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Why AR powered smart glasses might be Apple’s next big money maker

Published Aug 26th, 2017 12:00PM EDT
Apple Smart Glasses
Image: Shutterstock

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Google Glass may have been a resounding flop, but some analysts believe that Apple may be able to succeed where Google did not. As a quick refresher, rumor has it that Apple is interested in developing a pair of smart glasses with a strong focus on augmented reality features. While Apple often tends futuristic products and advanced technologies that never see the light of day, a reputable report from the Financial Times not too long ago indicated that Apple wants to transition its smart glasses initiative “from a science project towards a consumer product.”

What makes Apple’s rumored interest in developing AR powered smart glasses all the more intriguing is that developers have already been churning out jaw-dropping iOS demo apps with ARKit. Originally announced at WWDC this year, ARKit provides developers with a suite tools and frameworks that allows them to create incredibly immersive augmented reality experiences. If the demos we’ve seen thus far are any indication, augmented reality may very well take over the way we interact with technology in the months and years ahead.

With so much underlying potential, analyst Tony Sacconaghi believes that Apple’s rumored AR glasses could have a discerinble impact on Apple’s bottom line.

“If a CEO’s comments are reflective of a company’s enthusiasm about a new opportunity, then Apple clearly thinks AR might be a big deal,” Sacconaghi said in a note obtained by Barron’s.

Indeed, Cook, who is notoriously tight-lipped, has been uncharacteristically effusive whenever the topic of augmented reality is broached. In fact, Cook not too long ago went so far as to say that the impact of augmented reality may rival that of the smartphone itself.

“The smartphone is for everyone,” Cook said earlier this year, “we don’t have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining.”

As for the potential financial impact, Sacconaghi writes:

Smartglasses could potentially generate tens of billions of dollars in annual hardware sales for Apple. Comparing it to Apple’s last blockbuster product launch, the iPad, we believe that smartglasses could have just as wide (if not wider) appeal over time. Assuming a $500 ASP23 and an annual adoption rate of 2% in Year 1, ramping up to 5% by Year 3,24 we estimate that Apple smartglasses could generate over ~$25B in annual hardware sales within 3 years of release, with minimal cannibalization of other Apple products.25 26 Apple would subsequently take a majority of profits within the resulting market for smartglasses, just as the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch have done so in their own respective markets.

It’s hard to get too excited for an Apple product that doesn’t’ even officially exist yet, but as the months go by, it’s becoming more plausible that smart glasses might be the game-changing product many people assumed the original Apple Watch would be.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.