We can say with some certainty that Apple is working on an AR/VR headset scheduled to arrive as early as this year, but the details of this mysterious product are a puzzle being solved one piece at a time.
Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo may have just given us another link today, claiming in an investor’s note (via MacRumors) that the Apple headset will use the same 96W power adapter as the MacBook Pro 14.
“Our survey indicates that Apple AR/MR headset will use a 96W charger supplied by Jabil with the same specifications as the MacBook Pro to provide faster and more efficient charging for the Apple AR/MR headset,” Kuo wrote.
Such a large power adapter suggests the headset will have demanding power requirements, and will therefore use high-performance parts. Previous rumors and predictions align, with The Information reporting last year that the headset would include two 8K OLED displays and more than a dozen cameras for hand-tracking. The site also said the headset’s processor won’t be as powerful as those found in Apple’s MacBook, iPhone, or iPad, so performance will need to be wirelessly offloaded to another device, like an iPhone.
This, however, conflicts with Kuo who says the headset, which could support Wi-Fi 6E, will run on multiple processors include one with the power of Apple’s M1 chip. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman agrees, saying Apple would include “some of its most advanced and powerful chips” and that some will top the performance of the M1.
If the headset does indeed need a 96W power adapter—one of the highest Apple offers—then it’d seem a significant chunk of the computing, if not all, will happen locally on the headset. We could also assume it will be significantly more powerful than an iPhone and could even outmuscle the MacBook Pro. If this is the case, it will be interesting to see how Apple handles cooling. Adding a fan to the headset could increase weight, size, and noise levels, although it’s worth noting that the current leading VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2, maintains a relatively compact and lightweight footprint despite having a built-in fan (though it has low power requirements).
We might know some of the technical specifications of Apple’s mixed reality headset, but its design and the ways it will blend AR and VR are hazy. Gurman says the device will be more VR than AR, and it can operate on battery power as a standalone device. Our best guess on how it’ll all work has users looking at two high-res OLED panels (one for each eye) that show the physical world with digital objects overlayed on top.
What’s more certain is pricing: the non-metaverse device will be expensive (think $3,000 expensive) and likely have limited availability when it arrives either later this year or in 2023.