Apple is working on augmented reality smart glasses behind closed doors. We look at the latest Apple Glass rumors, including release date, price and expected features
It’s been an open secret for years that Apple is developing AR glasses, particularly since the announcement of ARKit at WWDC. And no wonder: with Google and Microsoft and others actively developing devices for AR, it seems like a party Apple can’t afford to miss.
But what exactly does Apple have in its sights, and when are we going to see the new glasses?
A couple of patents granted in January 2020 gave some insight into Apple’s plans for a headset, but most excitingly a ‘leak dump’ by a trusted source in May 2020 suggests we could get an announcement by the end of the year, and revealed pricing, specs and design details. The source of that leak has also claimed that Apple is working on a separate, round-framed Steve Jobs Heritage Edition of the product, and we’re not sure whether to take him seriously.
In this feature, we look at all the latest Apple AR glasses rumors, patents, and possible release date details, including iOS 13 support for AR glasses.
What is augmented reality?
First, a quick refresher on terms, as many get AR and VR confused.
VR headsets are mounted on the head in a similar way to ski goggles, and completely block your view of the outside world. They track your head movement, and the 3D image displayed inside the headset moves accordingly. This makes it appear as if you’re wholly inside a 3D ‘virtual’ world.
Augmented reality (or AR), on the other hand, is where the glasses are see-through and you can still see the world around you, but an image is displayed in front of your eyes.
AR hit the headlines in recent years, first thanks to Google Glass (which displays 2D images) and more recently with a headset developed by Microsoft called HoloLens that embeds 3D images in the world around you.
Microsoft’s second-gen HoloLens glasses are already available for developers – although anyone can buy one. However, it costs the astronomical price of $3,500 and is focused on the enterprise market rather than the consumer.
As for Google Glass, the development of the consumer-focused product was halted back in 2015, but Google revealed a new-and-improved Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2 in 2019.
If Google and Microsoft are all working on AR products, you can bet your bottom dollar that Apple also has an AR headset prototype in its labs. Apple CEO Tim Cook has gone on record discussing the big possibilities he sees for AR
However, it’s an industry in its infancy. With that in mind, when can we expect to see Apple’s AR headset or glasses?
A 2020 release date had been rumored for a few years, but most sources currently suggest that Apple has pushed the date back to 2022.
The Information reports that at an internal Apple meeting, company executives have shared a roadmap that includes plans for two AR devices: a headset to appear in 2022, and glasses coming a year later in 2023. According to the report, Apple intends to reach out to developers in 2021 with the hope that they will design software for the headset.
At the same time as the Information report appeared, Bloomberg also published a report stating that sources had confirmed that Apple would be delaying the release of its headset from 2020. The 2022 release date has also been confirmed by Ming-Chi Kuo in a May 2020 note to investors.
The first report of a 2020 release date for the glasses came way back in November 2017 via Bloomberg and was backed up by reputable sources in the months and years since.
However long we have to wait, Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster believes that augmented reality will be the next big thing for Apple. Munster is the analyst who was once convinced that Apple would launch a television set.
Munster expects that Apple will release Apple Glasses in late 2021, a year earlier than Kuo’s current prediction but closer to what the sources at Apple, and prolific leaker Jon Prosser, are now indicating. It’s something Munster says we aren’t yet ready for, “but eventually we will be”.
MacRumors reported that documentation in an internal iOS 13 builds indicated that AR headset support was being built into iOS 13, there was even a reference for a device codenamed ‘Garta’, suggesting that the wheels are in motion behind closed doors.
It’s not the only version of iOS that mentions an AR device. In September 2019, 9to5Mac’s Guilherme Rambo tweeted that code in Xcode 11 included a framework for an ARDisplayDevice with files for AR headsets codenamed ‘Franc’ and ‘Luck’ and HoloKit codenamed ‘Garta’.