It’s almost 20 years since Apple released the first-generation iPod, 12 since the iPhone and 10 since the iPad. As such, it’s been a while since the company really blew the roof off with a new product. Sure, there have been AirPods and HomePods, Apple Watches. TV and an Arcade, all of which had some of the Apple magic. Each new product is a big deal. You get countless articles on rumours, release dates, specs, reviews. But as for game-changing products? It’s been a while.
Nobody quite knows when Apple AR Headset and Apple Glass (that’s the reported name) will hit the market – 2022 (Headset) and 2023 (Glass) are the dates being thrown around – but to hear Apple’s top brass talk about it suggests we should be in for something special when it does. We have to think about these pieces of tech in the context of related technologies that came before; namely Google Glass (seven years ago) and Oculus Rift (four years ago). Both promised a brave new world of VR/AR, and both delivered to an extent. But do the products available today match that sense of promise when first released?
Lots of Apple AR Buzz
Apple has been tight-lipped about its moves into AR, although its execs have been talking their prototypes up while remaining vague on the details. The rumour mill has gone into overdrive, though, with some speculating that Apple will put style ahead of technology. In respect to the smart glasses, the theory goes that Apple will get us accustomed to donning the glasses (with some basic tech) first, and we can start upgrading afterwards. When it comes to the headwear generally, some believe it will upend the idea of wearables and perhaps even replace the iPhone one day.
Replacing the iPhone is quite the ambition for Apple, and it would mean revolutionising everything from calling a friend to playing blackjack online for money. If you consider the functions of, say, a smartwatch at the moment; they tend to be accessories in every sense of the word – they complement the iPhone, iPad, Mac, console, etc. By and large, they aren’t designed to run independently of those pieces of equipment.
But that argument about replacing the iPhone is mostly coming from Apple itself. From internal memos to briefings from executives, the company is touting the impact of these products. And, that’s why we should take it seriously and perhaps get excited about it. In 2022, we are expected to get the AR Headset, and the ‘lighter’ Apple Glass is expected to follow the year after. The products seem to be branches from the same tree, and it’ll be interesting to see just how intertwined they are.
Other Leaders in AR
It’s worth noting that Apple is far from being a leader in AR at the moment; Google, Microsoft and Facebook are streets ahead when it comes to hardware, and in some areas of software. But that too adds fuel to the fire that Apple is going to come up with a game-changing product. Why do we say it with such confidence? Because there seems little chance that Apple would release something that has little discernible difference from what is already on the market. There is no smoke without fire, if you will; and, there seems to be a lot of smoke coming out of Apple HQ with regards to AR.
Of course, none of this means that Apple will definitely have successful AR products. Nor does it mean predictions that AR headsets (or glasses) will one day replace smartphones are correct. But you can bet your bottom dollar that, when Apple’s AR is ready to roll out, Tim Cook is going to get up in front of a crowd with something significant to say.