Apple Glasses — Why Would Anyone Buy Them?

After a few years and a steady stream of reports, noted supply-chain exfiltrator extraordinaire, Kuo Ming-Chi, updated his, saying he now expected Apple Glasses to launch sometime in 2022.

At that point, the always ascending Jon Prosser of Front Page Tech retorted, saying he’d heard an announcement was planned for as early as this fall’s iPhone event, but may be postponed to next year. Also, that they’d be called Apple Glass and cost $500. Then he went on a plethora of live-streams and podcasts, from the GadgetCast to VypDrive to the CultCast, and added details like they’d have no built-in speakers, but would rely on AirPods, and that there may even be a limited edition version in the shape of Steve Jobs’ famously rounded frames. Think Harry Potter, kids.

Which, of course, set an internet already primed by gold-watch, XDR stand, and Mac Pro outrage once again on fire.

Bloomberg’s biz-prophet, Mark Gurman, who’s also been reporting on the Glasses for years, called the Steve Jobs frames in specific, and the rest of the stories in general, fiction.

Prosser replied that he respected Gurman. Gurman that there were both mixed reality headsets and glasses in the pipeline, which might be confusing. Prosser that he wasn’t confused. And Benjamin Mayo of 9to5Mac that hahahaha. Sorry, strike that, ahahaha.

Gurman had previously reported that the glasses were coming in 2020, but now that the announcement had been delayed to 2021 and the release until 2022 or 2023. With the headset being the thing coming earlier, but maybe also not until 2022.

Noted code extractor, Steve Troughton-Smith, said he’d laugh at these rumors floating around if not for people taking them seriously.

Troughton-Smith based that on all the glasses software that had accidentally been included in previous versions of iOS, and suggested that a bunch of noise was being deliberately generated to drown out any real signals.

Others suggested alternate sources, different projects, different prototypes, or just bored work-from-homers, and I paraphrase, trolling for the lulz.

Max Weinbach of XDA Developers, who’s contributed some of his own reporting on live streams and the EverythingApplePro channel, seemed to be on the same page as Prosser.

And Prosser, for his part, basically said wait, watch, and see what happens.

Now, I personally try to never fall victim to any of the classic blunders. The most famous, of course, is never bet against a dread pirate when death is on the line. But, only slightly less well known, is never get involved in a rumor war on the internet.

But none of these people are your dad, so no hashtag Jern or hashtag Gurm in the comments, people.

Personally, as you know, the when of the release date and the what of the hardware aren’t even the parts that fascinate me most.

Though the rumors and the reporters being so conflicted right now is, in and of itself, fascinating in terms of seeing how the small, loud, but important social part of the market responds to the idea of the product itself.

Because, while I covered why Apple I think Apple is making glasses last week — make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss any of these videos — the bigger question I have right now isn’t why Apple would make them but… why would any of us buy them?

That wasn’t a question with the iPhone. People need phones. Feature phones were already a mature market and smartphones were primed to move from early adopters to mainstream acceptance. They just needed a push, which turned out to be just exactly the iPhone.

It was a big question for the Apple Watch, though. Feature watches, from classic switch to deeply digital, were beyond a mature market but for a variety of reasons, they weren’t at all ubiquitous. Smart watches were also still firmly in the early adopter phase, primed to move not at all.

Would people be willing to even give the Apple Watch a chance on their wrist, either the relatively few who still wore traditional watches for actual time keeping or as jewelry, or the much bigger group that no longer or simply never wore watches at all?

Of course, the ground is now littered with the reputation-corpses of the many pundits who said nope, big old nope, even and especially years after the reverse proved obvious.

Because, it turned out, if you created or nurtured a product with a compelling enough feature set, enough people who switch from traditional watches or go back or start wearing them for the first time. And now, Apple Watch owns that small market and is almost single-productly driving its expansion.

In the case of the Apple Watch, the most compelling features of the set have been health, fitness, and medical/emergency alerts, with a good peppering of notifications and communications thrown in there to round things out.

It works with your phone, does a few general things the phone does, not as in-depth but more conveniently, but it also does a few very specific things that the phone can’t do at all.

