In today's Finshots we talk about how Apple maybe dabbling with its own line of smart glasses
Apple is a master of reinventing the wheel. The Walkman inspired the iPod, tablets gave way to the iPad and smartphones paved the way for the iPhone back in 2007. You could argue whether there was a lot of originality involved, but they’ve taken old ideas and nascent products, only to revamp them and produce cult classics.
Don’t believe us? Well, just look at the numbers.
Apple has gone from hitting the $1 trillion valuation mark in 2018 to $2 trillion in 2020 and is now, almost closing in on the $3 trillion mark. All this with a trail of multiple path breaking products, like Air pods, Apple watch and let’s not forget the $19 polishing cloth.
It goes without saying Apple is in a sweet spot. The company sits on a mighty cash pile. It has made almost a billion dollars every single day in 2021, and its shares have climbed more than 35% this year alone.
However, Apple’s strong showing this year isn’t the only factor propelling the company to the $3 trillion mark. Much of this upward movement in Apple’s stock price stems from its stellar reputation of being a pioneer in creating game-changing tech products. And if numerous rumours, leaks and reports are to be believed, Apple is on the verge of launching another product along this line by dabbling with its own suite of smart eyewear products. Apparently, they’re working on augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) powered smart glasses and intend to market them as early as 2022.
Nobody really knows what to make of them or what to call them yet, so for now, we’ll just stick to the words Apple’s Smartglasses.
Alright, back to the story. For the uninitiated, AR or Augmented reality is a piece of technology that allows the user to see digital effects or information overlapping their real-world environments in real-time. Virtual reality on the other hand lets people immerse themselves in digital worlds, and if you are thinking about video game-like worlds you are not wrong.
AR/VR is considered to be the missing piece of the Metaverse puzzle. But the promise of Metaverse kept aside, is the world even ready for a smart glass now?
The graveyard of Smart Glasses
Here’s the thing about smart glasses though. They’ve all flopped massively. Take for instance “Google Glasses.” Launched in 2013, this was a bulky pair of experimental eyeglasses with little practical utility. People simply couldn’t figure out why they needed one or how to make it look less silly.
But more importantly, it also raised some very real privacy concerns. As one story in The Wired points out — “The main critique of Google Glass wasn’t really that they looked stupid (although, to be clear, they did). People were kicked out of bars for wearing Glass because the device represented a form of ubiquitous recording. Glass was outfitted with a camera that the user could activate at any time, and this, rightfully, freaked people out. The New York Times ran a front-page story about Glass, wondering whether it would mean the end of privacy as we know it.”
And with a price tag of $1500, you can see why the product never really took off. Then you had Snap — the makers of Snapchat trying their hand at smart glasses. While the company did produce a product with better aesthetics, it was limited in functionality. The first iteration of the product only had a camera lens capable of recording short video segments that you could upload to your Snapchat account. And while they are now trying to experiment with a full-fledged smart glass with AR capabilities, the original product barely made a dent. Only 0.08% of Snapchat’s users bought the product, with less than 50% of the buyers continuing to use the product a month after its purchase.
The most recent entrant in the smart glasses arena has been Meta (formerly Facebook), with its more fashion-oriented luxury eyeglasses called Ray-Ban Stories, in partnership with Ray-Ban. Once again. like Snap, Meta’s smart glasses stray away from the whole AR/VR gambit and stick to offering contemporary features — like allowing users to click photos and videos, listen to music and attend phone calls. Perhaps the biggest compliment that one can pay here is that it actually looks like a sunglass.
And so, Apple isn’t alone in this domain. However, if anybody can convince you to wear a piece of intrusive smart glass with little practical use and one that may or may not look aesthetically pleasing, well, it’s likely going to be Apple. And if they do succeed in this endeavour, they could charge a pretty premium for years to come and maybe add another trillion to their market cap.