Apple leakers claimed for a few years that the iPhone maker was developing the device that might replace the smartphone in the future. Routinely dubbed Apple Glasses, the product is a virtual reality (VR) and/or augmented reality (AR) head-worn device. Or a mixed reality (MR) headset that can offer both features. Those rumors intensified this year, with an increasing number of reports detailing the imminent mixed reality device. The same leaks also mentioned the AR-only Apple Glasses of the more distant future. These will be nimble but sophisticated eyeglasses-like wearable devices, according to some reports. Some of these rumors said Apple might unveil its first-gen smart glasses as soon as 2022. An insider familiar with Apple’s timeline reiterates those plans, but with a huge twist. The commercial release of the first-gen Apple Glasses might trail by several months after the official reveal.
The Apple Way
Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman addressed Apple’s plans for the following years when the company wants to unveil devices it has never made before. Apple has a particular playbook in place when it comes to product launches. That’s why the Apple Glasses and Apple Cars of the near future will need plenty of time to hit stores after the initial launch.
It’s easy for Apple to stay silent on product refreshes like the iPhone, Mac, or Apple Watch. Even if the next generation leaks, Apple can afford to unveil them just a few days before the commercial release. But that’s not the case with first-gen devices.
The iPhone came out 171 days after its January 9th, 2007, announcement. Apple introduced the original iPad on January 27th, 2010, and then released it in stores 66 days later. Finally, the first Apple Watch needed 227 days of development between its mid-September 2014 launch and its mid-April 2015 release.
In each case, Apple wanted to stay ahead of leaks that would have increased the closer it got to the commercial launch. That’s because Apple would have had to file documentation for regulatory approval with the FCC. Also, Apple would have opened these devices to more Apple employees and third parties, like developers creating or adapting apps for the new form factors.
When Apple unveils the AR/VR glasses, it’ll have to stick to a similar playbook. The company will first unveil the hardware and then give developers time to tinker with the brand new device.
Apple Glasses release date estimates
But Gurman speculates in the newsletter that the wait time between the Apple Glasses reveal and the actual commercial debut might be longer than before. He still expects Apple to unveil the first-gen device in 2022. But the gap between the glasses introduction and the launch to be comparable with the original Apple Watch:
Apple’s first headset will have a complex, expensive-to-build design, complete with interchangeable lenses. The company will likely need to work with governments globally on possible prescription lenses and partner with a bevy of manufacturers on complex technologies that neither side has shipped before.
Perfecting the first-gen Apple Glasses will take time, and Apple needs to work with people outside the development team for the finishing touches. Making the first-gen glasses available to other people in Apple’s organization, other partners, and developers is only part of the launch delay policy.
The gap between the launch event and in-store release allows Apple to market the device. In the process, Apple can drum up excitement for a brand new product. The first-gen Apple Glasses will be pricey. Both developers and buyers have to get excited about it for it to succeed.
Gurman speculates that Apple will introduce the AR/VR headset at next year’s WWDC event. The product could ship late next year or in 2023.
Apple Car will see even more extensive launch delays
He also addressed launch plans for the first-gen Apple Car. That’s another product that we kept seeing in Apple rumors this year. Gurman says that we might witness an even bigger gap between the introduction of the vehicle and its commercial release.
Making a car is even more complicated than a mixed reality headset. Apple might unveil the vehicle in 2025, as some reports say. But it could take even longer for buyers to get it than the first-gen Apple Glasses.