Apple's AR glasses haven't been cancelled. Here's why

Of course Apple is working on a headset first. AR glasses are a long-term play

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(Image credit: Apple Stock)

A new report (opens in new tab) claims that Apple has canned its plans for augmented reality glasses, preferring instead to concentrate on its AR/VR headset. According to the usually reliable Bloomberg, Apple planned to release the AR glasses in 2023, put them back to 2025 and then decided not to make them at all – confirming the views of some unnamed Apple employees who don't believe that Apple will ever make AR specs.

I'm not convinced by this one. It seems more like the Apple rumour mill has got a bit carried away and convinced itself of a timescale that Apple isn't following. As John Gruber of Daring Fireball (opens in new tab) points out, the supposed 2023 release date of Apple's AR glasses came from a single speculative 2020 report claiming that "Apple fans can expect the AR glasses by 2023 at the earliest".

I suspect that's a bit like me promising that I'll marry Taylor Swift by 2023 at the earliest. Taylor probably has other plans.

When Apple rumours overreach

Apple has never publicly said it's making AR glasses, let alone committed to a timeline. Apple never does. So predictions are largely based on reading the runes, with a bit of help from Apple employees and the odd person working for Apple suppliers. But the thing about those employees and contractors is that they're not getting the big picture. Maybe someone in Apple did express a desire to sell AR glasses by 2023. But that doesn't mean Apple necessarily decided it was going to, let alone made concrete plans to make that happen. And if it wasn't planning a 2023 release then a possible release date of 2025 isn't a delay; if it wasn't planning either then nothing has been cancelled.

The most likely explanation for what's going on here is that Apple is indeed making an AR/VR headset that at least resembles some of the current AR/VR crop such as the HTC VIVE XR Elite or the Meta Quest Pro, and that in the very long term it hopes to bring an evolution of that tech to AR glasses too.

I think it's important to look at the history of Apple's flagship products here. When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, apps weren't a thing (even 3G wasn't a thing). When he unveiled the iPad, it was pretty clear that while it was clearly cool, Apple wasn't entirely sure what it was for. It took a while for the Apple Watch to find its groove. And so on. 

I suspect we're going to see the same with the Apple AR/VR headset. The first version is likely to, ahem, Think Different from rivals – but like the iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch I think it'll take a few generations before Apple really nails it, let alone finds a way of putting it into normal specs. For the next few years at least, I'll see you in SpecSavers.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).