When I covered a massive Apple Glasses leak last spring, I assumed it was a one-off intel dump we’d forget about once the next tangible Apple product released. Boy, was I wrong.
Many new MacBooks, iPhones, iPads, AirPods and Apple Watches later, the Apple Glasses rumors still haven’t let up. With the exception of the Apple Car, these alleged AR lenses are the most talked about Apple device that’s not guaranteed to ever reach mass production.
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Believe me, I get it. As someone who reports on Apple news and reviews Apple wearables, I, too, am abundantly curious about what the company has planned for all its AR-adjacent acquisitions, patents and personnel changes. I’m also very interested in how close the glasses will come to fulfilling my ‘Kate Kozuch, human cyborg’ fantasy. Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
I don’t want to get ahead of myself — chances are the first iteration of Apple Glasses won’t be the futuristic headgear of my dreams. I might sport two smartwatches daily but I draw a line at wearable tech that touches my skull. Unless, that is, Apple Glass meets my list of demands. In a non-threatening way, of course.
Here’s what’ll take for me to actually wear Apple Glasses.
Apple Glasses must look like glasses
This one might seem obvious, but have you seen what current AR glasses look like? Nothing I’d dare wear in public, that’s for sure. I’m not exactly afraid of committing a fashion faux pas, but also I’m not about to don a Hololens 2-looking contraption on my commute.
Yes, Apple did manage to make wearing mini white hairdryers in our ears cool, so it does have the branding prowess to make people feel OK about appearing ridiculous. But in order for me to wear one of its products over my eyes, it’ll have to look nice — not like geek-wear. I’ll even settle for boring, so long as it’s not bulky. Vuzix’s new smart glasses set a pretty good example.
According to Apple leaker Jon Prosser, an Apple Glasses prototype he saw looks like an “un-intimidating” pair of plastic glasses, while some alleged marketing materials suggest a Clark Kent-esque design. That’ll do by my standards, but I still wish the first-generation smart frames will look more like this.
A non-invasive display
Like the overall look of Apple Glasses, the AR display needs to be practical. If the lenses were to interfere with my view or obstruct my sense of surroundings, I simply couldn’t wear them every day. I don't have prescription eyewear, but I’d hope the Apple Glasses displays are inclusive of those who need corrective lenses, too. Luckily there are already a handful of patents attempting to address those concerns.
According to Nikkei Asia, Apple and its longtime chip-supplier TSMC are collaborating on micro OLED displays, which "are far thinner and smaller" than the OLED panels found on smartphones or TVs. The ultra-small display technology is in the trial production stage and the current prototypes "are less than 1 inch in size," making it ideal for lenses that cover eyes.
There’s no guarantee Apple will use these micro OLED displays in the debut Apple Glass model, but it sounds like a step in the right direction.
All-day battery life (or close)
Assuming you're not running a bunch of the best AR apps all of the time, Apple Glasses should be able last through an average workday on one charge. But that doesn’t mean they will. In fact, based on specs from existing smart glasses and VR headsets, I’d guess Apple Glasses will go no longer than 5 to 6 hours before needing more juice.
I’ll also guess many people will be forgiving about it, especially if Apple provides a wireless charging glasses case that extends operative time through the day like with the Apple AirPods. We’re already devoted to charging our phone, smartwatch and laptops once a day, so what’s one extra device at this point?
That said, should the Apple Glasses battery life fall in the 3-to-4 hour range (or less) I’ll feel disappointed and deterred from buying. If I wanted a 3D experience that lasts the length of Avengers: Endgame, I’d just use my Oculus Quest 2.
Enhances the Apple ‘ecosystem’
I want Apple Glasses to improve the experience of using Apple’s other products, not just replicate the experience of using another Apple product. In other words, I don’t want Apple Glasses to replace my iPhone, AirPods Pro or Apple Watch. Instead, I’m vying for a holistic digital existence with mixed reality lenses as the command center.
I’m a fan of this glassOS interface concept, in which notifications, translations and navigation directions are kept small and tucked into the top right corner to avoid distraction from the real world. There’s even a dark mode for when you're in low light conditions. It looks a lot like iOS 14, but leverages AR to hone in on information you’d want or need to see at a glance.
Similarly, I’d still wear my Apple Watch to measure my heart rate, but it could be useful to see it in the vision I’m going about my day. Apple Glasses could also display breath reminders, but I’d still rely on my smartwatch’s haptics to guide me through the motions.
Do things only smart glasses can do
On the other hand, there are things Apple Glasses should be able to do that current Apple devices can’t. How cool would it be if my smart glasses could pull up nutritional information or price history when I look at an item while shopping? Or if they could tell whether or not my outfit matched when I stood front of a mirror?
Making these fetaures happen is no simple feat. I know Apple isn’t coordinating the Apple Glass release date on my behalf, but I’d bet the company will intentionally take its sweet ‘ole time to bring AR glasses to market. Call it a long game, I’d you want.
As much as I gripe about covering leak after leak, I’d rather hear a hundred more rumors about a complete product than just a few more about a device that leaves too much to be desired. Insiders have placed the Apple Glasses launch date anywhere from Spring 2021 to the end of 2023. Nikkei’s sources say micro OLED will take “several years” to reach mass production, so Apple Glasses could arrive later than 2023, too. And I kind of hope they do — by then, there’s a chance I’ll actually wear them.
What will Apple Glasses need for you to want a pair of your own? Be sure to leave a comment below.