Image credit: Madmix
Apple’s place in industrial AR
For years, Apple has been a dominant force in development of augmented reality (AR) applications, and the company continues to invest heavily in this technology.
“I am incredibly excited about AR,” says Apple CEO Tim Cook. “And the critical thing to any technology, including AR, is putting humanity at the center of it.”
Apple’s enthusiasm tends to be confirmed by rumors of the much-anticipated Apple AR headset, as well as by the company’s own sponsored promotions, like those that appeared during the 2022 Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple even hid an interactive easter egg of augmented-reality trading cards on its website. All of which suggests that it is doubling down on its investment in the technology, striving to improve mobile AR capabilities in hopes of leading the mobile AR industry. But this year, at least, Apple may have missed the mark.
The iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, especially the Pro versions, have been widely adopted by AR users thanks to their superior performance and capabilities. In addition to the polished software, the LiDAR scanner that Apple has incorporated into these devices gives the iPhone Pro and iPad Pro a substantial advantage over Android devices.
Apple has been innovating fast. But can it maintain the pace? Rumors of the upcoming iPhone 14 suggest that it may be hitting the brakes on revolutionary mobile AR innovation and may now be following a more evolutionary approach.
The latest iPads and iPhones are powered by state-of-the-art processors that handle AR smoothly, rendering complex models at high frames per second. Combined with efficient power consumption and sizable batteries, these high-end devices—iPad Pro 2020, iPad Pro 2021, iPhone 12, and iPhone 13 Pro—ensure that you’re not constantly looking for a place to charge while out in the field. They also come with a built-in LiDAR scanner that enables sophisticated 3D scanning, surface detection, and reconstruction of the features of a room. So it is hardly surprising that Apple’s devices have been the top choice of those seeking a high-quality industrial AR experience.
What about the iPhone 14?
Apple users saw a GPU performance increase of 15% when upgrading from the iPhone 12 to the iPhone 13. Although this improvement is not as transformative as Apple likes to boast, it is still a substantial upgrade. However, it is rumored that the base iPhone 14 model will have the same A15 CPU as the iPhone 13. If so, this means that you will have to go with the iPhone 14 Pro to get the benefits of the new A16 CPU. The 14 Pro will also retain the same LiDAR scanning hardware used in the 12 Pro and 13 Pro. But it may discard the stainless-steel body chassis in favor a sturdier titanium case, the first for Apple. The devices are also likely to see a $100 price increase.
Do we recommend that you upgrade?
If you want to make the most out of industrial AR, Apple has been the go-to choice. But the details we’re hearing about the impending iPhone lineup leave us wanting more. Current-generation iPhone Pros and iPads Pros offer processing capacity that is more than enough to handle most AR scenarios. With respect to augmented reality, iPhone 13 Pro and iPad 2021 Pro only negligibly improved on their 12 Pro predecessors; indeed, without testing in the lab, the differences are hard to spot. And the rumored iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro specs suggest a similar underwhelming improvement in AR capability. If Apple can match the brightness of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra screen, providing better performance outdoors in daylight, the upgrade may be warranted. But if the upcoming iPhone does feature no major improvements, most AR users will be better off sticking with the iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro.