According to the Financial Times, figures suggest Apple is only ordering parts for as few as 130,000 to 400,000 of their mixed reality glasses in 2024 – less than 10% of some of Wall Street's more optimistic estimates.
The revolutionary Vision Pro glasses were announced to the world with massive fanfare at last month's WWDC, though Apple was no more precise than "Early next year" when announcing the $3,500 / £2,750 / AU$5,250 glasses. Even that might prove too ambitious, some warn, based on this new report.
Other Apple-watcher are taking a more relaxed stance, pointing out the higher-than-expected price was a clear indicator that Apple was already attempting to control demand since these quality control and parts issues were expected.
The Financial Times story indicated that two unnamed sources close to Apple and the production partner on the glasses, Luxshare, were preparing to make fewer than 400,000 units in 2024. That's a long way short of some of the higher forecasts from investment firms – admittedly Wedbush said a restrained 150,000 but Morgan Stanley plumped for 850,000 and Goldman Sachs touted 5 million as a maximum possibility.
Admittedly that's bonkers – the iPhone sold just 1.4 million in its first year and (if we're honest) back then a phone had a proven daily use case, which is more than can be said for mixed-reality glasses (yet).
The Vision Pro glasses feature a lot of new tech and difficult-to-source components. Because Apple is trying to push a new field, they also need the cooperation of parts manufacturers, including Sony – who produced the prototype high-resolution micro-OLED displays. Sony has been investing in a new plant to produce image sensors for phone cameras, but according to a quote in the FT, "will be watching" rather than rapidly expanding AR display production, though they didn't comment specifically on Apple's glasses.
The FT article also suggests that one more loose-lipped Chinese parts supplier is now saying it is only supplying parts for 130,000-150,000 glasses.
Since the original announcement, Apple – now valued at $3 trillion – has offered little new information about the glasses. It's clear, though, that some need to be out there for developers to start creating a 'killer app' (or great games, if that's how it ends up going).
A launch like this, after all, will be part of a multi-year plan. Products like the iPhone, iPad, and even MacBook all took a few years to settle, and persuading the parts supply industry to join the ride is what Apple do.
Apple will be much more price-focused on the next generation headset – with which it is reportedly already working with Samsung and LG. Manufacturing partners like Luxshare will no doubt be irritated to have quantities (and income) slip but it may have a limited impact on the timeline for the next generation – which is probably the one you were thinking of buying!
A week ago analysis firm Canalys posted that it believes, setbacks aside, "Apple will surpass all other players in the XR field. Canalys forecasts that the Vision Pro and the related device lineup will reach a 20 million user base by the fifth year after the product launch in 2024." That's a pair of glasses for about 15% of MacBook owners, or just 2% of iPhone users, which would still make it a success.
On the subject of the iPhone, we're keeping an eye on the latest on the iPhone 15, (which should also be with production partners by now). If, on the other hand, it's glasses and you just can't wait, I reviewed TCL Nxtwear S last week – they're cheaper and available now!