I love virtual reality, and I’ve talked it up to many a friend, family member, and colleague. But even I must admit that paying $3,000 for a VR headset is a bit too rich for my blood—a lot too rich for my blood, actually. Yet that’s how much Apple is said to be charging for its first VR/AR headset.
I have no doubts in my mind that Apple’s headset will be a sleek, impressive device. It’s said to have been in the works for over half a decade now, and Apple tends to do hardware pretty darn well—it doesn’t even pain me a bit as a PC gamer to admit that. I do have some questions about the eventual ecosystem of software for Apple’s VR headset, as the company tends to keep its ecosystems locked down, but we’ll find out more about all of that very soon.
Apple is expected to reveal the headset at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next month, June 5–9. According to the Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab), speaking to people familiar with the matter, the headset will cost roughly $3,000. It also resembles a pair of ski goggles, and will come with a separate battery pack.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that sort of price going around, either, as it was also noted when rumours started flying about Apple indefinitely delaying its cheaper AR glasses (opens in new tab). At that time it was cited as a high cost due to the M2 processor, cameras, sensors, and high-resolution displays included on the device.
Now if that doesn’t sound like $3,000 worth, let it be known that most VR headsets are absolutely massive by comparison. If Apple really can squish its lenses down to ski goggle size, and still be mighty powerful, this headset will look to compete with the more compact and high-end coming to market, such as the upcoming Bigscreen Beyond (opens in new tab). That’s not arriving until Q3 this year, so Apple may actually beat it to launch, and it doesn’t offer onboard processing like Apple’s headset is expected to.
I’m still not convinced it’ll be $3,000 worth, but if Apple launches the headset for anything less we’ll all think it’s a slightly better deal than we would have otherwise, right?
But what’s impressive about the Apple headset is that it’s not only virtual reality enabled, but mixed reality also. All crammed into what’s said to be an extremely sleek design (with a battery pack, but that’s fine by me). What that mixed reality capability should mean is that it will include impressive passthrough and real-life augmented reality functions on top of the virtual reality capabilities, which could give the headset an edge for business users or creative types—Apple’s usual crowd.
Other mixed reality headsets it’ll be going up against include Meta’s $999 Quest Pro and HTC’s $1,099 Vive XR Elite (opens in new tab).
There may be a downside, however, and it’s that Apple’s device is said to still be experimental even after its announcement. So if you’re expecting a high level of polish, as is the norm for Apple devices, that may not actually be the case here. Similarly, because of that, the timeline for its release may still be up in the air.
I can’t say that the rumoured price tag is all that surprising, however. Apple isn’t known for its affordability. Yet for $3,000 this Apple headset will need to be the best of the best to justify that cost. Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey tweeted over the weekend that Apple’s headset was “so good”, so make of that what you will.
But being the best means more than just acing hardware. A big part of a VR headset’s success is down to the software and app ecosystem. If you don’t have the apps and games to keep people entertained, the consumers may lose interest. That’s what I’ll be looking out for from the next WWDC anyways, especially as this headset relates to the PC VR ecosystem—and of course more news on this lovely-sounding piece of tech.
Apple will have to get a move-on and release its headset at some point, however. The current reigning champ of our best VR headset (opens in new tab) guide, the Meta Quest 2 (opens in new tab), is set for a revamp later this year, and Meta appears to be spending big on its development. That’s a headset that should be relatively affordable (opens in new tab), which will make it that much more alluring even if it’s not quite the game-changer that Apple’s is expected by some to be.