Can't wait for the Apple VR headset? There's just one catch

The drips of information about Apple's foray into augmented and virtual reality have been greeted with giddy excitement over the past couple of years – as well as some bewilderment over the rumoured $3,000 price tag for its AR/VR headset. Now it seems the device probably won't stand alone – you'll need another device to get the most out of it.

The latest rumours suggest that the Apple headset will leave much of the heavy lifting behind its AR/VR capabilities to another device – most likely the iPhone. That will make it a little like the early non-cellular versions of the Apple Watch, which required wearers to also carry their iPhone with them (see the best iPhone 12 deals available now). Wondering what all the VR fuss is about? It's the future of design, you know.

Apple AR

Apple Insider's mockup of the AR/VR headset (Image credit: Apple Insider)

Mass production is predicted to be at least a year away, but a new report from The Information claims that Apple finished work on three AR/VR chips last year and that they're now ready for trial production. It suggests the Cupertino company's headset will be powered by custom 5-nanometer AR/VR chips. These would function better than third-party equivalents, offering improved wireless data transmission, compression, decompression, and energy efficiency, but they wouldn't have the neural engine necessary to power AI and machine learning abilities. 

This means the headset would need to communicate wirelessly with a host device, which would take care of the computing duties required to display virtual, augmented, and mixed media images. The Information says the headset will have a CPU and GPU, however, so there's a chance it will have at least limited functionality on its own, but it would need to be tethered to another device to use its full capabilities.

Apple AR

A mockup from Apple's patent filing (Image credit: Apple Insider)

The news would seem to make sense for a slim, lightweight "Apple Glass" device, but perhaps less so for a larger headset. Although it's yet to make any official announcement, Apple's been rumoured to be working on both. However, this latest rumour appears to apply to the headset, which would reportedly have an 8K display and a Lidar sensor.

patent application for an AR "Display Device" was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office back in 2019. That mentions a "reflective holographic combiner" that would reflect light for the AR elements while also passing through environmental light.

It's still not clear who such a device would be aimed at, especially if the rumoured $3,000 price tag is accurate. Add on the cost of an iPhone as well, and it looks set to be one seriously pricey piece of kit. Considering that Apple charges £699 / $699 for a set of Mac Pro wheels, perhaps that's only to be expected, but it still makes it feel that this might be a product aimed at truly dedicated Apple obsessives who want to own everything Apple puts its name to. 

On that note, if there's anything missing from your own collection of Apple goodies, make sure you see our guide to the best Apple deals or see the deals listed below.

Read more:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.