Apple's unique headset design is causing problems with component suppliers

Posted:
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Despite suppliers hitting significant production roadblocks with curved components, Apple's headset is still rumored for a WWDC reveal with mass production later in 2023.

Apple's headset is a challenge for manufacturers
Apple's headset is a challenge for manufacturers

Apple's upcoming WWDC 2023 conference is anticipated to revolve around Apple's headset, a VR or AR device that might become available to the public several months after the event. A new report from The Information sheds some light into the production issues that Apple has encountered with the device.

Apple's headset is the most intricate hardware creation to date for the company, primarily due to its unique curved design, slim profile, and remarkably lightweight nature. Unfortunately, these features contribute to its anticipated high price, estimated to be around $3,000, which could strain the budget of potential buyers.

Internal digital renderings of the device reveal a curved glass display encased in a sleek aluminum frame that appears slightly thicker than an iPhone. The device's design posed significant manufacturing challenges, necessitating the creation of a curved motherboard -- an unprecedented development for Apple -- to fit within the headset's curved exterior shell.

Apple's industrial design team, responsible for the aesthetic aspects of their devices, insisted that the front of the headset be crafted from a slender, curved glass panel to bestow a high-end look and premium experience. As a result, over a dozen cameras and sensors behind the glass needed to be discreetly concealed for aesthetic reasons.

However, the glass distorts the images captured by the cameras, potentially causing discomfort and nausea for the wearer if not adequately compensated. Additionally, solutions had to be devised to accommodate the lenses and displays within the device's slender frame.

To reinforce the headset's interior without adding excessive weight, Apple opted to utilize carbon fiber, a composite material commonly found in aircraft and sporting goods, as revealed by multiple individuals involved in the project.

Design and other difficulties

Based on earlier device drawings, users will find a small dial positioned above the right eye, enabling them to switch between augmented and virtual reality. Above the left eye, a power button is located.

A circular connector, resembling an Apple Watch charging puck, is attached to the left temple of the headset, with a cable running down to a battery pack worn on the waist. For enhanced comfort, a soft and detachable face cover is affixed to the rear of the headset.




The headset headband appears predominantly made of soft materials and is connected to two short and rigid temples that house the left and right speakers.

Throughout the development phase, Apple engineers faced challenges in finding the right balance between the thickness, weight, and durability of the front-facing glass on the headset. The curved design of the glass increases its vulnerability to shattering compared to the flat glass screen of the iPhone.

Engineers also expressed concerns about users in VR mode accidentally colliding with walls or furniture, potentially resulting in the headset's front glass fragmentation and posing a risk of facial cuts.

Apple also aims for the headset to be compatible with various facial shapes. As the development progressed, Apple employees engaged in discussions regarding the necessity of additional eye-tracking cameras or adjustments to the motorized lenses.

These considerations aimed to cater to a small percentage of the population with uncommonly-shaped eyes or noses. However, Apple may have addressed and resolved these concerns during development.

Switching manufacturers

Apple faced a challenge when switching manufacturers for the headset, but it ensured a smooth transition by continuing the product's development at the exact location with the same engineers. The headset production occurs in a single facility in Kunshan, an eastern Chinese city.

Interestingly, this location was previously used to develop Apple's AirPower wireless charging mat, which was ultimately canceled due to persistent overheating issues after being announced for 18 months.

Luxshare, an emerging Chinese manufacturer, took over the headset assembly from Apple's previous partner, Pegatron, in 2022. Pegatron had been involved in the project for over four years but lost interest due to its significant manufacturing challenges, making mass production financially unviable for the supplier.

However, according to a source familiar with the matter, a procurement employee at Apple has expressed optimism about the potential success of the headset. Drawing a comparison to the AirPods, which experienced significant growth in shipments each year from 2017 to 2020, the employee suggested that the headset could follow a similar trajectory, which falls in line with a CIRP report in May.

Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    9secondkox29secondkox2 Posts: 2,851member
    If you have to wear a battery pack on your boy, th ether to the device by a wire, sorry. Fail. 
  • Reply 2 of 14
    chutzpahchutzpah Posts: 392member
    If you have to wear a battery pack on your boy, th ether to the device by a wire, sorry. Fail. 
    You'd prefer to wear a unit with a heavy integrated battery attached to your head?  Or be tethered to a power outlet?

    A battery pack that you can attach wherever is convenient seems like the best option to me.
    williamlondonwatto_cobradewme
  • Reply 3 of 14
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,311member
    Forget the remote battery pack which is a negative.  The $3K price tag is going to mean a big fail.  Who is this market for?  There is no way in hell I'm going to spend that kind of money on this thing.   If few people buy it, the apps just won't be developed for this thing and it'll fail.  It's the whole Chicken and the Egg.  Without apps for it that people want to actually spend that kind of money, people won't buy it.  But if people don't buy it, the app market will never become a thing.  

