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According to Tribune South Africa : Apple will replace the iPhone with AR headsets within 10 years. This is the view raised by Guo Mingchi, an analyst at Tianfeng Securities and the well-known Apple “Breaking News”, in a report at the end of November this year. Now, the new clues that Apple has revealed to the outside world further point to this next-generation product that is “still half-hidden with the pipa”.

Bloomberg reporter Mark Gurman, who continues to track Apple’s cutting-edge products, said that Apple has decided to hire social network giant Meta’s former head of public relations for augmented reality projects, Andrea Schubert (Andrea Schubert) to prepare for the official release of AR or MR products next year.

The latter’s current LinkedIn profile shows that he still works for Meta, but Mark Gurman believes that “Oculus, owned by Meta, has become the leader in the headset market. Apple’s “poaching” behavior may mean that its own product is almost released.” So, is the AR device that is expected to subvert the iPhone really approaching?

Long overdue, but it is expected to improve the meta-universe ecology

Google’s Google Glass should be the first to open the door to imagination in the AR equipment market. This product was released in April 2012, and it can meet many functions such as voice-activated camera, video call, processing information and e-mail. At that time, this product was once regarded as a revolutionary black technology in the mobile Internet era, but people obviously overestimated the level of technological development at that time.

In the consumer market, Google Glass has now stopped its development, leaving only a spark in the factory, postal and other corporate markets. On the other hand, although Microsoft’s HoloLens is updated to the second generation, it also did not leave a footprint in the personal market.

The reason is that lightness and high performance cannot be achieved at the same time-at least for now. Obviously, the unsuccessful failure of the two pioneers gave Apple a chance to develop. Even if next year’s Apple AR device is only the first-generation product, it does not lag behind the competition much, because there are almost no real counterparts in the consumer market.

The expectations of users or the market for Apple undoubtedly come from Apple’s appeal, which means that Apple hopes to build or promote the industry to build a complete set of complete supporting facilities, or ecology, in both the hardware industry chain and the software ecology. Apple’s self-developed chips in the past two years have even released the control behind the technological atmosphere.

At present, the information released by Apple is still one of the major pieces of iPhone, iPad, and Mac, independent of the original product system. Mark Gurman believes that it will focus on the three main areas of gaming, media consumption and communications, which also match Apple’s traditional strengths. It is expected to activate the second life of old content in a new form and bring incremental value.

Nevertheless, due to Apple’s coordinated control over software and hardware, coupled with continuous investment in acquisitions in subdivision areas, its comprehensive ecological perfection may be at a relatively high level from the beginning, rather than simple content reuse. According to preliminary statistics from the US Stock Research Agency, since 2021, Apple has obtained more than 10 patents related to AR glasses, involving multiple fields such as travel, audio, and image detection. Apple’s goal may be to improve the virtualized experience in all aspects of AR applications.

In addition, News Channels in South AfricaSaid .Apple has also invested in a series of related companies in the technical field, such as the II-VI company of 3D laser scanning technology, which received US$410 million. For Apple, which holds billions of terminal portals, it may be one of the pursuits to use the accumulated technology of these companies to recreate a portal for a new era.

These factors eventually linked Apple to the meta-universe concept. In fact, Cook emphasized in an interview that Apple’s focus is on AR rather than Metaverse. “Our original intention was to build an AR device,” he said. But the outside world obviously has high hopes for Apple’s ability in all parts of the industry chain.

Dan Ives, a well-known securities analyst at Wedbush, believes that Apple’s highly anticipated AR/MR headsets will increase the value of Apple by $20 per share and lay a solid foundation for the Metaverse ecosystem.

Morgan Stanley even uses Facebook and Google as the paving stones for Apple’s meta-universe: “Facebook and Google have been investing in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies. The gateway to the world, but only when Apple joins the track can the large-scale market applications of AR or VR be realized.”

Go hand-in-hand with Facebook and use new equipment to compete for the next-generation ecological entrance

Morgan Stanley estimates the AR/VR hardware market in 2030 to be 100 billion U.S. dollars. As a competitor, the AR competition between Facebook and Apple will become the focus, especially after Facebook becomes a Meta universe company.

Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon revealed at the Qualcomm Investor Conference on November 16 that Meta has sold 10 million Oculus Quest 2 headsets. This device is currently the best-selling hardware in the field of XR (Extended Reality, AR/VR/MR, etc.).

However, Oculus attached to Meta is not easy to make breakthroughs in software and ecology. According to Valve’s hardware survey data on VR games, 35% of VR gamers on Steam are using Quest 2. Meta company does not have such a platform, and the effective integration of XR hardware and social networking may have to wait until the real meta-universe era.

In contrast, before the birth of the device, Apple at least laid out RealityKit, which can help developers easily make high-quality AR models, and ARKit 5 for users and developers. Compared with Meta, Apple is more capable of holding publishers to join the ecological construction camp, because the APP Store can bring considerable continuous income to developers and form positive incentives.

