Prior to Apple's earnings report on Thursday, the storm clouds were gathering as Wall Street prepared for bad news in the wake of reports of slower iPhone sales. But it turns out that those fears were mostly unwarranted. Apple managed to increase iPhone revenue during the December quarter, despite selling slightly fewer phones.
But buried amid all the hardware revenue talk were a few interesting comments regarding augmented reality from Apple's CEO, Tim Cook.
"We had an all-time record quarter for the App Store with our best holiday season ever. We're seeing great excitement around augmented reality with customers now enjoying over 2,000 ARKit enabled apps, spanning every category in the App Store," said Cook, a number in line with recent figures related to the state of ARKit development on the App Store. "In December, when Pokémon GO released its new augmented reality features built with ARKit, it jumped to the top of the App Store charts."
And beyond the App Store's known AR app winner, Cook also talked about the back end advances being made with the company's ARKit developer platform.
"We've already released ARKit 1.5 in beta to developers around the world, and the response has been tremendous," said Cook. "Augmented reality is going to revolutionize many of the experiences we have with mobile devices. And with ARKit, we're giving developers the most advanced tools on the market to create apps for the most advanced operating system running on the most advanced hardware. This is something only Apple can do."
When referring to Apple's "advanced" hardware, Cook is, of course, talking about the iPhone X, the pricey smartphone starting at $1,000, and that's before accounting for more storage, AppleCare, and other accessories (a protective case, AirPods, wireless charger) that can push the price to over $1,500. Despite the price jump for "advanced hardware," Apple's overall iPhone sales (77.3 million in the December quarter) were only down about 1% compared to the same period during the previous year (78.3 million iPhones sold). Yes, this is something only Apple can pull off (for now).
But before the yesterday's earnings call was over, a reporter on the call asked the question many in the AR space have been wondering about: Will we see Apple AR smartglasses or some other AR-enabled hardware other than the iPhone and iPad in the future?
"I see AR as being profound. I think AR has the ability to amplify human performance instead of isolating humans," said Cook, issuing a familiar refrain that pins the company's hopes on AR instead of VR, which he believes serves to isolate users from one another. "I don't want to say what we may do. But I could not be happier with how things are going right now."
Sure, that's not a yes or no, but given the recent rumors surrounding Apple's possible AR smartglasses development, that open-ended answer will only add fuel to the chatter that an AR wearable from the Cupertino giant is coming sometime in the future.