No, Apple’s next big thing won’t be smart glasses

Apple is working on glasses that include augmented-reality features, according to a report by Mark Gurman at Bloomberg. The report claims the company is in an “exploration phase” for a set of digital glasses that connect wirelessly to your iPhone and show images and information in your field of vision, like Google Glass, but are also capable of more full augmented reality. The rumoured release date for this device would be around 2018 at the earliest.

No, Apple’s next big thing won’t be smart glasses

Gurman has an excellent track record with Apple rumours and has some of the best sources in the business. However, I think this story is a stretch and that we may not see any kind of AR device from Apple for quite some time.

The first issue is simply one of timing. Apple rarely moves first into a market, and consumer-level AR is still in its infancy. While competitors such as Samsung have been quick to embrace virtual reality, after the Google Glass debacle, no-one has really gone near consumer AR. 

Then there’s the issue of how fast Apple brings products to market. The Apple Watch took three years to develop, and began its gestation prior to the death of Steve Jobs. To go from nothing to an entirely new category of product isn’t unheard of – the iPod took a year – but it would be unusual. 

I don’t have any doubt that Apple is exploring AR and VR – Tim Cook has said almost as much himself, particularly about AR. The FT reported back in January that the company had assembled a large team to look at it. One day, there will be an Apple wearable that sits on your face, rather than on your wrist. But at the moment, there is no market there, and the perception among potential customers is largely negative thanks to the very public issues that surrounded Google Glass. I suspect Apple will be content to let other companies establish the market and then come in with its own product rather than trying to be first. 

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