Apple's VR headset: We shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the tethered battery

Apple's VR headset: We shouldn't be too quick to dismiss the tethered battery

Apple's VR headset will reportedly come with a wired battery pack. An unusual decision for which we now have new details.

I am not aware of any standalone VR headset with a tethered battery. Those devices have the battery either built into the housing or in the back of the headband.

Magic Leap's AR headsets rely on an external, wired compute pack that attaches to the hip and contains both the battery and the processor.

Frau mit Magic Leap 2, Controller und dem Compute Pack.

The AR headset Magic Leap 2 with a compute pack worn around the waist. Apple 's VR headset could rely on a similar solution. | Image: Magic Leap

If the reports are true, Apple is taking an unconventional approach. The rumors have sparked controversy among enthusiasts and experts, as standalone VR headsets eschew external elements and cables, and a wired design would be very uncharacteristic of Apple.

Industrial designer Marcus Kane has created a 3D concept of the headset and battery (see article image) that might give us an idea of what this combination might look like.

A magnetic port

Apple's former chief designer Jony Ive is said to have been a proponent of separating the headset from the battery pack, and if recent reports from Apple leaker Mark Gurman and The Information are to be believed, the upcoming device will indeed rely on such a design.

Gurman now claims to have new details about how the system works. The VR headset will have two ports: a USB-C port for data and a new proprietary charging connector for the battery pack.

The latter looks like Apple's iPhone MagSafe battery pack and is about the same size as an iPhone, but thicker. From the battery pack, which can be carried in a pocket, comes a fixed cable with a round tip at the other end that magnetically snaps onto the VR headset. To prevent the plug from falling out during use, it is turned clockwise to lock it in place.


Abbildung des iPhone Magsafe Battery Pack Zubehörs von Apple.

The Magsafe Battery Pack for iPhones. | Image: Apple

The Battery Pack itself charges via USB-C and uses the same power adapter that comes with the Macbook Pro. Gurman expects that Apple will offer the ability to buy additional packs, as these only last for about 2 hours.

External battery pack: good or bad idea?

Apple chose this design to reduce the weight of the headset and improve comfort, Gurman writes. In fact, the battery is often the largest and heaviest element of a VR headset.

As counterintuitive as the wired design may seem at first glance, I'm curious to see how it feels. Hardware is a thing: You never know how a design will translate into a user experience until you've had a chance to try it out repeatedly.

I'm sure there are good reasons why Apple is going down this path. The company is looking for a different way to address the issue of comfort. This is definitely to be welcomed, although a lot will depend on how well it is implemented in the end. Fine details like the texture of the cable will play a big role here.

Sources: Bloomberg