Apple AR headset seemingly leaked in iOS 13 code

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Is Apple getting ready to release an Apple AR headset or AR glasses? According to MacRumors, the iOS 13 operating system (for iPhones and iPads) contains pretty strong evidence that some form of AR hardware is in development.

The site discovered various files referring to augmented reality, such as "ARStarBoardViewController" and "ARStarBoardSceneManager", as well as a "STARTester" app with "worn" and "held" states for what sounds an awful lot like an AR wearable.

The prospect of Apple-made augmented reality hardware seemed assured until a few months ago, when a Digitimes report claimed that Apple's AR glasses team had been shut down.

Apple itself has given no clarification on specific hardware, though we know it sees a lot of potential in augmented reality technology. In early 2018, Tim Cook went on record as saying that "I see AR as being profound." His comments came only a few months after saying that AR smart glasses technology wasn't developed enough for the product Apple wanted to make.

"Today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face – there’s huge challenges with that," he said.

Given that iOS 13 launched several months after the Digitimes report, though, suggests that those AR references wouldn't be in the OS if the hardware had really been dropped. It's possible that a certain team or project was shut down, but that development continued elsewhere within the company.

So, will we see Apple AR glasses anytime soon? Our previous expectation was a 2020 launch window, with analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggesting it would likely be angled as a smartphone accessory. With iPhones getting more powerful every year, we get the feeling those glasses (or headsets) are closer than ever.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.