But, glasses feel like an even bigger ask. Watches go on your wrist. Glasses go on your face.

Now, unlike watches, a lot of people, myself included, simply have to wear glasses or contacts for vision correction. We’re used to them. We wear them all day, every day. And switching from dumb to smart glasses won’t be a big ask. Basically, Apple will have us at One More Thing…

But, also unlike watches, I don’t think there’s a large group, at least not in established markets, that have stopped or simply never worn glasses at all, ever.

I think most have worn them opportunistically, for safety or fashion reasons. Sun glasses are the biggest example.

Because safety and fashion are also absolutely compelling enough reasons to put on glasses. I don’t want anything flying into my eyes or hurting my vision, or I just want to look all Top Gun Terminator badass. They’re just worn intermittently. Not all the time. So, rabid fanbase and technophiles aside, will Apple need a ton of stuff after the one more thing to win this group over?

Whatever Activity and Workouts and heart rate monitoring and fall detection and international emergency calling and messages are… but for glasses?

Now, I fully realize the dangers of trying to predict this stuff. I barely anticipated half the features that now make the Apple Watch all but indispensable to me. Yeah, when asked by Ford, I just said I wanted more convenient horses.

And that’s where I am with Apple Glasses as well. Currently, I just want more convenient horses.

Like I said in the last video: a Head’s Up Display, a HUD like Tony Stark has in the Marvel movies.

A way to get everything from notifications to information, from messages to walking directions, never mind without reaching for my phone but without even having to lift my wrist.

But, I also want a much more granular, nuanced, less obtrusive system for it, because as we’ve all learned in the age of always-on, notifications can so easily turn into annoyance and information into distraction. Always on the wrist is both better and worse for that. Always on the face… I can’t wait and I couldn’t be more terrified.

We’re flattening compute down from the desktop to the laptop to the palm top to the wrist top to finally the face top. Shrinking the distance between our devices and ourselves. Bringing our external cybernetics, because that’s really what all this is — everything that amplifies our senses and memories and communications — as close as they can possible come to being internal.

But I digress. See, I don’t think Apple will have or even need any of those really compelling things at launch.

And they won’t need mainstream adoption at launch either.

They didn’t have it with the iPhone. It took years to build out the feature set and grow the market there. Same with Apple Watch.

But they had cool stuff that the rabid fanbase and technophiles glommed to, things like pinch to zoom and rubber banding, activities and sketches, that got a lot of attention and made for great, show-offy demos for every early adopter’s more decidedly mainstream family, friends, and colleagues.

And that, combined with new and actually compelling features over the years, be it the App Store or Swim Proofing, iMessage or Always On, increased appeal and removed roadblocks, and step by step, year by year, the products grew and grew.

So, my guess is the Apple Glasses will be the same. They’ll start just as simply, just as crudely even as the iPhone and Apple Watch did. They’ll have a few features that are cool enough to capture the attention of the always hangry media and the wallets of those who just always have to have the next and newest thing.

They’ll provide timely data, like indoor and outdoor walking directions. Critical notifications like who’s messaging or calling you. Things that make it so you don’t even have to look down at your phone or watch, or put down whatever you’re holding or doing to look at any other device.

They’ll be even less capable but they’ll be even more available, and that’ll be good enough to get things started.

Then we’ll get rapid iterations on speed and power, then a redesign, then a lower priced model, and then before you know it I’ll be making a video about how Apple Glasses need to be set iPhone, even Apple Watch free.

And that’s before we even get to the real killer feature — being able to sit on calls or really anything boring at all, and secretly be watching Nebula the whole time.

Beyond the rumors, Apple will eventually announced Glasses. They’ll have a few features that excite us nerds but still be very much a version one device. The potential will be there, though. They’ll get a bunch of coverage, including a ton of articles and videos about how very doomed they are and doomed Apple is for making them, but they’ll be iterated on for the next few years, they’ll grow over the next few years, and within half a decade we’ll have what everyone who blew the initial analysis calls the version Apple should have shipped to begin with. The iPhone 4, iPad Air, or Apple Watch 4 version.