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Apple Reality Pro could be amazing, but you shouldn’t buy it

OPINION: Apple’s forthcoming Reality Pro headset may be its most exciting new product since the iPhone, but you should probably hold off for future generations.

It’s been a less prevalent trend in recent years, but traditionally, the second-generation of a new Apple product is where the concept really starts to shine.

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Whether it’s headline features that didn’t quite make it into the first generation product, or teething problems that are ironed out in the updated version, it often pays to be patient when the company launches a brand new product category.

The Apple Watch is a prime example of this, as are AirPods and so is the iPad. They all really started to shine the following year, or, once a more premium version launched.

This certainly sounds like it’ll be the case when it comes to the Apple Reality Pro headset that is currently being prepped ahead of a rumoured unveiling less than three months from now at WWDC.

Realistic tone

Indeed, according to the well-connected Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, the first Apple mixed reality headset could struggle to win over even those at the top of the company’s food chain.

“Executives are striking a realistic tone within the company,” Gurman wrote in his weekly Power On newsletter. Many are “clear-eyed about Apple’s challenges pushing into this new market,” he says.

And with good reason. It’s likely to cost a bomb, doesn’t have a killer app to speak of, might not be that comfortable to wear and has a limited battery life.

“Moreover, the device will start at around $3,000, lack a clear killer app, require an external battery that will need to be replaced every couple of hours and use a design that some testers have deemed uncomfortable. It’s also likely to launch with limited media content,” Gurman writes.

Recent demonstrations at Apple HQ were “polished, glitzy and exciting”, and likely representative of what we’ll see at WWDC, Gurman writes. However, internally, eyes may already be on future generations of the device in terms of securing wider spread consumer adoption.

One version costing around half the price and another with more power are due within a couple of years, Gurman reckons.

Teething problems

I’m inclined to think there will be real world teething problems for this device. It’s rare that a brand new product category is without them. My hunch is that skipping the first generation product would be wise move here.

Flaws will be ironed out, stronger products will follow the first. First generation products may be incompatible with second generation advances (as we saw with PSVR 2). The second-gen model may add also features like GPS and LTE which will be necessary for a truer augmented reality experience.

It’ll take time, but the third-party app ecosystem will be deeper once developers realise there is value to be had in producing content for new ecosystem. This was the case with the original App Store, and certainly with the Apple Watch too.

There won’t be much value in rushing to buy this product, other than being among the first to have it.

Apple reckons it can sell up to one million in the first year on sale. The company has a large enough hardcore following for this to be a reasonable target. There’ll be plenty of people with money to burn who have to have the very latest toys. Unfortunately most of us don’t fit the criteria for the first part of the equation.

There’s enough to suggest Apple will be able to present a compelling use case at WWDC. It’s the company’s greatest strength – sprinkling a little bit of the magic dust that makes us feel like we need something we didn’t even know we wanted.

This time it may be necessary to show some restraint.

I have no doubt Apple will eventually deliver something tens of millions of people will be walking around town sporting the headgear. Just as commonly as you see a head buried in an iPhone and an outside world shut out by AirPods. It’s actually quite depressing, in fact.

For a couple of years more, at least, there’ll be respite. Because only the few should buy this first-generation product.

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