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Apple’s VR headset has no killer app, prominent leaker warns

Apple’s Reality Pro headset lacks a clear focus and has no killer app that will make it a must-have item. That’s the warning from Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman based on information from his industry sources, and it comes just a few weeks before Apple’s much-fêted device gets released to the public.

Yet it’s not all bad news, and Apple has been here before with other products that have eventually come good. The question is whether the Cupertino giant can make its mixed-reality headset a success before the public loses interest.

A woman using a VR headset at a desk with an Apple MacBook,
Image used with permission by copyright holder

According to Gurman, Apple has been unable to identify a flagship feature around which to sell its Reality Pro headset. Instead, the company will try “throwing everything but the kitchen sink at consumers.”

That means the headset will offer a large variety of different features in both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). That includes high-end gaming experiences, a portal for watching sports and movies in immersive environments, a focus on fitness and health (including a new Wellness app with meditation and calming sounds), and much more. Existing Apple apps have been adapted for the headset, and hundreds of thousands of third-party apps will also be compatible.

Gurman believes Apple is hoping that, out of this “scattershot” approach, customers will be able to zero in on the strongest offerings. That will allow Apple to tailor future versions of the headset to better focus on what customers want and discard the features they’re not interested in.

Following the Apple Watch

Apple's Jeff Williams introduces a new Apple Watch at an event in September 2020.

This process closely resembles that taken by Apple when it launched the first Apple Watch in 2015. That device had a wide variety of use cases, from an Apple TV remote to an iPhone camera viewfinder, in addition to fitness tracking, notification management, and timekeeping.

As time went on, Apple focused on the latter features and moved away from the former. Since the Watch was an entirely new product category for Apple, the company seemingly had little inkling of what would resonate with customers, and later tried to narrow that down over time. Eventually, the device became a bestseller as Apple worked out what customers wanted from the Watch.

It seems Apple might be taking a similar approach with its Reality Pro headset. The risk, though, is that its expected $3,000 price tag leaves very little room for error. The Meta Quest Pro is a cautionary tale of sorts, with reports of poor sales just months after its launch. If Apple customers are not immediately sold on the expensive Reality Pro, they might not give it a second chance.

Too late to change course now

A rendering of four Apple mixed-reality headsets (Reality Pro) in various colors sitting on a surface.
Ahmed Chenni,

There are reports that Apple is working on a cheaper follow-up to the Reality Pro, which could offer an alternative to customers put off by the Reality Pro’s high price. Gurman says he expects Apple to refocus the headset on the features customers most resonate with, and that the company will quickly adjust the price and hardware to keep it attractive.

For instance, the Reality Pro’s battery is rumored to only last two hours due to the headset’s M2 chip and 4K displays. Gurman says the battery pack sits in a user’s pocket and uses a proprietary magnetic connector to hook up to the headset. Improving its longevity and integrating it into the headset itself — instead of using an ungainly cable — would be one way to improve the Reality Pro.

Apple will no doubt be hoping that its “scattershot” approach pays off — with just a few weeks until launch, there’s no time to change course now.

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