Following hints about a potential Apple AR headset found in iOS 13 earlier this fall, a new report from a well respected Apple analyst suggests that Apple’s AR glasses could arrive as early as the first half of 2020.
According to a note from TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo (via MacRumors), mass production of Apple’s headset could begin in Q4 of 2019 in preparation for a release slated for sometime in Q2 2020.
Kuo claims that Apple will be working with a number of third-party suppliers including Changying Precision, which is expected to be responsible for the central chassis in Apple’s AR headset.
Apple’s headset is rumored to be an accessory to the iPhone rather than a standalone device, with some kind of wireless connection allowing Apple to leverage the iPhone’s processor in order to power the headset’s display.
If this is true, Apple would most likely use the new U1 chip in the iPhone 11 to create that connection, as the U1's support for ultra-wideband allows for a connection that delivers high bandwidth and low power usage, but without the longer range you typically get from alternatives like Bluetooth and wifi. However, because rumored Apple’s headset would presumably never be very far from its companion iPhone, concerns about ultra-wideband’s limited range wouldn’t really be an issue.
Rumors claim Apple’s headset will also get its own operating system based on iOS called rOS (“reality operating system”), which could support a number of possible uses cases such as heads up directions, hands-free texting, and more.
That said, for anyone thinking about saving up so they can actually buy Apple’s AR headset at launch, you may want to hold off for now. There’s a good chance this initial headset may only be a developer kit and not a device slated for a full consumer release, as there isn’t much of a reason to sell AR glasses if there’s no content to go with it.
Starting with a dev kit would echo the production cycle of competitors like Microsoft’s HoloLens (which is now on its second generation) and the Magic Leap One. Though if Apple opts for a simpler headset design similar to devices like North’s Focals, or Vuzix’s Blade, Apple may be less hesitant about releasing a consumer-ready headset next year.
Either way, it’s been almost three years since the last time Apple moved into a new product category with the AirPods, so its about time for Apple to expand its device portfolio again.