Tim Cook Just Teased Apple's Next Big Device

Shortly after Apple's WWDC 2022 event, Apple CEO Tim Cook sat down for an interview with China Daily that shed a little more light on the company's plans for the future. We're talking "blink and you'll miss it" levels of additional information. But it still provides what could be interpreted as a silver lining. 

Rumors have suggested for months that Apple has been working on an Augmented Reality / Mixed Reality (AR / MR) combo headset. It was reported relatively recently that this headset was hit with delays that could push its reveal and release back to 2023. Or possibly even later. But Cook did let slip — probably intentionally — that Apple is most certainly working with AR experiences, and very likely something grander than software.

A China Daily reporter asked, "What do you think are the key factors for AR products such as AR headsets to succeed in the consumer market?" Cook responded, speaking about software at first, "Right now... we have over 14 thousand ARKit apps in the App Store, which provide AR experiences for millions of people around the world. But I think... we're still in the very early innings of how this technology will evolve." Cook then dropped the hint we've been waiting for, saying, "I couldn't be more excited about the opportunities we've seen in this space, and sort of stay tuned and you'll see what we have to offer."

It doesn't make up for the lack of AR headset info at WWDC 2022, and it doesn't provide any extra details, but it at least confirms that something more tangible than ARKit development tools is still in the works.

What we do know about Apple's AR headset

Most of the details that have been spilled on Apple's AR / MR headset (possibly named "Apple Glass") are based on investor reports and analyst estimations, rather than confirmed specs from Apple itself. That said, the headset will likely be positioned alongside other high-end hardware (i.e. phones and computers) rather than peripherals (i.e. earbuds).

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, the headset could out-perform current iPhones, or even be as powerful as a MacBook Pro. If Kuo's report is accurate, it could also utilize two separate processors (one 4nm and one 5nm chip) and would require a 96V charger similar to the one that comes with the 14-inch MacBook Pro. And because the headset is being designed within Apple's own ecosystem, integration with other products is expected to be fairly seamless.

If the rumors are true, the headset could also be more of a transitional stage, with Apple shrinking the tech used in the headset down into something much smaller and more easily wearable by 2025. 

Apple's device will disrupt the whole AR/VR market

Apple breaking into the augmented reality market could have a huge impact on AR and VR as a whole. Kuo believes the tech giant's new headset, which he describes as a "game changer" would demand a response from the likes of Meta, Valve, and HTC. If the rumors about it are true, Apple's effort will be the most powerful headset on the market by far. Kuo says, "Apple's global rivals will compete to imitate it, leading the headset hardware industry to the next stage of rapid growth and benefiting the related services and content ecosystem."

The analyst believes Apple's impact on the AR/VR scene will stretch beyond a hardware arms race. Describing Apple as an "industry leader with significant competitive advantages," Kuo stated his belief that the tech giant would not feel pressured to join Mark Zuckerberg's Metaverse Standards Forum. The Metaverse Standards Forum aims to get large tech companies working together on a single, smoothly operating "Metaverse" that Facebook founder Zuckerberg believes will become the next phase of the internet. The standards forum mainly focuses on getting Metaverse-related tech working together smoothly, so Apple deciding to just do its own thing would not be out of character. Several large names like Meta, Sony, Epic Games, Qualcomm, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Unity are already on board — but the absence of a major player like Apple would be a huge blow to Meta's plans.

Kuo also predicts that the hype surrounding Apple's device could boost mixed reality uptake on the whole. This could lead to a deluge of new apps, services, and devices, across both AR and VR.

Apple's step into AR could challenge Meta in other ways

While a lot of speculation has been based around Apple initially releasing a larger headset, similar to a Meta Quest, it eventual plans for Apple Glass would be competing directly with Meta's Project Nazare. Like Nazare, Apple Glass aims to be an nonintrusive piece of life-enhancing technology that people wear every day. While Meta has paired with designer brand Ray-Ban to produce its early glasses, Apple is a fashionable brand in its own right and may not feel the need to get another company on board.

Meta may not even have an advantage over Apple when it comes to its product's release date. While the timing around the announcements and releases of these products seems to be in flux, 2025 (as stated above) is a year that has cropped up regularly in leaks about Apple's AR glasses. Meta says Nazare will be ready to hit the shelves in "a few years," so as things stand it's possible that both companies will release their products at around the same time. Meta does already have some technology-infused glasses on the market in the form of Ray-Ban Stories, but these lack any AR technology and have not been well received.