One thing that didn’t get much attention during the announcement of Apple Vision Pro is the headset’s modular design. With straightforward connections and magnetic mounting, the company’s robust ecosystem of third-party accessory makers will no doubt be scurrying to offer options.

In a, perhaps surprising, move Apple built Vision Pro with modularity in mind. This is surely a recognition by the company that one size does not fit all when it comes to an XR headset.

When I tried Vision Pro for myself earlier this month, I found that ergonomics were one of the few places where it didn’t feel like Apple was raising the bar. But considering the modular design of the headset, it seems likely there will be options to choose from.

Not only did the headband of my demo unit have an ‘M’ on it (suggesting Apple itself is probably making S, M, and L sizes), but the way each piece of the headset attaches together makes it appear that the door is wide open for third-party accessories.

First there is the quick-release headstrap, which is easily disconnected with a simple pull of the orange tab.

Image courtesy Apple

And luckily the way the speakers are mounted means they’ll always be there no matter which strap you’re using.

Image courtesy Apple

Then there’s the facepad which is magnetically attached, meaning third-party facepads can make use of those magnetic attachment points.

Image courtesy Apple

The same goes for the prescription lens inserts; although Zeiss has been named as the official maker of prescription lenses for Vision Pro, any lens maker should be able to make lenses that clip in magnetically.

Image courtesy Zeiss

The only question that’s up in the air is the headset’s battery, which attaches with a curious rotating connector.

Image courtesy Apple

It’s unclear if Apple will have made this connector proprietary in some way that’s difficult for third-parties to couple with. If Apple didn’t go out of their way to prevent third-parties from doing so, then we’ll likely see additional battery options, like larger capacity batteries and even battery-headstraps to prevent having a tether down to your pocket.

Apple has one of the most robust third-party accessory ecosystems of any consumer electronics brand—estimated at tens of billions in annual revenue. The company is also pretty good about providing detailed resources and guidelines for accessory makers, including full diagrams of products for accessories that require precise fitting, and it’s very likely this will eventually extend to Vision Pro.

Be it iPhone cases or MacBook keyboard covers, it’s not uncommon for the company’s third-party accessory makers to race to be the first on the market with an accessory for the newest Apple product, and you can bet there will be at least a few gunning for that finish line when Vision Pro launches early next year.

Image courtesy Apple

The thing I’m most looking forward to is third-party headstraps. While the one that comes with Vision Pro is nice from the standpoint of the materials and tightening mechanism, I still almost always prefer a more rigid strap, which should be possible given the modularity of the headset as we know it today.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • fcpw

    You don’t get to a 3 trillion dollar valuation without thinking about ancillary sales.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      It is quite interesting that articles about Meta headsets usually talk about the Quest and the Quest store, while articles about the Apple Vision Pro pretty much all immediately went for “ecosystem”, as the headset itself and its use cases are seen as parts of a mix of first and third party hardware, software and services that all make up the experience, with every part expected to come with its own price tag.

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    “The only question that’s up in the air is the headset’s battery, which attaches with a curious rotating connector.”

    I believe that curious rotating connector is a Magsafe connector, it’s like the ones they use on MacBooks – with magnets, so if you accidentally pull on the cord, it just disconnect without breaking the port.

    • I‘m not quite sure about that, since it has a rotary mechanism to „lock in“. Which obviously isn’t the case on the magsafe of say a MBP.
      The rotating mechansim might actually prevent the cable from detaching.
      But we want know for certunless a developer spills the beans on it …..

      • Till Eulenspiegel

        It will be crazy to lock the cord to a $3500 VR headset when you are waving your arms – and you can easily pull it and break the connector.

        • Yes, I get it. But its not actually where you „wave your hands around“, is it? Its running down your back over your shoulder. If it would connect like the MBP magsafe it would constantly disconnect when you sit down and put some tension to the battery in your backpocket.
          It might be something in between that isn’t on the market out now.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            I’d also guess they will have gone for some kind of middle ground. Magsafe has to be simple to detach, as the device it powers is very light and someone tripping over the cable would easily yank it to the ground. The consequences of detaching the power connector are usually harmless, as the devices hold batteries to power them for many hours.

            The situation on the AVP is different. It takes quite some force to yank a wired headset from someone’s head, in fact it is more likely the person itself will fall, so the main goal isn’t to protect the device, but the users. The headset either holds no battery at all, or only a tiny one to allow for short interruptions, so something as easily disconnected as magsafe would lead to a much worse user experience.

            Using magnets in combination with some type of locking mechanism may be simply to aid with inserting the connector, which would make most sense if they were planing for hot-swapping batteries, allowing users to just remove the emptied battery pack and roughly aim with the magnetic connector at the socket at the side of the HMD while wearing it, for it to snap in. But with hot-swapping not being mentioned, the main reason for a magnetic connection, which is much harder to get to work reliably than a simple USB-C port, should be to allow a quick disconnect in case the battery pack gets stuck somewhere. Meaning whatever extra locking mechanism there is also has to open when enough force is applied.

            Which isn’t that hard to implement, the metal tongues in every headphone jack also act as springs to hold the cable in place, often enough that wired headphones can catch a falling phone. So it is possible they created a connector that slides into the right position with magnets, than requires a 90° turn that “screws in” the connector, stopping it from easily falling of, but with the end position not being completely closed, instead physically open but covered by strong springs, so that applying enough force will still yank the connector out without damaging the socket, the main resistance not being the rather weak magnets like in magsafe, but a stronger mechanical mechanism.

            Not that difficult to engineer, and a much better fit for the AVP than either a weak magsafe connection or a basically fixed tether. And I still find it hard to believe that they won’t offer some kind of battery hot-swap mechanism that would allow users to just switch the battery pack on the go after two hours instead of having to shut down the whole device. The long term direction is AR with the headset worn as a mobile tool for long stretches of time, where even a very fast shutdown and reboot required every two hours would be very annoying. And being able to insert the connector blindly thanks to it being guided by magnets almost screams “hot-plug-capable”, all it would take is a small battery/capacitor to keep passthrough running for time it takes to locate the replacement pack and insert it, so the user is neither blinded for even a short time, nor has to take off and later readjust the headset.

          • Till Eulenspiegel

            Maybe it has a small capacity internal battery? Even a built-in battery that last 5 mins is sufficient for hot swapping.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            A BOM for the AVP from Wellsenn XR, leaked on May 18th by Brad Lynch, lists a 10,000mAh “external battery” for USD 15, and a 500mAh “headset battery” for USD 3. With the 2h runtime mentioned so far, the AVP would consume 5000mAh per hour, meaning an internal 500 mAh battery would last for 6min, so your 5min guess would be pretty much spot on.

            It is unclear though if or how far this BOM is based on educated guesses or insider information. I don’t remember where the information that APC would not support battery hot-swapping even came from, and there is also the chance that Apple isn’t talking about technical specs yet because details like capacities could still change before the launch in early 2024, a rather unspecific date all by itself. I’d assume they will include a small battery and offer hot-swapping, as the option arises pretty much all by itself from necessary safety features, but as usually with Apple, we probably won’t know for sure until the final version is actually released.

  • Lhorkan

    …wouldn’t the other side of the battery cord just have a USB C connector?

    • gothicvillas

      Is apple using usb’s? I thought they have their own systems

    • Ben Lang

      Our understanding is the cord is permanently attached to the battery >_<