The iPhone 15 Ultra, a VR headset and nothing more: Apple in 2023

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
The iPhone 15 Ultra, a VR headset and nothing more: Apple in 2023
Regardless of what you think about Apple, one thing cannot be denied: the Cupertino company has style. Flashy ads, immaculate marketing and grandiose launch events are the norm when it comes to this tech giant.

Well, at least they were. Apple products are typically released in “batches”. By this I mean that even at the company’s biggest event of the year - i.e. the September / iPhone one - more than a single product is usually announced.

However, in late 2022 and early 2023, Apple quietly launched a grand total of six devices, across three product categories, without a launch event and in a rather untypical reticent fashion. The question is why?

In this article, I will take a look at why 2023 will be a rather underwhelming year for Apple fans and the company’s plans for the future. Most of the Cupertino company’s products will be stuck in stasis while they await 2024 to receive the upgrades that many are hoping for. Beyond further ado, let’s get right to it.

Apple’s VR/AR Headset: The Dawn of a New Era

This is the single Apple product I am genuinely excited for in 2023, albeit not for the right reasons. This week, we were treated with the biggest in-depth look into Apple’s upcoming headset (rumored to be dubbed “The Reality Pro”) and it looks rather promising. At the very least, the device will be able to shake up the VR/AR scene, which is never a bad thing.

However, there are two major caveats. Firstly, Apple’s headset will be very, very expensive… even by Apple standards. With an expected price tag of $3000+, the device is unlikely to draw the attention of buyers that are not already seriously invested in AR/VR. Additionally, first-generation products are notoriously problematic, which will further limit the appeal of the headset.

This is perhaps why Apple itself expects the Reality Pro to sell in modest quantities. Which brings me to the second point - the Cupertino company is already working on a more affordable successor. In light of this, the upcoming headset seems to be almost a training exercise of sorts on Apple’s part, which would allow the company, through trial and error, to refine future VR/AR products.

This coupled with the fact that, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman, Apple’s target audience is not the general user, leads me to believe that the headset, from a casual user’s perspective, will be little more than a large-scale experiment.

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This would have been perfectly fine had Apple not redirected talent from other product teams in order to work more extensively on the Reality Pro. As a result, we can expect stagnation in most Apple product lineups.

The iPhone 15: Incremental Updates or a Leap Forward?

It is still early to say whether Apple’s push into VR/AR will affect the company’s flagship product. After all, the iPhone is the Cupertino company’s biggest source of revenue and accounts for more than half of the grand total.

The Reality Pro is actually one of the company’s attempts to diversify said sources of revenue. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that for the foreseeable future the iPhone will still be the biggest Apple product out there. The question is whether the lineup will be taking a hit in 2023, because of Apple’s new endeavor?

The iPhone 15 is more than half a year away, so it is too early to say anything for sure. However, based on Apple’s patterns and some early leaks, we already have a good idea of what to expect. Namely, that the vanilla iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will be transitioning to the Dynamic Island layout, while the Pro models will be increasingly differentiated.

Given that there are already rumors about Apple perfecting under-display Face ID, the Dynamic Island seems to be obsolete by design. Even when the feature was first introduced, I had my doubts about whether it was innovation or just clever marketing.

Now it looks like Apple itself is developing a way to dismantle the Dynamic Island as soon as possible, which lends credibility to the sentiment that the feature is an interim solution. Thus, there is nothing particularly exciting about the implementation of a temporary design choice to the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus.

Nevertheless, it is increasingly clear that Apple is placing a heavier emphasis on its “Pro” iPhones. This year, the divide is set to become even bigger with the rumored iPhone 15 Ultra. There are numerous leaks pointing to more premium materials being used, as well as the implementation of solid-state buttons.

Additionally, the two high-end iPhones 15 models will finally get 3nm chips - courtesy of A17 - and will likely boast both high performance and good battery life. On paper, it seems the iPhone 15 will deliver… but will it be enough?

The iPad and the Apple Watch: The Ones Left Behind

Unfortunately, beyond that one iPhone 15 in September, Apple has seemingly abandoned its other product lineups and left them to rest on their (old) laurels. The iPad lineup is particularly badly affected by the company’s new direction.

Back in October, when Apple released its latest iPads via a press release, one thing was made very clear. Namely, that the lineup as whole was plagued with inconsistency and the new devices only perpetuated the chaotic state in which the iPad portfolio has been ever since the advent of the M1 iPad Pro.

Firstly, the iPad Pro (2022), with its incremental upgrades, was the most underwhelming Apple product refresh in recent memory. Many long-awaited updates never materialized and the gap between the 11” iPad Pro and the iPad Air (2022) remained narrow and confusing.

This is until you take a look at the vanilla iPad (2022). The new entry-level model might have introduced the biggest design revamp in a decade to the series, but there were many peculiar design choices (like Apple’s reluctance to give the tablet support for the 2nd gen. Apple Pencil) and a substantial price increase.

Frankly, the most interesting new addition to the iPad ecosystem was the Magic Keyboard Folio for iPad. This is by far the most functional proprietary keyboard offered by Apple… yet it is compatible solely with the entry-level iPad. Denying the iPads that focus on productivity said accessory is a very questionable decision.

Given that most sources are fairly certain that the no iPad model will be receiving major updates in 2023, it seems like Apple is leaving its tablets in limbo at least until 2024. The latter is when OLED technology will likely finally be adopted by Apple’s iPads. Once that happens, perhaps there will once again be meaningful structure in the iPad range.

The Apple Watch is also unlikely to change much in 2023. Fortunately, unlike the iPad, the Apple Watch is in a really good spot right now. All three models released in 2022 have their unique selling points and are excellent devices in their own right.

In short, 2023 will be a time of stagnation for the iPad, the Apple Watch and even Apple’s Macs. What is good, will remain good, like the Apple Watch. What is broken, will not be fixed until 2024, when more significant updates are due.

Conclusions: What Should You Be Excited About?

As I previously stated, if you are a tech enthusiast, you have a good reason to be excited for Apple’s upcoming year. The Reality Pro, regardless of how good it ends up being, will undoubtedly be interesting.

However, as a consumer, the situation is a bit different. If you are not going to be spending $3000 on a VR/AR headset or the rumored $1200 on the iPhone 15 Ultra, you are out of luck. It seems everything else will either be underwhelming, or will not be happening at all.

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