At present, the contradiction between Facebook and Apple has been known to the outside world, especially after Apple’s adjustment of its privacy policy has caused widespread impact on the Internet advertising revenues of giants such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter. Therefore, the dispute between the two parties over AR equipment may reach an industry high point involving the next generation of Internet products. Because Facebook lacks the right to speak in the smart phone trend led by Apple, this also brings hardware pain to it. Apple is trying to master the source entry once again, which may become the beginning of a concentrated competition.

This is why although Oculus is the current leader in hardware devices, for Apple, subverting its own iPhone is more attractive to outsiders than its competitors.

However, optimistic about Apple also needs to be more cautious. Assuming that Apple does have the power to replace the iPhone with other products, it needs to have an advantage in most indicators when the new product is compared with the iPhone. At this stage, this is not something Apple can do if it wants to.

Relying on AR to subvert the iPhone is difficult, Apple wants to fight a “physical battle”

According to Guo Mingchi’s estimates, the current iPhone has more than 1 billion active users worldwide, and Apple’s goal in the future is to have 1 billion AR devices in ten years. Comparing the two, we can imagine that achieving this goal is not easy.

The first generation of iPhone was released in 2007, and today’s active users gradually come together with Apple after a long product iteration. Now, Apple’s stage in the AR field is more like before 2007. Even if some future trends can be predicted, it is not easy to integrate them into a product that has never been popular.

The iPhone is still a mobile phone compared to BlackBerry and Nokia in the era of feature phones. Although AirPods has changed some forms, the core part of the headset will not change. However, AR headsets are not yet a widely accepted product, and the tens of millions of sales are dwarfed by smartphones.

Guo Mingchi predicts that Apple’s second-generation MR headsets will reach tens of millions of sales around 2024, and the research and development period will accelerate in Q2-Q3 in 2023. This means that, assuming that Apple’s WWDC in 2022 is the day when its first-generation products are available, the official release is in the fourth quarter of Guo Mingchi’s estimate, and that it will reach 2.5-3.5 million units of shipments in 2023. In this process, Apple needs to promote the industry chain, developers, user education and other aspects at the same time-and ensure that its experience is really enough to attract seed users.

According to the price theory, if the quantity is insufficient, increasing the unit price can become a guarantee for the survival and development of the enterprise. At present, Apple’s AR headset has no definite price, but according to Bloomberg and other multi-channel news, the price of Apple’s first-generation devices is more than US$1,000, which is much higher than that of smartphones and Quest 2, which has dropped to more than US$300.

The positioning of entertainment equipment and communication equipment is different, and the necessity in the minds of users is even more different. Apple’s first-generation headset focused on gaming, media consumption, and communications. Which one will be the most important aspect? This is related to user retention and subsequent willingness to pay. If it’s just an entertainment device, its advantage over Oculus needs to be even higher.

Apple’s first-generation headsets have three main competitiveness: PC-level computing power, independent operation without relying on PCs/mobile phones, and support for a wide range of applications rather than specific applications, which puts forward higher requirements for manufacturing. Apple M series chips undoubtedly show strong self-research capabilities. If they are transplanted to AR devices, computing power is indeed not a problem. However, whether the transplantation can be completed or not, Apple does not count, but the production process must be able to be realized and provide support for the operation of the equipment.

Science and technology media information quoted people in the supply chain as saying that the CMOS sensor used by Apple’s equipment to process visual signals was “very large”, with almost the same size of the camera lens. In the end, even the foundry king TSMC failed to completely solve the yield rate during production. The problem of too low.

Physical problems are the origin of all problems. Assuming that Apple needs a product of the same level as the iPhone, it at least needs to meet the needs of users when they go out. However, referring to the weight of Quets 2 over 500g, where in the industry chain does Apple work to break this limit? The research report revealed that Apple’s AR device has 15 optical modules. For comparison, the iPhone only needs up to 3 to meet daily needs.

Of course, Guo Mingchi believes that Apple will design the best new battery system for headsets as early as 2024-2026 to reduce the weight of the device and improve convenience. But at that time, five years have passed since the goal of ten years.

For the current Apple, the ongoing car building plan, the AR/VR department blessed by thousands of engineers, and the global software development appeal are all expected to bring some realistic experiences in addition to the gimmicks like replacing the iPhone. change. Apple’s future imagination is not necessarily focused on an AR device. It is more valuable to care about what it can bring than to care about what it can become. This may be the meaning of ecology for giants.

Concluding remarks

Previously, Cook said: “AR technology can enhance our conversations, enhance learning, and really amplify the value of technology to people, rather than closing the real world.” This shows that Apple’s official will for AR is open. Perhaps under the guidance of this kind of thinking, in the future, iphone  Apple will take the lead and stimulate the vitality of the third party in the AR field, which is similar to the explosion of the mobile Internet, the real turning point.

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