As WWDC approaches, Apple’s flagship event for developers, the rumour mill has gone into overdrive. Not for the latest minute iPhone upgrade or a bafflingly similar Apple Watch, nope it’s all about virtual reality. Or more precisely XR, because Apple’s long-rumoured headset will supposedly offer VR and mixed reality applications. The secretive company has publically stayed away from the technology for years but that could be coming to an end in June. However, for most of us, here’s why you shouldn’t be excited about Apple’s VR headset.
Rumours upon rumours
Make no mistake, up until the Apple keynote address on 5th June at 10am PDT (6pm BST), all the information you read is a rumour. The company has confirmed nothing, reports will cite sources who wish to remain anonymous or people within supply chains. Apple is very good at keeping a tight lid on its announcements so quite honestly, we’re not sure of anything.
Albeit the fact that it’ll be interesting to see the tech giant enter the space.
Will Apple announce VR?
That’s always been the big question at previous WWDC events and so far it has been a no. However, WWDC 2023 is slightly different. For the first time, several media outlets specialising in VR have been invited to the event, UploadVR’s Ian Hamilton and Road to VR’s Ben Lang are among those with confirmed invitations.
This echoes the 2014 event when Apple invited reporters from fashion outlets ahead of its Apple Watch unveiling.
It would be a sure bet that Apple will unveil something. Whether that could be an actual mixed reality hardware or something else remains to be seen.
What is the Apple Reality Pro?
The Apple Reality Pro is currently the best-estimated name for the new device. Reports from venerable news outlets like Bloomberg and The Information have claimed that it’ll feature a MacBook-tier processor, colour passthrough cameras and a high-resolution display (possibly 4K OLED microdisplays). It’ll have a slim and lightweight design (around 300-400 grams) thanks to a wired external battery pack.
Reality Pro will also reportedly include a 120-degree field of view (FoV), eye tracking and automatic IPD adjustment. There are also wilder suggestions that the device will feature an external display on the front, so others can see the user’s face.
Apple VR Price
So here we come to the first reason why you shouldn’t get too excited about this amazing new headset. Sit down and place your Quest 2 on the side, because you won’t be boxing it up just yet.
The Apple Reality Pro is slated to cost an eye-watering $3000 USD. It’ll probably come in slightly cheaper but this $3k price has been lingering for a while now. That puts the Reality Pro way above the Meta Quest Pro at $999 and the HTC Vive XR Elite at $1,099. You’re talking enterprise-only cash, more in line with products from Varjo. And certainly, way beyond the reach of attracting normal, everyday consumers who may have been interested thanks to the Apple brand.
Apple’s ecosystem is another reason why – for VR enthusiasts at least – not to buy the headset. Meta was lambasted for including Facebook account linking and doesn’t exactly have a great track record with data. Apple is even more tyrannical about its ecosystem, with developers having to adhere to the App Store rules no matter how big the company is. Both Microsoft and Epic Games have enjoyed that battle in the past and it did not end favourably for them.
If you’ve always had an iPhone, then bought the Apple Watch and love your Mac, of course, there’s plenty to love. Apple is an expert at creating one homogenous whole, where you couldn’t imagine a world without FaceTime and iCloud. Yet the average iPhone user isn’t going to be interested in – or spend silly money on – a VR headset.
From the renewed outset, the VR community has always been about open ecosystems and platforms. Whether that’s cross-platform gameplay, VR mods or sideloading apps, tinkering in VR has always been part of the fun.
We’re still not entirely convinced about the expensive Apple Reality Pro, it’s going to be too expensive and only for the elite few.
The only upside is the final confirmation that Apple has been investing billions to develop its own technology. And another key player in the XR market is always welcome. Hopefully, WWDC will be a pleasant surprise with plenty of wow factor. It needs to be as the Meta Quest Gaming Showcase and the PlayStation Showcase for PSVR 2 are quickly approaching.