Apple's AR headset set for 2022 launch with Mac-level processing power - report

A generic image of someone wearing a VR headset
It's the first stage in replacing iPhones with AR, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says. Photo credit: Getty Images

Apple's long-rumoured Augmented Reality (AR) headset is set to launch next year with the same processing power as the company's computers, according to a new report.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo provided the update in a recent note to investors, writing that the chip design would be the most significant difference when compared to others on the market.

"It has Mac-level computing power, it can operate independently without relying on a Mac or an iPhone and it supports a comprehensive range of applications rather than specific applications," Kuo wrote in the report, according to 9-to-5 Mac.

"The higher-end processor will have similar computing power as the M1 for Mac, whereas the lower-end processor will be in charge of sensor-related computing."

Kuo also said he expected the headset to launch in the last quarter of 2022, something that journalist Mark Gurman, author of the Apple-focused Power On newsletter, also suggested earlier this month.

But Gurman expects the time between the introduction of the device and its availability to consumers to be lengthy, saying it could take as long as the Apple Watch did. The first generation smart watch was first announced in September, 2014 but not released until April the following year, 227 days later.

"Apple's first headset will have a complex, expensive-to-build design, complete with interchangeable lenses. The company will likely need to work with governments globally on possible prescription lenses and partner with a bevy of manufacturers on complex technologies that neither side has shipped before," Gurman wrote.

"That will take time, and of course, Apple will want to have such a breakthrough new category in public view before exposing it to leak risks when it gets into the hands of more Apple employees and partners who will need to contribute to it before release."

That could lead to the company announcing it during the 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference, with the focus on AR and virtual reality (VR) development.

Kuo, meanwhile, stated that it was Apple's goal to replace the iPhone with an AR device within a decade, with the new headset the first step in the process.

He predicted the displays will be two Sony 4K micro-OLED displays, indicating both VR and AR would be supported.

"Apple's AR headset requires a separate processor as the computing power of the sensor is significantly higher than that of the iPhone," Kuo wrote.

"If the headset is positioned only as an accessory for the Mac or iPhone, it will not be conducive to the growth of the product. An AR headset that works independently means that it will have its own ecosystem and provide the most complete and flexible user experience."

Kuo has previously said the headset and next year's iPhone 14 would support Wi-Fi 6E. The higher bandwidth and lower latency of that technology would give a better overall AR and VR experience.