Why I'm Cool (but hopeful) on Apple's Rumored Headset

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 4 min read

Editor's note: I will be referring to "VR" headsets, and I'm sure some will correct me that Apple is making an "MR" (mixed reality) headset. In my opinion, if you're not looking at the actual real world, it's a VR headset (and current VR headsets let you see the real world around you as well, so it's not going to be unique to Apple's device). If you're looking through a piece of transparent glass that displays some things over the real world, that's AR. Microsoft's HoloLens is in a weird middle ground, which I would say is fair to call "mixed reality".

I've commented on many occasions that I am not extremely jazzed about Apple's seemingly immanent VR headset. I fully expect whatever they release to be incredibly high-quality hardware, and I'm sure we will be able to explain away its high price tag by comparing its specs to other headsets on the market.

But I'm just not inherently excited about it. Why?

Use Cases, Use Cases, Use Cases

The biggest reason for me is that I just don't see the use cases for my life yet. I think about what I do everyday and ask how a VR headset would make those things better, and I genuinely can't think of anything.

  • Working? No thank you, I'd like to be able to see the world and look out my window with full clarity and without a headset on for hours.
  • Meetings? There is no chance other people I work with will do it, and I'm not going alone on this.
  • Running workouts? Hell no, are you joking?
  • Cooking? I already know how to cook the things I make all the time, and new things are a family event, so working with my wife with a headset covering my face is just super awkward.
  • TV and movies? Maybe if I had a small TV, but a good TV is pretty cheap these days and the quality is just higher on a 4K screen than a small portion of a 4k-per-eye screen as rumored on this headset. Also a non-starter for anything I'm watching with my wife.
  • Gaming? Maybe, although it's notable that I have a PS5 and a gaming PC capable of good VR already and I haven't felt compelled to dive in. All the games I actually want to play are not in VR, and absolutely none of them are on Apple platforms.
  • Traveling? Ah yes, I am traveling to a new place and instead of viewing the world with my eyes, I'm going to don a headset and look at it through a screen. No thank you.

To get me to come around on this product, Apple can do two things:

  1. Convince me that one of the above experiences can be so good that I'll come around on them.
  2. Give me new things I would do with this headset that I can't (or just don't) do today.

I'm not saying that Apple can't do these things, I'm just saying that I need to understand how a product will make my life better to be excited for it. Right now I just don't have a clear vision of how my life will improve with this sort of product, so Apple needs to convince me. They have a long track record of making me feel like I need everything they make, so it could certainly happen.

Who's Using Headsets Today?

The second reason I'm not immediately sold is that the general timeline for people getting VR headsets today goes something like this:

  • Month 1: I love this thing! I want to do so much in VR! I can play these games and have a monitor as big as I want at my desk!
  • Month 2: It's still cool, and there is some new stuff coming soon I want to try, but I don't work in it anymore and I kinda finished the games I wanted to try.
  • Month 3+: Yeah, it's somewhere around here. The battery's probably dead though…

It's basically the Wii…it's awesome at first, then you cool on it, then it gets relegated to the closet as that thing you bought and had fun with but you don't really think to use anymore. Heck, even Ben Thompson, who is very bullish on it for work and bought headsets for his whole team, has said that they stopped using them for work.

And while this is anecdotal (and I do have one friend who loves VR), there's also data showing teens just aren't that into VR right now either. Meanwhile, Meta released the most technically advanced headset to date and it landed with such a thud that they lowered the price by $500 just months after release. Then there were stories about Sony halving their estimates for PSVR 2 pre-orders. Sony denied the story, but in a world of new tech being hard to keep in stock, I can still order any of the PSVR 2 bundles and get them shipped immediately. Maybe it's doing great, but they're certainly not selling more than they can make.

If there is survey data out there showing something different, let me know!

Bring on WWDC

While I'm not over the moon for this device right now, that just means the rumored WWDC reveal has more of a chance to impress me. I'm an optimist and I have a long history of enjoying Apple products, so there is every chance I do a full 180 on excitement this summer. Apple does have a good history of convincing me I need almost everything they make…