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Will the next iPhone have an Augmented Reality feature?

The new iPhone is due to be launched in September, and whilst we still don’t know what it will be called, lots of people are speculating whether it will have an Augmented Reality (AR) function built into its camera.

The main reason for this is that last week, alongside the launch of iOS11, Apple introduced ‘ARKit’. ARKit is a new framework that allows you to easily create unparalleled augmented reality experiences for iPhone and iPad.

AR is a technology we’ve been working with at Magnetic for quite some time now so this new is exciting news as it will allow developers like us to produce campaigns and apps with embedded AR features in it. In Apple’s words, ARKit will take apps beyond the screen, freeing them to interact with the real world in entirely new ways.

However, this begs the question of whether the upcoming iPhone release will have an AR mode embedded in it. By integrating AR into the phone’s camera, any surface could become a medium for additional content and people would no longer need an app to access the incredible world of AR. How great would it be to be able to switch to AR mode, as quickly and simply as we switch from Camera to Video or Panorama?

As leaders in the AR industry, we think it’s only right for us to tell you our predictions on how likely it is for this to happen.

Apple have already placed big bets on AR and they’ve built a team of experts who have been working on bringing AR technology to the mass market. But the most telling evidence comes from Apple’s CEO Tim Cook’s inability to hold back when talking about AR. He previously said ‘AR is extremely interesting and a sort of core technology’ and even went so far as to say that soon we will "have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you." Traditionally speaking, Apple tends to be extremely secretive so we’re taking this openness as a huge giveaway!

What’s more, with the AR market set to reach $165 billion by 2024, can the world’s most valuable brand really afford to miss out on technology’s latest shift? Today’s generation of smartphones is likely to be obsolete in 5 years time, so Apple must continue to grow with the trends and move in the right direction to avoid becoming the next Kodak.

It’s very clear Apple is devoting sizable resources into AR; not only have they put together a multi-disciplinary team of experts to discuss the internal AR strategy, they have also made several tactical acquisitions of small firms with knowledge of AR software, such as Metaio and FlyBy Media. Cook even visited the Magic Leap offices last summer – could this be another potential acquisition in the future?

Nonetheless, we wouldn’t be the first to say that building a successful AR product within the next iPhone would be no easy task. As pioneers of slim and lightweight phones, Apple would no doubt have to tackle the issue of creating something small but mighty powerful. But, if anyone can do it, Apple can. Check out this concept from Gabor Balogh that beautifully imagines Siri with an integrated AR feature.

Another point to make is that AR is a lot less complicated than VR, because its less hardware and software-intensive. Apple would only need to use a combination of the iPhone’s camera and display to generate overlays over the surrounding real-life environment. So if we were to put a bet on which of the two latest technology fads they would be investing in, it would have to be AR.

If the next generation of Apple iPhones do have an AR feature, users could benefit from a whole host of added value. Imagine pointing your camera at an object to learn more information about it, or using Maps to guide you down a street whilst pointing out relevant businesses on the way. We really do hope the next iPhone does have AR, but I guess we will have to wait and find out when the new iPhone is released in September.


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