Rumours about Apple’s secretive augmented reality headset project have been all over the place in recent years — about the only thing we know for sure is that Apple is working on something that’s expected to arrive in the next couple of years.
In fact, the most reliable report we received allegedly came from within Apple itself, at an all-hands meeting last fall where Mike Rockwell, the head of Apple’s AR/VR team, told a gathering of a pretty large team, that Apple was planning on releasing an Oculus-style AR/VR headset in 2022, followed by a “sleeker” pair of AR glasses that would be coming in 2023.
However, we’ve already been hearing reports that Apple’s augmented reality wearables could arrive sooner than expected, with reports last week suggesting that they’re at least still on track.
While venerable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo confirmed that Apple’s headset would launch by 2022, which lines up with other recent reports, leaker Joe Prosser, who has provided some fairly accurate information lately, actually pegged 2021 as the release date, suggesting that he couldn’t believe he was “going against Kuo on this one,” but insisting that Kuo was wrong and that the Apple Glasses would be released in the spring of next year.
We originally assumed that perhaps Prosser’s information referred to the announcement of the Apple Glasses, since we’ve already heard reports that Apple would release an SDK next year to begin getting developers on board with building apps for the next product. Further, there’s lots of precedent for Apple to unveil products early, especially when they’re breaking entirely new ground. This was the case with the original iPhone in 2007, the Apple Watch in 2014, and the HomePod in 2017.
However, in his Tweet, Prosser also claimed to have actually seen a prototype of the glasses, describing them as “sleek as hell” and promising to show them soon, and today Prosser has doubled-down on his prediction, not only offering up the early 2021 release date, but also making it clear that he’s talking about wearable Apple glasses, not the AR/VR headset that many others have been predicting.
If true, this would represent a pretty big shift from the leak we heard last fall, which clearly said that the headset would come first, with the glasses not coming until 2023, however, Prosser offers some pretty intricate details about the product, including the name, pricing, and some of the specs.
Firstly, according to Prosser, Apple is planning to go with “Apple Glass” as the marketing name for the product, which is interesting since of course that follows directly in the footsteps of “Google Glass,” which didn’t fare quite as well by comparison.
The glasses will apparently start at $499 and offer the option to put in prescription lenses for an additional cost. Each lens will include a separate display that can be interacted with using gestures, and like the original Apple Watch, they’ll rely entirely on a paired iPhone to handle the processing, as we’ve been hearing for a while.
Prosser also says that an early prototype included LiDAR and wireless charging, although it’s unclear if those features will be in the final version.
However, what’s especially amazing, considering how much it flies in the face of most other rumours, is that Prosser says Apple originally planned to unveil Apple Glass as a “One More Thing” surprise at its iPhone event this fall, however restrictions on in-person gatherings suggest that it may delay the announcement until March 2021, since they want the media to be able to be there to cover it in person, since it’s a groundbreaking new category.
That said, Prosser does acknowledge that the device isn’t expected to be released until late 2021 or early 2022 either way, which actually does line up with Kuo’s predictions after all, particularly since Apple is going to need to get as many developers on board as possible if it wants Apple Glass to have a strong launch when it finally debuts.
As with other products, Apple Glass is significant enough that Apple surely wants to stay ahead of the curve, and as Steve Jobs famously said about the original iPhone, the company undoubtedly wants to make sure that it’s the one to announce the product, rather than waiting for too many leaks to come out. Considering the leaks we’re already seeing, that’s pretty understandable.
Still, if Prosser is correct, this speaks to a much earlier release for Apple’s ambitious Apple glasses than we’d originally anticipated. It also suggests that if Apple is in fact working on an Oculus-style headset as well, it’s much more likely to be a gaming headset, rather than simply the first-generation of Apple’s bigger vision for augmented reality, since the current timeframe suggests that both products are likely to be released in parallel.