Extensive details of Apple’s upcoming ‘Reality Pro’ headset, which looks set to be the biggest release in years, have been revealed in a lengthy new report by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman.
Apple’s AR headset project has been the tech industry’s worst-kept secret for years, and it’s widely assumed that 2023 will be the year we finally get to see it, probably at a dedicated spring event. But until now the details of the product have been relatively vague.
Gurman discusses what he refers to as Reality Pro in considerable depth. Presented as a summation of everything we know about the device, it necessarily covers some familiar ground: aside from the likely branding, we already expected the price to be somewhere in the vicinity of $3,000 (with a $1,500 version to follow next year), and much of the information relating to the cameras and displays have been reported before. But there’s plenty to interest even the jaded student of Apple’s AR plans.
He discloses, for example, that users will be able to switch between the product’s AR and VR modes by using “a so-called Digital Crown.” That’s the name Apple gives to the pressable dial on the Apple Watch’s righthand edge, but it isn’t clear how closely this Digital Crown will follow that design; if the control’s job is to toggle between two modes, a free-rotating dial would make less sense than a more conventional switch, but it might also serve for volume control purposes. Talking of sound, another intriguing titbit Gurman offers is that Reality Pro’s speakers won’t be anywhere near as impressive as its screens and that users will need to wear a pair of AirPods (bought separately, presumably) to get the full spatial audio effect.
The aluminum-and-glass design will reportedly be reminiscent of the AirPods Max. “The product will have a curved screen on the front that can outwardly show a wearer’s eyes, with speakers on the sides and a headband that helps fit the device around a user’s head,” Gurman explains. “That will differ from the mostly plastic design of rival products, which typically strap the device to the wearer with multiple bands.”
On the specs front, the device will be equipped with “a variation of the M2 chip found in the company’s latest Macs,” according to the report, but this will be supplemented by a dedicated “Reality” processor for graphics and mixed-reality imagery. Gurman notes that this processing setup will be so hardcore that overheating has been a concern for the engineers. For this reason, the battery will be carried separately (connected by a wire, which sounds suboptimal from a comfort and convenience point of view), and there may be a cooling fan onboard.
That battery–which is reportedly good for about two hours of use–won’t be light, by the way. Roughly 6 inches tall and more than half an inch thick, Gurman says it will be “roughly the size of two iPhone 14 Pro Maxes stacked on top of each other.” Confusingly, however, he adds that some prototypes have been created with a built-in battery.
Gurman also shared that the headset will be able to serve as an external monitor for your Mac and could have “a dedicated video-watching feature that can make viewers feel like they’re seeing a movie on a giant screen in another environment, such as a desert or outer space.” He also says the interface will be “nearly identical to that of the iPhone and iPad, featuring a home screen with a grid of icons that can be reorganized.”
On the whole, in fact, the report is surprisingly pessimistic about the device, which appears beset by headaches and compromises. “Apple has acknowledged those challenges internally,” Gurman notes, “and it’s been trying to set realistic expectations for the product.” The company may even regard the headset as an interest-generator that gets people into its stores, he says, before then buying something else. But in the long term, Apple hopes to break into a new and lucrative market it hasn’t previously been able to access.
Gurman usually knows his stuff, and while he warns that plans may yet change ahead of the launch–that handy caveat used by leakers across the industry–it’s likely that his report is at least reasonably accurate. At any rate, we should find out concrete details later this year: While the headset is still “months from being released,” Gurman says Apple intends to begin production in February and plans to launch the new device at a dedicated spring event or as part of the WWDC keynote in June.