It looks like we won't have to wait much longer to see Apple's first foray into virtual reality. There are several headsets in production, which will run on the new "xrOS," according to a new article in Bloomberg by renowned Apple journalist Mark Gurman.
xrOS is supposed to replace the older 'realityOS' (or just 'rOS'), which was originally reported with Apple's plans for an augmented reality headset back in 2017. At the time, we were only expecting a wearable AR from the fruity tech giant, but Gurman's latest report suggests we'll actually be seeing three different headsets: codenamed 'N301', 'N602' and 'N421'.
The first two are intended to be true mixed reality headsets, which will incorporate AR and VR functionality. It's not exactly new technology – mixed reality has been around for a while, as seen in products like Microsoft's HoloLens 2 – but Apple is doing the Apple thing and giving it a new name to vindicate originality. The "xr" part of xrOS stands for "extended reality," which is... just mixed reality, as far as we know.
The N421 headset is believed to be a less complex AR product, more similar to the ill-fated Google Glass. The N301 is expected to launch first, and Gurman describes it as at an "advanced" stage in the development process, with a potential launch as early as next year. It will be a direct competitor to the Meta Quest Pro headset.
Analysis: Apple is late to the party, but does it still have a chance?
The idea of Apple releasing a product to tangle with the best VR headsets has been kicking around for over half a decade, and in that time we've seen plenty of high-quality competitors launch. Apple is playing a deficit here, but Apple's patients, and the well-documented brand loyalty of its customers, could still win.
There are certainly arguments in favor of not pioneering a new industry. There were similar comments that Valve was offering "too little, too late" when it announced Valve Index, but it turned out to be an amazing product.
By sitting quietly and watching other manufacturers release their own VR headsets, Apple could learn what works and what doesn't to create a highly polished product. We see this all the time in the technological sphere; More recently, we were impressed by the Asus Zenbook 17 Fold OLED, a foldable laptop that clearly learned from Lenovo's less-than-stellar attempt to harness the technology two years ago with the ThinkPad X1 Fold.
The Valve Index is already considered expensive at €999. (Image credit: Future)
However, we have other concerns about the new xrOS headset. Chief among them is the price; Previous leaks have suggested that Apple's first VR/AR headset will pack nifty features like high-quality OLED displays and iris-scan authentication, but that will obviously drive up the price.
We reported on the potential high cost of an Apple VR headset a few months back, and Gurman's latest report reiterates that Apple's (ugh) "extended reality" product will be very expensive at launch, with prices expected to be between $2,000 and $3,000. 1600. (or around €2500 to €3000 / AU$4400 to AU$XNUMX).
Listen, we understand that the "Apple tax" is something that exists, but it's just plain silly. No one should have to pay $XNUMX for a mixed reality headset, at least not aimed at consumers. Sure, HoloLens was ridiculously expensive, but at least it was marketed to businesses as a professional immersive solution.
If the flagship model starts at €3,000, it will be literally double the price of the Meta Quest Pro, triple the price of the Valve Index, and more than six times more expensive than the excellent Meta Quest 2 (formerly the Oculus Quest 2). It's now possible to get a VR headset for a few hundred bucks, as evidenced by our best VR headset deals.
It's too expensive, Apple. You can't go back years and expect people to pay such a ridiculous amount for technology that we've seen elsewhere. How xrOS will justify such a price remains to be seen, but we're not going to be too happy about that at this point.