Apple XR Headset Could Have Rare and Expensive Displays
Nikkei Asia is reporting that Apple has selected Chinese manufacturer and supplier Luxshare for its augmented reality devices, marking the first time the tech giant is opting for a Chinese supplier for its first-generation product.
The Nikkei reports that Luxshare has taken control of the Shanghai-based augmented reality development team, previously under Taiwanese company Pegatron.
This is the first time Apple is using a Chinese tech supplier for a first-generation product. It has previously used suppliers from Taiwan such as Foxconn to build the first generations of its product lines. Its new partnership is also coming at a time when the company is facing increasing scrutiny over its use of Chinese supply chains amidst US-China tensions.
Although the Apple headset has been in development over the past seven years, the company is yet to officially disclose the project. However, there have been a number of leaks, reports, and speculations about the headset. Recent rumors and information from patent filings by Apple-linked shell companies suggest the AR/VR headset will be called Apple Reality Pro and will have both augmented reality and virtual reality capabilities. There have also been reports that the headset will now be unveiled at the WWDC 2023 in June. However, since the unveiling has been postponed severally, we cannot rule out the possibility that we could see another delay.
Nikkei Asia also reported fresh details on the cost of the displays and Apple’s manufacturing partners for the headset. The device’s top-quality OLED microdisplays will be manufactured by Sony Japan and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing while Luxshare, an up-and-coming manufacturer in China, will perform the assembly of the headsets.
OLED microdisplays are revolutionary and promising displays for the VR industry. They are a vast improvement as they are smaller, lightweight, and energy efficient. They also have high contrast and richer colors.
OLED displays can produce very high resolutions and brightness in contrast to many of the current display technologies. The Apple AR/VR headset is said to pack OLED microdisplays with a resolution of up to 4K per eye.
The drawback with OLED displays is that they are incredibly complex and are, thus, costly to manufacture. Only a few XR headsets use OLED displays. An example is the $1,000 Bigscreen Beyond headset with a resolution of 2,560 x 2,560 pixels per eye. The $6,500 Varjo XR-3 headset with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,920 pixels per eye is also built with OLED microdisplays. If indeed the Apple headset is built with OLED microdisplays, it will likely have double the pixels per eye.
According to Nikkei Asia, a single OLED display could go cost Apple $150 so a pair will go for $300. Analysts estimate that the total cost of the headset’s displays and chips could take the device’s retail price to anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000.
The report adds that Foxconn is also involved in the Apple headset project and is reportedly working on a parallel and cheaper second-generation device that could use cheaper components and retail at a cheaper price.
According to the Nikkei Asia report, Foxconn’s main focus will be on the automation of mass production and the fine-tuning of production performance so Apple can cut down on costs. An Apple executive is quoted in the report as saying the headset may not have much mass appeal due to the costs and will likely mostly attract “passionate tech geeks or premium customers.”