Apple is largely thought to be working on some type of head-mounted augmented reality (AR) device, such as a pair of AR glasses or an AR/VR headset.
There’s been a slew of rumors and other evidence suggesting that Apple is working on such a device. Recent code in iOS 13 pretty much confirms its existence. On the other hand, many of the rumors conflict with each other, which makes the device itself fairly murky.
But a recent discovery by an iOS developer could shed a bit more light on the Apple AR headset. Here’s what you should know.
AR headset compatibility
Developer Steve Troughton-Smith discovered code within iOS 13 suggesting that Apple’s AR device will only be compatible with newer iOS devices.
OK. I have checked all of the device generations running iOS 13. Apple’s ARKit HME (head-mounted experience) is supported on iPhones with an A12 or higher. I take that to mean if you have an iPhone 8, or iPhone X, or earlier, it won’t support head-mounted AR/a headset https://t.co/tfkWNFjEFD
— Steve Troughton-Smith (@stroughtonsmith) September 19, 2019
Basically, anything with an A12 Bionic or newer. Devices older than that, such as the iPhone 8, 8 Plus or X, don’t appear to have support for Apple’s head-mounted experience, or HME.
That actually could be a bit of a relief. A previous tweet from Troughton-Smith suggested that only the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max would support the Apple HME.
It does make sense, since the A12 Bionic’s Neural Engine was actually a significant upgrade over the A11. It appears that Apple’s head-mounted AR experience will require some serious processing power to actually work.
This suggests that the Apple TV would also require some serious reworking and additional processing power. Apple TV support for the upcoming AR device is likely, but it’s possible that the device won’t support any current Apple TV models.
Finally, the iOS 13 hints pretty much confirm that the headset or glasses will require a paired iPhone to work. That’s mostly in-line with most current rumors, though it conflicts with past reports that it could be a more independent system (but we’ll get to that later).
Apple’s AR headset
Rumors of an Apple AR headset or AR glasses stretch back at least a few years. From the launch of ARKit to hidden code strings in iOS 13, it looks like Apple is cooking up something big in the AR sphere.
But, at this point, we just have no idea what that could be. Beyond being AR-based and head-mounted, Apple’s actual upcoming device could take quite a few forms.
Some past reports suggest that it would be a standalone device with its own operating system and App Store. Other more recent rumors indicate that it would operate much like an Apple Watch, requiring a nearby iPhone for internet connectivity.
As far as when the AR device might launch, we don’t have any idea. There were quite a few hints that Apple could have teased it at its September 2019 iPhone event as a “one more thing,” but scrapped those plans at the last minute.
Previous reporting suggests that Apple’s AR device could be ready in time for a 2020 launch, so we may just see a “teaser” later on this year or early next year.
With a possible October keynote event on the table, it’s likely that all eyes will be on Apple’s potential “one more thing” this year.”
Mike is a freelance journalist from San Diego, California.
While he primarily covers Apple and consumer technology, he has past experience writing about public safety, local government, and education for a variety of publications.
He’s worn quite a few hats in the journalism field, including writer, editor, and news designer.