On Starting Simple

You can’t go too long in this corner of the Internet without running into a report or rumor about Apple’s AR headset plans. As an example, here is The Verge’s Adi Robertson, writing about a feature that is supposedly coming with the new hardware:

Apple’s rumored virtual and augmented reality headset will reportedly use iris scanning tech for logins and payments, according to The Information. The report, which cites two people involved in developing the headset, says the scanning is supposed to make it easier for multiple people to use the headset with their own accounts.

The eye-scanning system echoes iOS tools like Apple’s fingerprint or Face ID logins, and it would take advantage of the device’s many cameras. It would also help differentiate Apple’s offering from its main competitor: the Meta Quest Pro, which the company formerly known as Facebook announced earlier this week. The Quest Pro features inward-facing cameras that can track eye and face motion, but it doesn’t (at least at this point) use them for authentication. According to The Information, Apple will also use downward-facing cameras to capture users’ legs, a part of the body Meta is still figuring out.

In reading this report, I was struck by something: the level of complication required for new products to meet has changed drastically over the years.

When the iPod was introduced 21 years ago, it was a music player that synced with iTunes. It shipped with a couple of games, but “1,000 songs in your pocket” pretty much summed it up.

Over the years, the iPod gained a bunch of features, like a color screen, a stopwatch, the ability to sync photos and ultimately even play video. By the end, users could also sync their contacts and calendars to the device, create playlists on the go and much, much more.

That was a different era; just contrast the original iPod with the original Apple Watch, which was pitched as something just shy of a full iPhone replacement. Over the years, it gained new capability, such as LTE support and its own App Store, to make it more independent from the phone.

I suspect Apple’s headset will be much closer to the original Apple Watch than it will the original iPod. We expect our devices to all sorts of things now that were mere dreams back in 2001.

With this explosion in features, a challenge arises. At first, it wasn’t clear how Apple thought about the Watch. Over the years, the company has focused more and more on fitness and notifications and has spoken less about the fashion and computing angles that once dominated Apple Watch presentations.

Will the headset’s launch be as cloudy as the Watch’s? I honestly don’t know, but I hope Apple remembers those early Watch years, because the “why would I need this” factor with the headset is going to be a way bigger deal then it was in 2014 when the Apple Watch was introduced. If Apple can boil the headset story down to a few simple, clear points, the product will be better understood by the market, and that’s only a good thing.