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Here comes Pokemon Go's ARKit mode. Is your battery ready?

If you've got an iPhone 6S or newer, Pokemon hunting just got more interesting.


Still playing Pokemon Go? Did you quit months ago? Either way, developer Niantic is about to give you another reason to pick up the mobile game. As long as you've got a recent iPhone, that is.

GIF by Sean Hollister/CNET

"Soon" -- and we take "soon" to mean possibly as soon as later today, Wednesday -- Pokemon Go will see a major update in the App Store to add the long-awaited Apple ARKit feature. 

Originally previewed at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June, ARKit means that when you turn on the game's augmented reality (AR) mode, Pokemon won't just appear to be vaguely floating above the ground -- they'll seem to actually be standing on real-world surfaces. You'll be able to walk right up close enough to touch one. (But you can't, silly. They're not real.)

We got to try the new ARKit mode earlier this week in a park near Niantic's San Francisco headquarters, and it's a heck of a lot more interesting than before. (While it's easy to argue that Pokemon Go helped define "augmented reality," the original AR mode was such a battery drain and so useless to the game's progression that most players turned it off.) 

Now, the game rewards you with bonus experience points and bonus Stardust when you manage to sneak up close to a Pokemon before attempting to catch one with a thrown Poke Ball -- just so long as you don't scare it away first. You'll want to walk slowly, when the Pokemon's excitement meter is low. Feeding them a Nanab Berry also doesn't hurt. You'll have an easier time catching the Pokemon, too, since the capture circles will be larger the closer you get.

Add Niantic's claim that Apple's ARKit mode sucks down less battery than Pokemon Go's original AR mode, and perhaps it's more than a passing novelty now. Still, Niantic isn't promising that the game won't run down your battery in short order. The game still inherently uses all your phone's most power-hungry components (screen, camera, cellular, GPS, processor) at the same time.

What Niantic wouldn't tell us: When the new AR mode might reach Android phones as well. While Apple's ARKit is obviously exclusive to Apple devices -- iPhone 6S and up -- Google has a rival "ARCore" technology that works in much the same way. 

What can you use it on? These iPhones and iPads work with ARKit.

iOS 11's best feature: ARKit lets you put a couch anywhere you want.