Apple’s first AR glasses to arrive in 2020 as iPhone accessory

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iOS 11.3 ARKit
Augmented reality will be even better with glasses.
Photo: Apple

Apple’s long-rumored augmented reality glasses will finally arrive in 2020, according to a trusted analyst.

The first-generation specs reportedly will function strictly as an iPhone accessory. They will depend on Apple’s smartphone for processing, rendering, location services and just about everything else. Mass-production of the Apple AR glasses could start later this year.

Augmented reality has become increasingly important to Apple. Recent upgrades to iOS introduced new AR technologies and improvements, and the company has long been working on AR glasses that can take its ARKit framework and software to an exciting new level.

Now, Ming-Chi Kuo, perhaps the most trusted Apple analyst on the planet, predicts those glasses will finally arrive next year.

Look out for Apple’s AR glasses in 2020

Kuo expects Apple to start mass-producing its first set of AR glasses in late 2019 or early 2020 at the latest. The company plans to launch the glasses sometime next year, Kuo wrote in a note to investors obtained by Economic Daily News. (Here’s a link to the Google Translate version of the story.)

The glasses will be an iPhone accessory that acts kind of like an external display. Apple’s AR glasses are expected to depend on the phone for all processing, scene rendering, data connectivity and location services.

The glasses won’t be much use without an iPhone, then — but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Sleek and lightweight?

By taking advantage of the processing power of the iPhone, rather than carrying their own, Apple’s AR glasses could be sleek and lightweight. They should certainly look a lot better than bulky virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Go.

It’s not yet clear how Apple plans to connect the two devices. Fans will certainly be hoping for wireless communication, and some rumors have claimed Apple could use 60GHz WiGig technology. But that might not be ideal.

WiGig would certainly offer the kind of robust wireless connection needed for AR glasses, but it isn’t supported by today’s iPhone lineup. You would need a brand new iPhone, or an adapter for your old one.

Apple could use cables to ensure reliability instead. But making the glasses exclusive to a future iPhone could be a big selling point for that device at a time when Apple is under pressure to boost slowing smartphone sales.

What about battery life?

How Apple’s AR glasses will be powered also remains a big question. If they’re wireless, they’ll need a battery of their own — and it might need to be fairly big to power its displays and wireless chips for lengthy periods.

If the glasses use wires, they could have a big impact on iPhone battery life.

We’ll have to wait and see what Apple has up its sleeve (on its face?) next year. If manufacturing does start later this year, we can probably expect to find out more about the glasses before their official unveiling.