At its signature annual event — the Worldwide Developers Conference — Apple (AAPL) announced a redesign of the iPhone's home screen, as well as updates to its texting app, iMessage, that would allow users to edit or delete messages after they are sent, reports Tony Daltorio, editor of Market Mavens.
Apple also revealed a second-generation version of its M2 chip, which will boost the power and energy efficiency of its predecessor—and also deepen its rivalry with traditional chipmakers, such as Intel. Apple designed the M2 chip, which is based on a customized Arm architecture Apple and will power a new range of its MacBook Air and Pro laptops, in house.
The company declared its plan to "replace passwords for good" with a biometrics-based system called Passkeys, which would allow users to log into apps and websites. The system will also work with apps and devices made by Google and Microsoft, as part of an industry-wide alliance designed to tackle phishing attacks and password leaks.
Perhaps most importantly, Apple said it is jumping into the buy now, pay later (BNPL) market. With Apple Pay Later (to be built into Apple Wallet), iPhone and Mac users in the U.S. can pay for purchases in four installments over six weeks without being charged interest or other fees. This service will be available to "qualifying applicants" in the U.S. when its next version of the iPhone's operating system, iOS 16, launches later this year.
All of that aside, there was no blockbuster announcement at the conference about what is expected to be Apple's next breakthrough product: a virtual reality (VR) headset, which could be unveiled as early as this autumn.
Apple's VR Headset
Apple has been moving toward producing a virtual reality headset for a while now, having made about a dozen purchases in the fields of virtual and augmented reality over the past six years. Little is known about this anticipated VR product, but it is thought that a key feature will be a "pass-through" video system from Vrana, a start-up company Apple bought in 2017 for $30 million.
Vrana's technology seemingly solves the problem of not being able to see real objects while being inside a virtual world. Vrvana repurposed the cameras in its Totem prototype, which had been designed to sense a user's position, to allow users to see the physical world around them overlaid with digital images.
Vrana developer, Bertrand Nepveu, who left Apple in 2021, told the Financial Times: "We re-spun everything to merge AR [augmented reality] and VR, for the first time, in a single device."
The Next iPhone?
Can this headset be Apple's next blockbuster product? At the moment, no. The VR market remains tiny in comparison to the smartphone market. And while few expect AR or VR to go mainstream overnight, researchers at Citi expect that 1 billion people — roughly the number of iPhone users today — will be wearing headsets by 2030. Citi believes this will translate to a market worth up to $2 trillion in revenue by the end of the decade.
Many things have to be fixed before this happens, however, including improvements in the headsets' battery power and user interface, as well as the physical comfort of wearing one. But Apple has done it before...recall that when Apple created the iPhone, its biggest breakthrough was to replace a physical keyboard with a multitouch screen.
Perhaps someday, Tim Cook will step onstage at WWDC and say, "Here's the device that replaces your smartphone." I'm sure that millions of iPhone app developers are salivating at that prospect, ready to rewrite their software to run on what will reportedly be called Apple's RealityOS platform.
Until then, just keep slowly accumulating Apple stock on the stock market's big down days. You will be rewarded when it finally announces its next big breakthrough product.
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