    If this thing was $1K, maybe,..  but at $3K, no way!!!
  • Reply 4 of 14
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,073member
    I'm skeptical that any of these reports on design and features of this rumored device are either current or accurate. We may find out shortly, but I'd bet that the image above will bear little resemblance to any actual Apple device released to the public. I mean, why would the company that makes AirPods build wearable goggles that include clunky speakers on a head strap? If you want immersive audio to go with your AR/VR, you're not going to use head strap speakers, you're going to use AirPods that play the spatial audio directly into your head through your ear holes. Further along these lines, would a company that introduced an iPhone that depended on regularly connecting to a Mac, and a watch that was initially highly dependent on a connection to an iPhone develop a clunky $3,000 device seemingly made to operate independently of every other device that Apple makes? 

    I'm betting that whatever it is, it will be slimmer, smaller, and less expensive than suggested here, and will rely on (and be enhanced by) integration with existing devices like AirPods for audio and an iPhone or Mac for computational power. The more functions it can offload, the smaller and lighter it can be. I'm betting that even the thing about the external battery pack is either nonexistent or an optional add-on, or, surprise, the thing described here is simply a MagSafe connector that uses the same charger as the Apple Watch to charge the device, with no expectation that you'll walk around with a wire hanging off of your left temple. 

    It boggles the mind that people supposedly interested in and aware of how Apple actually does things will every time (seemingly for lack of imagination) fall for the idea that Apple would develop and sell something that fits the description of the perennially compromised and clunky design habits of its competitors. 
    edited May 2023 Dooofuswilliamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 14
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 1,316member
    OK, I get the repeated comments about a $3K price tag but my first Apple computer (an LC2 with a monitor) that I purchased in 1991 cost $2,700 with an educational discount.  Outside of some used Macs, every Mac I have purchased has been more expensive than $2K by the time I add upgrades.

    In the days of $1000 Taylor Swift tickets, an entry level product for developers that costs $3K is not out of bounds.  Or how about dysfunctional $15K autopilots?

    Who remembers the debut of the AppleWatch that had a gold edition for $10,000?  Fast forward to now and the Apple Watch has been revised from a fashion accessory to a must have health and fitness accessory and the best version is an AppleWatch Ultra that can be had for $700-800.

    Considering the purported complexity of the device, doubling the price of a high end iPhone Max Pro is not out of bounds.
    Dooofuswatto_cobradewme
  • Reply 6 of 14
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,008member
    Whatever they end up doing — this thing or some tethered to iPhone lightweight thing -/ I wish them good luck. It’s not a product I think most people want or need and I don’t think it will be a huge hit amongst the general populace.  Hopefully they haven’t spent as much money as Facebook did on the Metaverse.  
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 14
    danoxdanox Posts: 3,052member
    Like the early days of the gorilla glass and the iPhone? Steve Jobs had to whip Corning into shape……

    https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/how-steve-jobs-used-7-words-to-inspire-a-major-breakthrough.html
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 14
    XedXed Posts: 2,677member
    jbdragon said:
    Forget the remote battery pack which is a negative.  The $3K price tag is going to mean a big fail.  Who is this market for?  There is no way in hell I'm going to spend that kind of money on this thing.   If few people buy it, the apps just won't be developed for this thing and it'll fail.  It's the whole Chicken and the Egg.  Without apps for it that people want to actually spend that kind of money, people won't buy it.  But if people don't buy it, the app market will never become a thing.  

    If this thing was $1K, maybe,..  but at $3K, no way!!!
    Do you remember CES in January 2010? For many months leading up to Apple's January 2010 announcement and demo (a few weeks after CES) there were rumors that Apple was about to announce a tablet so CES was dominated by tablets trying to be "First!'. There were rumors about what the unannounced Apple tablet would cost so CES had wannabe tablet makers pricing there's around that rumored price, but often just below. Then a few weeks later Apple announces an iPad that starts at $499. I don't know of a single company from CES that actually released the product they were touting. I would not be surprised if we see something similar again with an inflated rumor price and much lower actual price.
    edited June 2023 watto_cobradewme
  • Reply 9 of 14
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 2,370member
    badmonk said:
    OK, I get the repeated comments about a $3K price tag but my first Apple computer (an LC2 with a monitor) that I purchased in 1991 cost $2,700 with an educational discount.  Outside of some used Macs, every Mac I have purchased has been more expensive than $2K by the time I add upgrades.

    In the days of $1000 Taylor Swift tickets, an entry level product for developers that costs $3K is not out of bounds.  Or how about dysfunctional $15K autopilots?

    Who remembers the debut of the AppleWatch that had a gold edition for $10,000?  Fast forward to now and the Apple Watch has been revised from a fashion accessory to a must have health and fitness accessory and the best version is an AppleWatch Ultra that can be had for $700-800.

    Considering the purported complexity of the device, doubling the price of a high end iPhone Max Pro is not out of bounds.
    The first "desktop replacement" laptops were this sort of price $2,999 in the 90's and had swappable batteries. I really don't think that sort of number is out of the range of what some one who will benefit from the form factor will pay. Just like the laptop they will come down in price and slowly be the key computing device people buy standalone in 10-15 years maybe but a long transition has to start somewhere. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 14
    bestkeptsecretbestkeptsecret Posts: 4,270member
    AppleZulu said:
    I'm skeptical that any of these reports on design and features of this rumored device are either current or accurate. We may find out shortly, but I'd bet that the image above will bear little resemblance to any actual Apple device released to the public. I mean, why would the company that makes AirPods build wearable goggles that include clunky speakers on a head strap? If you want immersive audio to go with your AR/VR, you're not going to use head strap speakers, you're going to use AirPods that play the spatial audio directly into your head through your ear holes. Further along these lines, would a company that introduced an iPhone that depended on regularly connecting to a Mac, and a watch that was initially highly dependent on a connection to an iPhone develop a clunky $3,000 device seemingly made to operate independently of every other device that Apple makes? 

