Plus: Some beefier Qualcomm Snapdragon chips are on the way, and the right-to-repair movement hits a speed bump.
GOODBYE IPOD, HELLO Eyes Pod. According to a report by Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, Apple has demonstrated a new Apple-made VR headset to its board. Such a product has been rumored for a while and has reportedly been in development at Apple since 2015. We don’t yet know what it looks like or much about its features. It could be weeks, months, or even a couple years before an Apple headset surfaces, but the takeaway is that the device does indeed seem to exist.
The dip into virtual-reality hardware has been controversial within the company, with pushback and disagreements between Apple brass, including former Apple design chief Jony Ive. The upcoming headset uses both virtual-reality and augmented-reality tech, and while Apple is also expected to announce a pair of AR-only glasses someday, they’re not as far along.
When the headset does come out, it’s likely to shake up the wearable VR ecosystem. Today that space is largely dominated by Meta’s Oculus goggles. Meta has made a big fuss with its metaverse marketing, pitching us on a dazzling cyberpunk future. Still, Meta’s gone all-in on its AR and VR ambitions, all the while hemorrhaging $10 billion on its metaverse efforts.
But when Apple releases a Thing, it’s usually a big deal. And this will be the first truly new Apple iThing since the Apple Watch. It certainly seems to be setting up a showdown between the mega consumer tech companies, with Apple and Meta going head-to-head to entice people to their VR visions. Maybe they can battle it out in Beatsaber.
Here’s what else happened this week:
On Friday, the American tech giant announced some new chipsets that should soon be making their way into Android phones near you. The Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is a modest boost to the Snapdragon 8 that you’ll find in many premium Android handsets now. Qualcomm says the “plus” version is 10 percent quicker than the old chip, and 30 percent more power-efficient. Qualcomm’s other new chip is the Snapdragon 7 Gen 1, a replacement for the Snapdragon 700 chips found in mid-tier phones. This time around, the chips will not be made by Samsung, Qualcomm’s previous Snapdragon partner.
Framework, a company that builds laptops “that respect your right to repair,” has launched its second round of its ultra-repairable laptops. The computers are designed with tinkering in mind; they’re easy to customize, disassemble, and slot new parts into. The first batch of laptops ships out in July, though it seems those are all sold out now. Framework says its next shipment will go out this August. David Pierce at the Verge has a good story about how Framework’s hardware fits into the modular gadget movement.
Speaking of reparability …
A right-to-repair bill in California died in a state senate committee on Thursday. If it had passed, the law would have become one of the first in the US to force device manufacturers to make their products more easily repairable by the people who buy them. The law would have required companies to offer repair manuals, parts, and tools for use on their devices.
The advocacy group CALPIRG issued a statement blaming the bill’s failure on pressure from tech manufacturers. “SB 983 could have saved California households as much as $4.3 billion a year in reduced spending on electronics and helped Californians reduce toxic electronic waste,” CALPIRG advocate Sander Kushen said in the statement. “Instead, industry groups’ heavy lobbying effort helped to kill the bill.”
The research firm Canalys published a report this week showing that Google is now the fifth-largest smartphone manufacturer in the US, behind Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, and TCL. Google has now captured 3 percent of the country’s smartphone market. That doesn’t sound huge, but as Android Police notes, it’s almost quadruple the marketshare that Pixels had one year ago.
May is National Bike Month, so what better time to talk about cycling and ebikes? This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, WIRED reviews editor and bicycle expert Adrienne So joins the show to tell you how to get your wheels turning.