Smartphones may have changed the way people interact with technology more than any device since the introduction of laptops, or possibly even personal computers. But Apple is already said to be working on a product category that it thinks could eventually replace smartphones: augmented reality.

The company’s first augmented reality (AR) device is expected to be a standalone headset with the processing power of a Mac that will launch toward the end of 2022. But that could be just the beginning: the long-term goal is allegedly to replace the iPhone with AR wearables within the next ten years.

Apple’s first AR headset could have a processor similar to the M1 chip that powers the 2020 MacBook Air and Macbook Pro 13

That’s according to a recent investor note from Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, which was viewed and recapped by the folks at 9to5Mac and MacRumors.

While it’s possible that the details in the note is inaccurate, Ming-Chi Kuo has a pretty strong track record with predicting Apple’s moves based on information from supply chain sources. But ten years is a long time, so it’s also possible that things could change.

Anyway, for now Apple’s first headset is expected to launch in the fourth quarter of 2022 and it will have a high-end processor with “similar computing power” to the M1 chip that drives Apple’s current-gen MacBook Air and MacBook Pro 13 laptops and the headset will work as a standalone device without the need to connect to an iPhone or Mac.

There’s also a second processor designed just for sensors, which will allow the device to detect, process, and display a mix of real-world and virtual visuals on a pair of Sony 4K micro OLED displays.

Keep in mind that Apple hasn’t even officially confirmed that it’s working a headset yet, so there’s plenty of time for things to change between now and late 2022. And we don’t know anything about the price, physical design, or battery life of the headset.

While Apple may see AR wearables as the next generation of mobile personal computing devices, the company will only get there by introducing first-gen products that are seen as useful and desirable. And right now while companies like Meta/Facebook-owned Oculus are cranking out relatively affordable virtual reality products, they’re largely devices that fit a completely different niche than mobile phones.

Once upon a time Google had a similar vision of AR wearables as the future. But its Google Glass product had limited functionality and battery life at launch, sold for a high price, and got a lot of negative press for the potential privacy implications of walking around with a camera strapped to your face. Now Google Glass is a niche device that’s only marketed to enterprise customers.

If Apple is banking on AR being the next big thing, the company has a lot of work to do in selling its vision.

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