Editor's Desk: How Apple's VR/AR headset could change the game and why it probably won't
WWDC has come and gone, and the tech world is now focused on what comes next. Of course, the back-to-school frenzy has already begun, especially at Apple, but a recent report has me looking toward 2023.
That's right, the long-rumored, highly-anticipated AR/VR headset from Apple may launch as early as January.
January seems soon...too soon
Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suspects that the Apple headset may finally be launched in January 2023 of all times. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a product in Apple's history that got launched right at the beginning of a new year. Heck, in the tech world, January is typically a pretty slow news month in general — apart from CES.
That's the first part of this new report that has my eyebrows raised. Especially since I can't imagine Apple would launch their headset, which is a brand new product category for the company, without showcasing all of its abilities in a lengthy showcase. If January 2023 truly is the launch date, then it might mean that Apple has a special event planned for January. That would be a first (at least in recent memory) and would certainly be a cool way to kick off the new year.
Of course, the other option is that Apple just announces the product at its iPhone event alongside the iPhone 14, which is certainly possible, but I suppose they run the risk of out-shining the new best iPhone reveal at its own event.
A game-changing headset?
In Kuo's newest report, he said, "Apple is a game-changer for the headset industry," which has got me thinking about what that could possibly mean. How could Apple change the game in the VR/AR headset world?
You see, we've heard a ton of rumors about Apple's upcoming headset over the years, and a lot of them have been directly in opposition to each other. First, we heard it was only going to be AR, then AR/VR then focused on gaming, then focused on communication, and now I've lost track of where the rumor mill even is at this point. I think it's safe to say that no one has a good idea of what this headset will look like or do.
Apple could go the HTC Vive route and make a dedicated headset for gaming purposes that you need to hook up to a Mac, but that wouldn't be the most practical. Primarily since products like the Oculus Go exist. So, then you'd have to imagine that Apple would make the headset like Oculus's newest headsets which are pretty portable and don't need to be attached to anything. However, that isn't changing the game either, so what would be.
Honestly, I feel the only way Apple could truly be called a game-changer is if the headset is everything Google Glass tried to be and more. A hard feat to accomplish since Google Glass was notoriously a pretty big flop. Too expensive, too creepy (for some), and most importantly, it didn't do anything that spectacularly well. Granted, Google Glass was much more of a concept project than an actual consumer product to begin with, but it still didn't really justify its existence enough through what it offered to be enticing.
A lot of the issues that Google Glass faced years ago Apple will face today if they go for that type of headset, but regardless of what type of headset they release, there's no problem in the world today.
Money is tight, and new tech is too expensive
The world seems to be going through a recession right now — I'm not a financial expert, but costs are rising everywhere. Food, gas, and everyday necessities are becoming harder to afford for many people. New tech, whether it be the latest iPhone or a fancy new headset from Apple, is way out of reach for most people. Not to mention the last time we heard a rumored price, the Apple headset was said to be $3,000 or more! That's just far too expensive for a first-generation product that hasn't proven itself yet.
That's why it won't be a game-changer at the end of the day. To truly change the game, the product has to spread — like wildfire. Think of the iPhone (over a billion in the world) or the iPad, which has become so saturated in the world today that you can't throw a stone without hitting someone who has one. That's the kind of market saturation you need to truly change the game.
Color me intrigued
I know this is all rumors and hearsay, but I don't think I've ever been more intrigued by a potential product. We've heard so much, yet, somehow, so little about it.
January isn't that far away, so perhaps I will be proven wrong (or right) sooner than we all think.
Until next time,
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Luke Filipowicz has been a writer at iMore, covering Apple for nearly a decade now. He writes a lot about Apple Watch and iPad but covers the iPhone and Mac as well. He often describes himself as an "Apple user on a budget" and firmly believes that great technology can be affordable if you know where to look. Luke also heads up the iMore Show — a weekly podcast focusing on Apple news, rumors, and products but likes to have some fun along the way.
Luke knows he spends more time on Twitter than he probably should, so feel free to follow him or give him a shout on social media @LukeFilipowicz.
If it is anything like the first iPhone or the first Apple Watch, I would wait until the second or third version. By that time Apple will have figured out the use cases for it and dropped the price to something more affordable.
When I read reviews or opinions I always think of Theodore Roosevelt’s statement about critics telling the strong man in the arena doing battle how he could do better. Look it up, it’s not flattering to a critic. Apple has been battling to put a dent in the universe since 1976, constantly struggling, sometimes failing, but always moving forward. This product may succeed or fail, we’ll see, but it won’t be because of what tech blog critics or commenters think.
I strongly believe Apple isn't going after Oculus or HTC. Apple's gaming focus has always been a bit blurry and building hardware just for this seems counter-intuitive. I instead would theorise that Apple are in fact building a mixed-reality Mac. Sat at your desk the headset would project software windows directly into the air in front of you and a suite of point-cloud cameras on the outside reads all hand gestures without the need for additional controllers. You could have app windows follow your gaze or sit in one place, allowing you an almost infinite workspace. Any £3k+ price would be meant for your Mac Pro crowd, not the mass market. You could have CAD models be manipulable in real space, throw up your architecture plans and walk right through them or zoom right into a photograph and change it pixel-by-pixel with your fingertip.
These things will never go anywhere until they look like normal eye glasses. No one wants to wear scuba diving goggles all day long. This is why personal computers were not practical in 1965, when a computer would barely fit into your garage AND it used more power than your entire house. And why portable phones were not popular in 1985. You had to carry a huge/heavy box/bag around. The key is still miniaturization. These goofy goggles have a long way to go.