Apple announced the WWDC 2021 event dates earlier this week, confirming what many of us suspected. This year’s developers conference will not return to an in-person format. Like last year, we’ll have a virtual keynote on June 7th, and developers will be able to attend the event for free.
The company used the image above to announce WWDC 2021, which may be a complex joke/teaser that people have been trying to decipher. The simplest explanation is that Apple is referencing a great scene from its Mac event in November when Craig Federighi set the mood to show the virtual audience how fast the M1-powered Macs wake from sleep. The animoji character in Apple’s WWDC announcement is reenacting that hilarious stunt. But many people will also pay attention to the glasses, which might be there to tease something else: Apple’s oft-rumored augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets. Or… it could be nothing.
It wouldn’t be unlikely for Apple to unveil a hardware product like VR, AR, or mixed reality (MR) glasses. These devices need developers’ support long before they’re ready to launch in a commercial version. Apple rarely pre-announces devices, but it did so with the iPhone and Apple Watch. Even the M1-powered Mac mini got a soft-launch last year when Apple made a version of it available to developers.
On the other hand, the image above should not be seen as anything other than a teaser. Apple is well aware of all the rumors about its smart glasses projects, with most of them currently detailing the mixed reality headset. The company probably knows that fans would read too much into that image. Apple might not have time to announce a VR device during a crowded event like WWDC, where execs need to go through several operating systems in a short amount of time. But Apple might also be looking to unveil the MR glasses at some point later this year at an in-person event.
Squeezed in a Bloomberg newsletter is this paragraph about the glasses:
Sometime in the next several months, the company is poised to announce a mixed reality headset, its first major new device since 2015. If possible, Apple won’t want to make such a critical announcement at an online event. It wants employees, the media, its partners and developers in the room.
The newsletter focuses on Apple’s desire to return to in-person operations, both when it comes to day-to-day business and in-person events. That’s the context of the paragraph above. We don’t get any other information about Apple’s rumored MR glasses. But the tidbit comes from Mark Gurman, who has been a steady source of accurate Apple leaks.
Bloomberg has previously reported that the MR headset will be costly and that Apple plans to sell just one unit per day per retail store or about 180,000 units per year. Some leaks said the device will be priced at a whopping $3,000, while analyst Ming-Chi Kuo — the most accurate Apple leaker in the world — said the headset will cost around $1,000. Kuo mentioned several details about the MR glasses in his research notes. The device will supposedly be about as heavy as an iPhone, and it will feature more than a dozen cameras along with eye-tracking technology. A different report said the MR wearable will feature dual 8K displays that will beam content onto the wearer’s retinas.
Most of these rumors claim that Apple plans to launch the MR glasses in 2022, with an AR headset to follow three years later. If Apple does plan to release MR glasses next year though, it will definitely announce them at some point in 2021 so that developers can get to work on apps that support the new platform.