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The road to Apple AR Glasses is paved with Vision Pro headsets

Published Jun 24th, 2024 4:30PM EDT
Apple Vision Pro
Image: Jonathan S. Geller

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For years, we heard rumors that Apple was developing a device that would eventually “kill” the iPhone: A pair of augmented reality smart glasses.

The Apple AR Glasses would be about the size of a regular pair of glasses, but they’d be able to place various digital elements in your field of view. Think messages, directions, information from the web — that sort of thing. The iPhone might initially power the AR glasses, but they would likely one day evolve into a standalone device.

Other reports said Apple was also making an AR/VR headset, which would give users access to augmented reality and virtual reality (VR) features. This device would be a precursor to the Apple AR Glasses.

It’s mid-2024, and we’re closer than ever to that future. Apple released the AR/VR headset, the Vision Pro spatial computer, which is about to hit more markets soon. I believe the technology in the Vision Pro will be used in Apple AR Glasses down the road, but it’ll take a while to get there.

A new report from an insider familiar with Apple’s plans gives us the most optimistic release date for the Apple AR Glasses based on the company’s strategy change for the Vision Pro. The glasses might drop as soon as 2027, but I think it sounds too good to be true.

That insider is Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. He detailed Apple’s purported plans for the Vision Pro, Vision, and AR Glasses in a newsletter release over the weekend.

The Vision Pro is a sophisticated device, but it’s also a tough sell at $3,500. It’s launching in several additional markets in the coming weeks, but that might not significantly boost sales. Not that Apple has the ability to manufacture a massive number of units anyway.

Gurman says that Apple’s challenges with the product prompted some “soul searching” at the Vision Products Group (VPG), which might have led to a different strategy for the product.

Apple might prioritize a cheaper Vision model, which could launch late next year. Apple wants to sell it for $1,500 to $2,000. It’ll reach those price points by making several compromises.

Dubbed N107 internally, the cheaper Vision is reportedly the Focus of Apple’s VPG. Gurman explains how Apple can make the Vision more affordable than the Pro. If you’re a fan of the product, you might not like some of the purported changes. Apple could drop the external EyeSight display, lower the specs of the internal displays, and use a less powerful cheap to power the experience.

Apple could also lower the quality of the AR passthrough visuals, which is the ability to see real-world devices. Moreover, the N107 prototypes have a narrower field of view.

Separately, Apple is considering tethering the Vision to a Mac or iPhone. Some of these compromises might alter the Vision experience, there’s no doubt about it.

visionOS 2 will always show the Magic Keyboard when connected to the Vision Pro.
visionOS 2 will always show the Magic Keyboard when connected to the Vision Pro. Image source: Apple Inc.

Apple is also working on a Vision Pro 2 device, codenamed N109. This one would look like the current model, featuring a faster processor and better external cameras. Apple also wants to make the second version lighter and more comfortable. The Vision Pro 2 would be delayed to the end of 2026 at the earliest instead of coming next year.

This Vision roadmap is important for the Apple AR Glasses. The same report notes that Apple has renewed efforts to make AR-only glasses. The earliest release date for such a product could be sometime in 2027. But Gurman says none of the Apple employees he talked to believe the glasses will be ready in a few years.

The reporter notes that Apple won’t drop the Vision product anytime soon. It’s not just looking to transform this product category into a multi-device setup, similar to what’s available from all its other products. Apple supposedly wants to give the VPG time to prove whether AR glasses are feasible.

That’s the kind of product I’ve been dreaming of for years. Apple AR Glasses could replace the iPhone much later down the road. That’s something Gurman also mentions:

That product seems to have the most promise for augmenting — and perhaps ultimately replacing — the iPhone.

Apple proved at WWDC that the Vision Pro is at the core of its priorities. visionOS 2 was the first software update Apple demoed, revealing a few exciting new features for the Vision Pro operating system. Strangely enough, Apple Intelligence wasn’t part of the Vision Pro upgrades, but that’s a different conversation. Gurman says Apple is already working on visionOS 3 for next year.

Apple needs both hardware and software advancements to make that first pair of Apple AR Glasses. Whether it’s coming in 2027 or much later, I think the Vision devices and visionOS will prepare us for the post-iPhone future.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.