While Apple has yet to introduce its first AR/VR headset to the world, there are already rumors about its second-generation headset. If true, Apple's follow-up mixed reality device could have an amazing display that will put the Quest 2 and PSVR 2 to shame.
It has long been said that Apple is considering microOLED screens for its AR/VR headsets. Back in February, we reported, Apple hoped to use these panels with an M1 chip to create a thinner, more power-efficient headset than its rivals.
Now, reports from Patently Apple (opens in a new tab) indicate that it intends to stick with these types of screens for its second headphones, although it will make some updates. On a minor note, Apple will apparently switch from using Sony-made panels to using LG-made panels when its second handset launches. LG makes our favorite TVs right now, the LG C2 and LG G2, so we're sure they'll bring their expertise in making those screens to the table when creating the screens for Apple's headphones.
But LG will not only bring its expertise, it will also use a new display technology developed by AP Systems. Apple requested a 3000 dpi thin metal mask sample from AP Systems in 2021 (via The Elec (opens in a new tab)) and was apparently impressed with the results. Additionally, AP Systems is currently working on a project with the South Korean Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy to create 4000 dpi displays for VR/AR devices by 2024.
If it can achieve this goal, we wouldn't be surprised if Apple's second-generation AR/VR headset incorporates this new technology into its design. If so, Apple would blow rival Meta out of the water, the Quest 2 only has 773ppi and Project Cambria is said to have 1230ppi.
This design was created by The Information (opens in a new tab) based on stories of what Apple's AR/VR headsets look like. (Image credit: The Information)
That said, you'll definitely want to take these rumors with a grain of salt.
For one thing, Apple's first headphones have yet to be announced, so its second-generation device is still several years away. While we wouldn't be surprised if the design process was already underway for later headphones, we'd be surprised if anything was finalized that far in advance.
On that same note, Apple may never introduce a Gen 1 headset, deciding to scrap the device entirely and ditch the AR/VR space.
Additionally, Apple's first headset reportedly encountered many development hurdles, significantly altering its design from Apple's original vision. Similarly, the Apple development team might face similar problems the second time. Apple's suppliers (AP Systems and LG) also have a role to play in the development of new screens; if your work hits hiccups, there won't be any 4,000 ppi panels for Apple to use, even if it wants to.
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It's all very well to say that Apple's rumored headphones will have a higher pixel density, but why should we care?
As we already wrote when discussing the Quest 2's pixel density, all VR headset displays can suffer from something called a screen door effect. Because screens are just a repeating array of LEDs when you're close to them, it's possible to spot dark lines on the screen caused by the spacing between pixels.
By design, VR puts a screen right in front of your face, so the screen door effect is much more noticeable. At the same time, it can also be very immersive, acting as a constant reminder that you're okay in a virtual world.
This is where higher pixel densities come into play. If you can fit more LEDs into a display area, the pixel spacing will shrink until it's unnoticeable.
The screen door effect, caused by the repeating array of pixels in modern screens, can make it seem like you're looking through a screen door. (Image credit: Shutterstock/GnimStudios)
Additionally, higher pixel density displays will allow Apple to create higher resolutions and more impressive visuals on smaller screens, helping to reduce the weight of its headphones without sacrificing picture performance.
However, Apple may already be going a bit too far.
A higher number of pixels per inch will help Apple achieve another goal, pixels per degree, that is, the number of pixels per degree of vision. Our eyes can't distinguish anything above 60ppd, so that's the goal Meta and Apple are trying to hit with their headphones.
The Quest 2 currently sits at 21 ppi, and our very rough estimates for Project Cambria suggest it will hit 33. Using the same assumptions we used to calculate Cambria's pixels per density (where focal length and screen size of the earphones are the same as the Quest 2), so Apple will consider around 80ppd for a 3000ppi earphone and more than 100ppd for a 4000ppi earphone.
Can Meta's Project Cambria headphones beat rival Apple headphones and their impressive specs? (Image credit: Meta)
This is an incredibly rough estimate, given that Apple's device is expected to be much slimmer than the Quest 2, we can already assume it will have a different focal length, but it does give an indication of how much more visually impressive Apple devices could be. . . .
We'll have to wait for Apple to make an official announcement before we know how the rumors and our estimates stack up. But when Apple finally introduces its headphones, we might be in for a treat.