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Apple pivots away from VR glasses in pursuit of Metaverse dominance

Today we’re looking at the latest round of rumours surrounding Apple’s foray into the virtual reality (VR) headset market. Since we last looked at the possible release of an “Apple Reality” headset back in July of last year, Apple’s potential future competitors have released their next generation of devices.


In October last year Meta used its Meta Connect annual conference to unveil the Quest Pro headset. Retailing at $1,500 and powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon XR2+ processor, the Meta Quest Pro’s features include: a sleeker form factor; super thin pancake lenses, allowing a 40% thinner display; a curved cell battery for “perfect balance”, allowing users to wear the headset for longer in comfort; a higher pixel count, with 37% more pixels per inch than the Quest 2, and 75% more contrast; a “seamless transition from physical for virtual” with an open periphery, which can be covered using magnetic light-blocking panels; high-resolution mixed-reality passthrough; and inward-facing sensors, so that virtual avatars are more expressive and reflect facial movements, increasing social presence.


Magic Leap CEO Peggy Johnson used AMD’s keynote at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, held the 5th to the 8th of January, to announce that its Magic Leap 2 smartglasses had obtained IEC 60601-1 certification, allowing it to be used by doctors during surgery. With a $3,000+ price tag, Magic Leap 2 is aimed squarely at industry. Magic Leap’s new smartglasses are 50% lighter and smaller than the original, and, like the original, allow for prolonged periods of use by separating the processor and battery to a separate unit intended be worn at the waist. HTC also unveiled a new virtual reality and augmented reality headset at the Consumer Electronics Show, the HTC’s Vive XR Elite. This powerful and lightweight, consumer-focused, mixed reality headset that seeks to go head-to head with Meta’s Quest Pro headset.


Here at themetabite.com we’ve previously speculated that Apple will be aiming for a mixed reality (XR) device, that provides both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) capability. This was based on Apple CEO Tim Cook’s previous statements where he called AR “critically important”, as well as the opportunity for Apple to leverage its App Store (the world’s largest AR platform) and create an additional sales channel for existing and new AR content.


The latest news surrounding Apple’s foray into the virtual reality (VR) headset market is that the company will release a powerful XR headset at some point this year, but will postpone its AR glasses. Instead Apple will focus on a more budget-friendly headset to compete with both Meta’s Quest Pro and HTC’s Vive XR Elite.


Apple’s full-powered XR headset is expected to cost in the region of $3,000, a price that reflects its premium specifications. We previously predicted that Apple, in line with its mission statement “to bring the best user experience to its customers through its innovative hardware, software, and services”, would seek to go head-to-head with the current state-of-the-art, such as the Varjo VR-3, currently billed as the world’s most advanced professional virtual reality (VR) headset. The reported $3,000 price tag, puts the Apple XR headset in Varjo VR-3 territory, which retails for $3,400 along with a one-year subscription starting at around $800.


One of the reasons for Apple reportedly deciding to postpone its AR glasses is that current designs, like the Magic Leap 2 smartglasses, require the battery to be placed in the user’s pocket instead of the frame. This goes against Apple’s specific aesthetic, pioneered by previous Chief Design Officer Jony Ive. Ive was instrumental in designing the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and was inspired by legendary industrial designer Dieter Rams, who's "less but better" approach can be clearly seen in the Apple product range. It looks like Apple will be waiting until advances in miniaturisation and technology allows it to create a lightweight, advanced AR, device with a built-in battery that can last all day.


This approach makes sense for Apple, and the release more budget-friendly headset in 2024 or 2025 will help the company maintain its presence in the consumer grade standalone headset market currently being dominated by Meta and HTC. Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

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