Apple has made no secret of its interest in augmented reality (AR). AR has been a core iOS feature for a few years, though AR experiences only work on iPhone and iPad, and they’re not all that exciting yet. AR involves overlaying digital elements on top of the real world. Glasses would work much better than mobile devices for this.
Apple is reportedly working on several smart glasses, including AR devices that look like regular glasses and bulkier headsets that deliver mixed reality (MR) content — those cover both AR and virtual reality (VR) content. The MR headset might be the first to hit stores. It’s been detailed in several reports so far, including rumors that claim the device might be unveiled during a special keynote later this year.
A brand new leak indicates that the AR glasses project is falling behind schedule, suggesting the planned 2022 release date might be impacted.
Taiwanese blog Digitimes said in January that Apple was about to enter the second phase of development for the AR glasses, focusing on battery life and weight. That report said the device could move to volume production as early as the first quarter of 2022. It conflicts with information Ming-Chi Kuo delivered in mid-March — he noted the MR headset would be ready for a 2022 release, and the AR glasses would launch in 2025.
A new Digitimes story (via MacRumors) now says that Apple’s P2 testing phase is yet to begin, and the delay would impact the volume production schedule.
The sources pointed out that after P2, the AR glasses prototype may still need to go through P3 testing, followed by another 2-3 phases of engineering testing before standing a chance of entering volume production.
The supply chain originally estimated that the Apple wearable could start volume production as early as first-quarter 2022, the sources said. But as the P2 testing has yet to begin, the chance of volume production in first-quarter 2022 is looking unlikely, the sources added.
The new report creates further confusion. Digitimes doesn’t have the same accuracy reporting Apple rumors as Kuo and other leakers. Also, it’s unclear if the Taiwanese blog refers to the same devices that the others detailed in the recent past. MacRumors notes that rumors say the current AR glasses prototype resembles high-end sunglasses with thick frames for the batteries and chips.
Comparatively, the MR device would have a visor similar to VR headsets that would cover both eyes. The MR glasses would deliver both VR and AR content thanks to more than a dozen cameras, but they will be heavier and larger than regular glasses.
One other thing to consider is that Apple might need years to come up with AR glasses that are just as elegant as regular glasses. Slightly bulkier versions might be launched before that. Last year, Kuo said the AR glasses might launch in 2022 at the earliest. A few weeks ago, he offered a 2025 release date estimate for the AR glasses. Bloomberg said in January that the glasses are several years away, with Apple looking to launch them in 2023 at the earliest.
Apple never shares details about products that are in development and never corroborates rumors from the supply chain. Delays in prototyping and testing aren’t surprising either for a product that Apple never made before. And if there’s one thing we know about Apple is that it doesn’t launch products before it thinks they’re ready.