    I'm betting that whatever it is, it will be slimmer, smaller, and less expensive than suggested here, and will rely on (and be enhanced by) integration with existing devices like AirPods for audio and an iPhone or Mac for computational power. The more functions it can offload, the smaller and lighter it can be. I'm betting that even the thing about the external battery pack is either nonexistent or an optional add-on, or, surprise, the thing described here is simply a MagSafe connector that uses the same charger as the Apple Watch to charge the device, with no expectation that you'll walk around with a wire hanging off of your left temple. 

    It boggles the mind that people supposedly interested in and aware of how Apple actually does things will every time (seemingly for lack of imagination) fall for the idea that Apple would develop and sell something that fits the description of the perennially compromised and clunky design habits of its competitors. 
    My rating for your prediction:


    edited June 2023 watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 14
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,616member
    Approximately half of the population wears glasses. Will this device work with them? I tried a competing model last month, and without my glasses it was almost unusable.

    What is the focal length I will need for my glasses to work with any headset? Eg, will I need my reading glasses or my long-range glasses? Or will I need a new prescription with a 5 cm focal length?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 14
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,073member
    Approximately half of the population wears glasses. Will this device work with them? I tried a competing model last month, and without my glasses it was almost unusable.

    What is the focal length I will need for my glasses to work with any headset? Eg, will I need my reading glasses or my long-range glasses? Or will I need a new prescription with a 5 cm focal length?
    Or, perhaps the device will have a built-in autorefractor. Take off your glasses, put the device on, it measures your needed vision correction and applies that to its output. 

    Your optometrist has been using an autorefractor for years. It seems plausible and very Appleesque to incorporate this tech into a device so that it can be made smaller because it doesn’t have to fit over endless shapes and sizes of glasses. 

    That’s exactly the sort of thing that Apple does when it creates a new device that isn’t “first,” but blows past its competitors because it’s the first that actually ‘just works.’
    edited June 2023 williamlondonwatto_cobradewme
  • Reply 13 of 14
    AppleZuluAppleZulu Posts: 2,073member
    chadbag said:
    Whatever they end up doing — this thing or some tethered to iPhone lightweight thing -/ I wish them good luck. It’s not a product I think most people want or need and I don’t think it will be a huge hit amongst the general populace.  Hopefully they haven’t spent as much money as Facebook did on the Metaverse.  
    Right. Nobody was going to want the iPhone because without a physical keyboard it was just a toy. Nobody was going to want a rumored iPad because who needs a large iPhone without a phone? Nobody was going to want a rumored watch, because nobody wears a watch any more, and who needs an underpowered, tiny-screened wrist iPhone, when you have an actual iPhone in your pocket?

    I don’t know if anyone will want whatever Apple may be about to introduce… because I don’t actually know what it is. Oddly, neither do you, nor does anyone else popping up on this site to pronounce what’s wrong with this thing they’ve never seen. 

    If I were placing bets, however, I’d pay less attention to unsubstantiated rumors about what it will be, and more attention to Apple’s track record for introducing devices that take a novel approach to a category and, within a few years, dominate the design expectations for that category, because they’ve made a very popular device that no one was going to want. 
    Xed13485williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 14
    XedXed Posts: 2,677member
    AppleZulu said:
    chadbag said:
    Whatever they end up doing — this thing or some tethered to iPhone lightweight thing -/ I wish them good luck. It’s not a product I think most people want or need and I don’t think it will be a huge hit amongst the general populace.  Hopefully they haven’t spent as much money as Facebook did on the Metaverse.  
    Right. Nobody was going to want the iPhone because without a physical keyboard it was just a toy. Nobody was going to want a rumored iPad because who needs a large iPhone without a phone? Nobody was going to want a rumored watch, because nobody wears a watch any more, and who needs an underpowered, tiny-screened wrist iPhone, when you have an actual iPhone in your pocket?

    I don’t know if anyone will want whatever Apple may be about to introduce… because I don’t actually know what it is. Oddly, neither do you, nor does anyone else popping up on this site to pronounce what’s wrong with this thing they’ve never seen. 

    If I were placing bets, however, I’d pay less attention to unsubstantiated rumors about what it will be, and more attention to Apple’s track record for introducing devices that take a novel approach to a category and, within a few years, dominate the design expectations for that category, because they’ve made a very popular device that no one was going to want. 
    Not a reference to chadbag, but it's the same thing with every new product category. First it's product that makes no sense that no one will want, but then after it becomes the  product all others are based on those same people will say that there's no real engineering or brilliant there because it was obvious the whole time. 
    13485williamlondonwatto_cobra
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