple patent.
June 26, 2022 - noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has predicted that we'll see the Apple VR headset arrive in January 2023, a prediction that fits in with other recent speculation about the device's launch date.
May 29, 2022 - more trademarks have come to light suggesting that Apple has trademarked the realityOS name, and could be making that trademark international right after WWDC 2022.
May 25, 2022 - Apple has been awarded a patent for an OLED screen cooling system for a VR headset. It's designed to be much less complex and heavy than a typical OLED thermal management setup (via PatentlyApple).
May 18, 2022 - Reports have emerged from The Information that supports claims that the development process for the Apple VR headset has been hit with several setbacks over the years, including internal disputes and a lack of collaboration.
February 9, 2022 - Reference to 'realityOS' spotted in official Apple App Store update logs by developers; later removed suggesting it was an accident.
January 13, 2022 - Reports of further development issues suggest that the Apple VR headset will be delayed until 2023 rather than launched in 2022.
January 11, 2022 - Multiple sources have indicated that the Apple VR headset can only be used for short bursts at a time, we predict this could be due to battery constraints.
December 8, 2021 - Apple reportedly has high XR ambitions and wants to release a second headset (likely the Apple Glasses) not long after its first.
December 8, 2021 - Apple's headset may actually weigh between 300 and 400 grams according to the latest reports from analysts.
April 7, 2021 - A separate Apple patent filing suggests its headset could allow hand tracking and be controlled by in-air gestures.
April 7, 2021 - Apple devices could soon be given invisible markers to help them interact better with users wearing Apple VR headsets.
March 20, 2021 - To avoid the 8K screens eating up battery life, Apple apparently plans to use sophisticated eye-tracking to only activate portions of the display at a time.
March 16, 2021 - Based on a patent filing Apple's headset could use a pair of sophisticated thimble rings as a wearable handset.
February 5, 2021 - The Apple VR headset could use more than a dozen cameras and house dual 8K displays to deliver a premium performance to users.
February 4, 2021 - An Apple headset is planned to launch in 2022 with LiDar distance tracking to help provide enhanced AR and VR features, as discussed in the original iteration of this article.
Apple VR headset release date
Apple’s VR headset looks all set for a WWDC 2023 launch, assuming Apple doesn’t decide to delay it at the last minute. It was due to launch in April, but the Apple VR headset was delayed until June due to some development snags with its hardware and software.
Apple has seemingly teased the announcement itself now with who it has sent WWDC 2023 invites. Several VR specialists will be in attendance, pointing to some kind of meaningful VR or AR reveal.
Even if the headset is unveiled in June, however, it might not launch right away. Expert Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has stated that the headset’s production schedule has been delayed by another one or two months – if this is true then we might not have the handset in our hands until much later in 2023 (around September).
That's the story we've heard in a separate leak that says the headset is indeed going to make its debut at WWDC, but that production issues mean that it's not actually going to be available until later in the year, perhaps as late as December.
If the Apple VR headset is unveiled at WWDC 2023 we’ll likely find out more details about its release date, so we’ll be paying close attention to the event when it kicks off on Monday, June 5.
Apple VR headset price
The Apple VR headset is expected to have high-end specs and a very premium design (more on that below) but rumors and leaks have suggested that it’ll cost you a lot.
While the details haven’t been confirmed by Apple the current figure floating around is that the VR headset will cost an eye-watering $3,000 (around £2,200 / AU$4,400). That’s more than as an Oculus Quest 2 ($430 for the 256GB model), a Meta Quest Pro ($1,000), a Pico 4 (around $460 for the 128GB model), a PS5 ($500 for the disc version), and a PlayStation VR 2 headset ($600) combined.
This figure was first suggested by The Information and later corroborated by Bloomberg – whose sources said that Apple originally expected to sell roughly one unit per store per day. That’s roughly the same rate of sales as the Mac Pro 2019 which set you back $5,999 (roughly £4,730 / AU$8,720).
Apple VR headset features and design
Apple has yet to confirm the existence of its VR headset, but numerous design details and features have been leaked already; giving us a pretty good idea of what it will look and perform like.
As with all leaks we have to remember to take this information with a pinch of salt, but that advice is especially true here. That's because Apple is supposedly working on multiple devices: this headset, a cheaper follow-up VR headset, and a pair of Apple Glasses; this has led to some confusion among leakers about what details relate to which headset.
Things are a lot less confusing now however and we've since gone back through all the rumors and will highlight the ones here that paint the most likely and consistent picture of Apple's upcoming device.
First off it's probably going to be a powerful device, with Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via AppleInsider) predicting the device will have similar computing power as the MacBook Pro (M1,2020). However, likely in part due to the delays Apple seems to have abandoned the M1 chip and might actually use an M2 chip in its headset instead – with the M2 being about 35% more powerful than its predecessor.
Reportedly the headset will also boast incredible displays. According to one analyst, it'll have a resolution of 4k per eye, and be 50 times brighter than the Oculus Quest 2's display. The analyst claims that the display has 4,000 PPI (pixels per inch) significantly higher than the Quest 2's 773 PPI and the Meta Quest Pro's 1,059 PPI. This should lead to stunning visuals and could eliminate the screen door effect that plagues many VR headsets.
To help these components conserve battery, Apple apparently has a plan to use sophisticated eye-tracking. Eye-tracking software in the headset is designed to follow where the user is looking and only activate that portion of the screen at the full 8K resolution. Other areas of the screen would become more blurred to save on processing power via a trick called foveated rendering.
This could help the device's rumored short battery life. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman cites multiple sources in saying that the Apple headset is designed to be used only in short bursts. Supposedly this is a mandated limitation to rebel against ideas like the Metaverse which would require you to use the headset for long periods of time. We suspect Apple would achieve this by intentionally installing a small battery that requires frequent recharging rather than imposing any kind of time-out function.
A small battery would also help the headset maintain its lightweight design – with rumors indicating Apple wants to make the headset as light as 150 grams; this would be over two-thirds lighter than the Meta Quest 2 (formerly known as the Oculus Quest 2). Other rumors suggest it could actually end up in the (more realistic) 300-400 gram range.
One final patent revealed that we might be using two Apple Watches to control the headset, though we definitely recommend taking this with a pinch of salt. Considering the Apple Watch 7 starts at $399 / £369 / AU$599, requiring even one of them would make the VR headset even more expensive than it's already predicted to be.
A more recent rumor suggests the device will instead use more typical hand-tracking methods found in rivals like the Oculus Quest 2 and moreover, it will forgo controllers altogether. Hand-tracking can be clunky, but if the headset relies on its eye-tracking data to improve accuracy and also relies on sophisticated voice commands we could see the VR headset offering a great user experience without burdening us with handsets.
We've also heard that Apple is planning to put iris scanning into the headset, so different users can wear it and authorize their own mobile payments and account logins without needing to type out passwords every time. A patent filed by Apple suggests that the headset will work seamlessly with other Apple gadgets.