Apple might be getting into VR at the worst possible time

Apple is rumored to unveil its long-awaited mixed reality headset in just a few months, but this reveal seems to come at a time when demand for high-end VR is actually quite low.

According to a new blog post from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, some of the biggest recent bets in VR largely failed. Kuo reports that:

Sony has cut its 2023 production plan for the PS VR2 by around 20%.

The product lifecycle shipment for Meta’s Quest Pro is only around 300,000 units.

Pico (China’s largest AR/VR headset brand) shipments in 2022 were over 40% lower than expected.

There have already been signs that high-end VR isn’t taking, particularly Meta’s decision to reduce the price of the Quest Pro from $1,500 to $1,000 just over four months after the product launch. But given that Apple’s headset is said to cost around $3,000, double the Quest Pro’s starting price, the iPhone maker might have a steep road to travel as it tries to get some traction for its helmet.

Apple’s headphones will apparently be a device monster, which might partly explain why it might cost so much. It reportedly has advanced hand tracking, doesn’t require a controller, and could apparently recreate someone else’s entire body in VR during one-on-one FaceTime calls. But it will also apparently rely on an external battery for power, which for me won’t quite match Apple’s usual streamlined aesthetic. The higher price could also indicate that Apple is targeting developers to start with, not the mass market, so it may be looking for a different group of buyers than devices like the PSVR 2.

It’s also not entirely clear Why we need an Apple headset right now. In a recent interview, CEO Tim Cook claimed that augmented reality could improve “communication” and “connection”, and the headset itself is apparently focused on “co-presence”. But these are quite similar to the arguments made by Meta for the unpopular Quest Pro.

And those weak Quest Pro sales happened even after years Meta investment to build an ecosystem. While we don’t yet know if Apple has an easy way for developers to bring apps from other Apple platforms to the headset, I suspect there will only be a few headset-specific apps available. to start.

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