VR and mobile seem to go hand-in-hand these days, with a wide range of products such as Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s DayDream available for Android users – but what about those us with iPhones? Sure, there are third-party mobile viewers that provide a basic VR experience, but it’s nothing compared to what Samsung and Google offer. If Apple can provide high-end AR experiences with ARKit, when will it do the same with VR?
That might change soon. For years, there have been rumours that Apple is developing a VR headset of its own – in fact, there has been a range of VR-related hires, patents and more that suggest something is in the works. In this article, we discuss all the latest Apple VR headset news, release date rumours and acquisition info, as it looks to grow the relevant areas of its business.
If Apple isn’t developing a VR headset then the chances are that it’ll announce an AR headset instead – this is expected to be called Apple Glass, and to launch some time in 2022 or 2023. Alternatively, the company may launch a single headset that somehow combines both VR and AR capabilities.
If you’re a VR fan, you might also be interested in taking a look at our roundup of the best VR apps and games for iPhone.
Apple VR headset release date
Apple’s VR headset is expected to go on sale in 2022.
That’s according to a January 2021 report from Bloomberg, which also provides considerable detail about the project we will discuss later in this article. Bloomberg says the headset, which is codenamed N301, has faced development obstacles, such as issues with weight and size, but is at an advanced stage and could be launched as early as next year.
This timeframe may come as a surprise, however, to those who’ve been keeping an ear out for Apple VR rumours in recent years.
Back in 2018 CNET predicted that Apple would launch a combined AR/VR product in 2020, citing a person familiar with Apple’s plans. And this didn’t seem overly optimistic at the time: a (different) Bloomberg report from November 2017 had suggested Apple would ship a device in early 2020, although that was expected to offer AR capabilities only.
Needless to say neither of these older predictions bore fruit, and it would be forgivable if the reader adopts an attitude of “I’ll believe it when I see it.” This is one of those products that always seems to be launching in 18 months’ time.
What’s the difference between VR and AR?
That question requires a quick refresher on terms, as there’s a little confusion about augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
VR headsets are mounted on the head in a similar way to ski goggles, and completely block your view of the outside world. The VR headset tracks your head movement, and the 3D images displayed inside the headset move accordingly. This makes it appear as if you’re wholly inside a 3D ‘virtual’ world.
VR hit the headlines in the 1990s when video games companies such as Sega and Nintendo attempted to create and sell VR products to the publi.
The technology wasn’t ready then, but a more recent attempt dubbed the Oculus Rift created by Oculus VR in 2012 was developed with modern 3D technology and development has been wowing people ever since. Eventually, Facebook bought Oculus VR in 2014 for more than $2bn, and the second-gen VR headset is now available to buy alongside the likes of the HTC Vive, Oculus Go and more. (Our colleagues on Tech Advisor have a roundup of the best VR headsets currently available.)
AR, on the other hand, is where the glasses are see-through and you can still see the world aroun