Apple Headset Mass Production Won’t Happen Until the Fall: Report

Apple is anticipated to soon introduce what some are calling the next big product category for the company, akin to the Apple Watch and iPad.

The product, a mixed-reality headset bearing a resemblance to ski goggles, will be paired with a battery pack, according to sources close to the matter, reiterates the Wall Street Journal, echoing what Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman has previously reported. The WSJ also shares some insight into how Apple’s first headset came to be, citing info from unnamed sources.

The headset promises a revolutionary user experience, enabling gamers and other users to interact with their virtual worlds through the goggle’s screen, while also maintaining awareness of their physical surroundings, courtesy of outward-facing cameras, insiders familiar with the project report.

However, eager customers may need to exercise patience, as the majority of users aren’t likely to receive the device until fall at the earliest, insiders with knowledge of the supply chain have indicated. The delay stems from numerous challenges, including integration with new software, the manufacturing process, and market conditions, sources familiar with the product’s development disclosed.

Further compounding the delay, mass production of the headset isn’t expected to commence until September due to manufacturing setbacks, insiders familiar with the issue revealed. Initial shipment forecasts for 2023 are modest, with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 300,000 units, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. These figures are smaller than those for the first-year production of the iPhone and Apple Watch.

These relatively low production numbers will result in narrow hardware margins for Apple as it builds up production, insiders familiar with the situation have said. Apple has also been forced to make significant design compromises, such as an external battery pack that would be worn around the user’s waist.

The mixed-reality headset will fully encase the user’s eyes akin to safety goggles, preventing direct view of the surroundings, unlike a standard pair of glasses. One design sought to have the headset connect to a separate base station to offload processing, but Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer at the time, initially resisted this design. Ive instead pushed for a standalone headset, people familiar with the matter reported.

Mike Rockwell, the Apple vice president in charge of the headset project, joined the company in 2015 from audio technology company Dolby and began building a massive team. In the early days, the group maintained a lot of independence and operated almost like a startup, with freedom to experiment, said former employees.

But over the past few years, the team has experienced multiple delays in releasing the device due to issues coordinating the software to function optimally with the hardware, according to former employees and other insiders.

As Apple’s team works to create a “killer app” for the headset, they have been exploring a FaceTime-like product and ways to adapt mobile apps for the device. The upcoming schedule for Applel’s WWDC next month is expected to focus heavily on software development for this new headset, insiders familiar with the conference have said.

Regardless of how “revolutionary” an Apple headset may be, the one thing that comes to mind is how much will it cost? Prices have pegged it to cost $3,000 USD, but that might be just setting expectations high before the true price is revealed.