There has been a lot of industry buzz recently suggesting Apple will bring out its first MR/AR headset in 2023. We know Apple has been working on the software front of AR since they introduced the AR Kit in 2017. And to date, Apple’s store has over 14,000 AR apps available that can be used on the iPhone or iPad.
However, even when Apple introduced AR Kit in 2017, they hinted that some type of headset may be needed to deliver a more immersive and better AR experience.
It is essential to clarify that Apple is not a fan of Meta’s Metaverse VR concept. Apple has never endorsed a VR-focused world. Instead, they have opted to work on a world-class AR experience where data, images, games, and other relative information are displayed on a screen through either an iPhone or iPad or, as expected, superimposed through some MR/AR glasses instead.
All of this Metaverse talk and activity could put pressure on Apple to finally introduce its first set of glasses to enhance its AR vision. Apple is meticulous in its focus on excellent design, functionality, mass production, and ways to support whatever or whenever they bring to market in the way of some form of MR/AR headset. In that sense, Apple will not bring any headset or glasses to market regardless of the competition unless it is truly ready for their millions of customers.
In talking to my contacts in the supply chain, they tell me that there are still a lot of critical technical issues that need to resolve to bring an excellent AR set of glasses to market. As many have pointed out, for people to wear AR glasses, they need to be stylish, lightweight, and yet powerful enough with long battery life to get broad market acceptance. It would require special optical lenses, small cameras, and a tiny video screen that projects images to the lenses themselves to deliver superimposed AR content. They also have to be wirelessly connected to a smartphone so that most if not all of the serious computing functions are done on the iPhone and just relayed to the glasses.
So if Apple does introduce MR glasses in 2023, why would they do it if the technology is not truly ready for prime time?
One reason is that from a historical perspective, all of Apple’s first mobile products, such as the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and even the Apple Watch were works in progress when first released. For example, while groundbreaking, the original iPod only really took off in the third generation model, and when Apple created a way to download music instead of ripping it from CDs, and improved its UI.
The iPhone sold only about 1 million units in its first year. It only took off in its 3rd generation when Apple built out its app store, enhanced the user interface, and delivered a more durable screen with more up-to-date technology.
The same thing happened with the iPad. It, too, had a slow adoption cycle at first. Still, once the iPad-specific applications were launched by its third generation, along with a higher resolution screen and lighter weight, it then took off and now dominates the market for premium tablets. The Apple Watch was a groundbreaking product when it was introduced. But its original focus on being a luxury item with little software available to enhance the experience slowed its initial adoption. As a result, it took off slowly as well and hit broad market acceptance in its third generation.
One major common denominator flows throughout all of Apple’s first-generation mobile products. The first models are always well designed and take full advantage of the technology available to deliver a great experience from the beginning and then evolve the product in next-generation models as the technology improves. Also, the first generation of products has served as a test bed for Apple to fine-tune a product’s design, function, and ecosystem, as it evolves from year to year.
Apple learns a great deal from its early adopters, who will be the first to buy any MR/AR glasses Apple releases whenever they decide to bring them to market.
I am still on the fence about whether Apple will introduce any MR/AR glasses in 2023, given that there is still a lot of work to do on the technological level to deliver a set of MR/AR glasses that appeal to a mass audience.
On the other hand, Apple may have made enough progress on their own, with the help of important strategic partners. As a result, Apple may bring a first generation MR/AR glasses to market in 2023 and start the learning and design evolution process as they did with all of their other mobile devices in the past.