After recently renewed enthusiasm for the arrival of Apple's long-awaited AR wearables – the subject of several reports and rumors in recent years – some of that excitement can now be somewhat dampened.
But this time around, the Apple smartglasses news comes from Apple's own in-house team, rather than analysts citing named sources.
In a meeting with up to 1,000 employees at Steve Jobs Theater, Mike Rockwell, Apple's vice president responsible for VR and AR initiatives, revealed the team's product plan for AR hardware. Instead of 2020 or 2021, the CEO told his team that a non-bound AR headset would instead be launched in 2022, according to a report by CNBC citing The Information about the meeting's details.
The original immersive computing headset would be followed in 2023 by AR smartglasses, currently codenamed N421, with a minor form factor designed for everyday wear.
Both products would display 3D content in the user's field of view, similar to how ARKit works on iPhones and iPads today.
The product's roadmap confirms previous reports that Apple's first AR portable would be a hybrid VR / AR headset, which is currently under development under the code name T288. Recent reports of code discovered in iOS 13 buildings also refer to the testing of an AR headset.
Analyst reports and rumors about the timeline for the arrival of Apple AR laptops have generally agreed on 2020 as the event horizon, although noted analyst Gene Munster pushed back the expected timeline to December 2021 in a report published last year.
Later, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that Apple's AR portable would be announced in the first half of 2020, with shipping beginning later next year. Missing from the reports from Apple's in-house meeting are all mentions of an iPad Pro with depth sensor, which remains a realistic possibility given that Samsung has begun to integrate similar components into its current generation Galaxy phones.
While the latest reports, specifically attributed to Apple leadership, will disappoint AR enthusiasts, the adjusted itinerary reflects the timelines of AR devices from other tech giants. Facebook's AR smartglass will not arrive until 2023, according to the latest reports while Snap CEO Evan Spiegel predicts that fully engaging AR smartglass is another 10 years from the mainstream assumption.
But can the AR industry, especially the component – create start-ups that use consumer electronics manufacturers to build and ship AR headsets in bulk, survive in time for the market to mature? With Magic Leap, the AR unicorn with about $ 2.4 billion in funding, showing cracks in its financial base, the answer to that question is as mysterious as ever.