Apple delays AR glasses for a cheaper, mixed-reality headset, says report

Technology is still not ready to make a lightweight all-day AR device yet.
Ameya Paleja
An Apple store
An Apple store

nayuki/iStock 

Apple Inc.'s much-awaited augmented reality (AR) glasses have been delayed significantly as a result of technical challenges involved, Bloomberg reported. The report added that the company, which is due to release a mixed-reality headset this year, is likely to follow it up with a low-cost version of the same technology in 2024 or later.

Even as Mark Zuckerberg's Meta continues to build products for virtual reality (VR), Apple looked set to bet on a new industry with its AR glasses. From the unofficial reports, it appeared that Apple was looking to build a lightweight pair of AR glasses that people could wear all day.

Unlike VR experiences that are completely immersive and cut the user off from the real world, AR allows digital objects to be overlaid in the real world, letting the user keep them on throughout their day. Google had previously attempted this through its Glass project, which did not take off, and Apple is learning the technological challenges involved the hard way.

Apple's challenges with AR glasses

With a mixed-reality headset that combines VR and AR on its way, Apple was looking at the AR Glasses as the product that would eventually replace its iPhone. The AR Glasses could be used by the user for navigation, answering phone calls, snapping photos, and much more. The company has been struggling to keep a high growth rate for its sales over the past few years and was looking for a boost by introducing a revolutionary product.

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However, Apple's first AR Glass, however, reportedly can hold a charge for only two hours. Compared to smartphones that work for an entire day, if not longer, this is quite disappointing. Apple was also looking to put the device's battery pack in the user's back pocket instead of the headset itself to make it lighter in weight and avoid risks to the user.

All things considered, the technology available today does not seem right to allow Apple to deliver a great product. Therefore, the company has pushed forward its plans for the AR device.

What Apple will do instead?

The 1,000-plus member team at Apple's Technology Development Group is largely focused on VR and AR products. While some continue to work on AR Glasses, others will shift their focus to the mixed-reality headset.

Apple's initial offering in this segment is expected to be powered by its M2 processors, which also go on its Macs, and a dedicated chip for VR and AR visuals. Equipped with 10 cameras, sensors, and high-resolution displays, the device is expected to be priced at around US$3,000, putting it out of the reach of many hopeful users.

Apple is now likely to concentrate on making a lower-cost version of the device powered by chips that go into the iPhone, a move expected to bring the cost down to US$1,500. This will also make it competitive with Meta's Quest Pro.

Apple's trademark filings have also included names like "Reality Pro" and "Reality One" which the Bloomberg report suggests could be the names of the high-end and low-cost headsets, while "Reality Processor" could be the dedicated chip in the latter device.

AR fans will be hopeful that Apple has only pushed ahead with its plans to make the AR device and not dumped them altogether as Google and Meta have done in the past.