Apple Glasses didn't arrive at iPhone 11 event, but iOS 13 gives away some secrets

Apple's smart glasses are still likely on the way, and code found in iOS 13 offers hints of what they will do.

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Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome
3 min read

Apple's rumored venture into smart glasses did not come to fruition at the Apple iPhone 11 Pro event on Tuesday, but they're still an imminent possibility, as code found in the upcoming release of the company's iOS 13 mobile software suggests. 

On Twitter on Tuesday, developer Steven Troughton-Smith pointed out that the iOS 13 beta now contains StarBoard frameworks, Apple's shell system for stereo augmented reality apps. The iOS 13 gold master also includes a readme file for how employees can run these AR apps on an iPhone , if they don't have access to Apple's headset device, codenamed "Garta." The code suggests that the headset device could be worn or held.

Rumors that Apple Glasses were on the way started in 2017. In August 2018, Apple acquired Akonia Holographics, a startup that produces lenses for AR glasses. 

Earlier this year, the rumor mill kicked into high gear when Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said Apple glasses could be ready as early as 2020. But in July, Digitimes reported on a rumor that the glasses project had been suspended for the time being, as the product was not yet ready or at a competitive enough price. 

Despite this, in September, internal builds of iOS 13 were found to include an app that can transform into a head-mounted mode, MacRumors reported. The iOS 13 code also included the internal file describing a system shell for stereo AR-enabled apps, and the Garta AR device, according to the report. A number of other strings referenced AR, as well as "views" and "scenes," they found. 

Apple is also working on a wireless headset for both AR and VR, slated for 2020, CNET's Shara Tibken exclusively wrote last year. 

Even if the glasses are announced within the next year, it's unlikely that they would hit the market in the immediate future. 

At the Tuesday event, Apple did announce the iPhone 11, 11 Pro and 11 Max phones, which include new features such as an upgraded camera at lower-than-usual pricing, but no major changes in form or function.

iPhone 11 and 11 Pro in all their new, vibrant colors

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The potential of Apple Glasses

A future release of Apple Glasses is being paved by Apple's mobile AR platform, ARKit, which launched in 2017 and got a new update as part of iOS 13 at WWDC in June. They would put Apple in competition in the AR space with Microsoft HoloLens and the Magic Leap One

Apple Glasses, however, would have the advantage of being far smaller than a full AR or VR headset -- marking Apple's chance to take the lead in the consumer smart glasses space. Google Glass was a famous attempt to offer a set of smart glasses in 2013, but Google pivoted Glass to business uses in 2017.

Shipments of AR glasses are projected to surpass 150,000 in 2019, and to hit 2.7 million devices in 2023, according to an August report from CCS Insight. These glasses will start gaining traction among consumers within the next few years, the firm predicts. "If a heavyweight in consumer electronics like Apple or Samsung gets behind smart glasses it could kick-start the market," Leo Gebbie, senior analyst for VR and AR at CCS Insight, said in a release at the time.

For more, read our in-depth story Lost Explorers: The unrealized vision of Google Glass

Watch this: Everything Apple announced from the iPhone Event