Apple headset production delayed (again), casting doubt on WWDC unveiling

Production of Apple’s headset has been pushed back due to hardware challenges, ecosystem problems, the economic downturn, and other factors.

Tim Cook sitting at a table outside the Apple Park headquarters
  • What’s happening? A reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claims that Apple has pushed back mass production of its widely expected mixed-reality headset.
  • Why care? If Kuo’s sources are in the know, then the headset could miss its supposed late-2023 launch although that’s not very likely at this point.
  • What to do? Read Kuo’s Twitter for details.

Kuo: Apple headset unveiling at WWDC in question again

The analyst says Apple’s delayed mass production of the headset, claiming it may not be announced at Apple’s upcoming WWDC event in June as previously thought.

This is a pretty unexpected prediction from Kuo. The most recent Apple headset coverage suggested that the device is now being built by Apple’s contract manufacturers. The company was rumored to unveil the headset at WWDC, which runs June 5-9, and start shipments by the end of 2023 or early 2024.

The Cupertino giant, the revered analyst wrote, “isn’t very optimistic” about the headset announcement “recreating the astounding iPhone moment.”

He cited concerns like hardware compromises in terms of weight and battery life, a high price tag, and the generally undeveloped state of the market for these things as chief reasons why now may not be a good time to release such a product.

4 major concerns

Closeup of a generic augmented reality headset showcasing lens
AR/VR headsets face an ecosystem problem | Image: James Yarema/Unsplash

“The main concerns for Apple not being very optimistic regarding the market feedback to the AR/MR headset announcement include the economic downturn, compromises on some hardware specifications for mass production (such as weight), the readiness of the ecosystem and applications, a high selling price ($3,000-$4,000 or even higher), etc.,” reads Kuo’s tweet.

Because of that, Kuo continued, mass production for assembly has been pushed back by another 1-2 months to the mid-to-late third quarter of 2023.

The delay=reduced shipment forecast, which is now only 200,000-300,000 units for this year, down from the previous estimate of at least half a million units.

Kuo is the most reliable Apple analyst because his sources are deeply entrenched in Apple’s supply chains across Asia, which allows him to predict upcoming Apple products. His timeframes, however, are often all over the place.

What’s a killer app for Apple’s helmet?

Apple headset rendering showcasing two micro-OLED screens
AR/VR headsets lack a clear purpose | Image: Ahmed Chenni/

The headset may lack a killer app. Apple has put all its cards on co-presence, conducting FaceTime calls and watching specially tailored movies on the headset.

But none of those tasks is a killer app. It’s more practical to video-call someone holding an iPhone in your hand than strapping a high-tech helmet on your head.

Watching movies will be interesting until the novelty wears off. The headset will have two micro-OLED 4K displays, but spending two hours to watch a feature movie with these screens just a few inches away may be tiresome.

No one has come up with the definitive killer app for augmented and virtual realities.

Doubts about the headset’s utility

Recent reporting by Bloomberg and the New York Times painted a picture of a rare dissent at Apple in regard to launching a new product. The company apparently showed its top hundred executives the headset, but not everyone was convinced.

Some, the story goes, fear an Apple headset is “a solution in search of a problem.”

These reports have arrived after the Financial Times claimed that Apple’s boss Tim Cook and the company’s operations chief Jeff Williams overruled ”the early objections from designers to wait for the technology to catch up with their vision.”

Bloomberg also claimed some planned features like air typing may not be ready for prime time. Apple should perfect this and other unfinished features in subsequent updates to the xR operating system powering the Reality-branded headset.