A new report from The Information suggests that Apple’s first AR (or mixed reality) headset will rely on an iPhone for most of its heavy-duty processes. The headset could arrive as early as 2022, and while it contains both a CPU and GPU, these components only exist to manage battery life and handle processes that don’t work well over a wireless connection.
Most modern VR and AR headsets are standalone units that work without a phone, though some products, like the Magic Leap, rely on external hardware for processing. Doing so comes with one huge benefit—a slimmer, lighter headset. While Apple’s upcoming headset is probably a bulky development platform, it may be the precursor to mixed reality glasses, which will benefit from a slim and lightweight frame.
Relying on the iPhone to handle mixed reality processing could also reduce the price of Apple’s AR products. If rumors are correct, Apple’s upcoming development headset will feature two 8K displays and cost around $3,000—why add to that cost with powerful hardware when Apple fans already own an iPhone?
This story may sound familiar to longtime Apple Watch users. The first few iterations of the Apple Watch relied on an iPhone for basic functionality, though newer models can work entirely on their own. Apple’s mixed reality products may follow a similar path.
We expect Apple to announce its first mixed reality product, likely a development headset, as early as 2022. Early mixed reality glasses will probably expand the functionality of your phone, much like smartwatches and other wearables.