Apple don’t make a wide range of products, but the ones they make tend to be very, very successful. The recent launch of Apple’s Augmented Reality (AR) Vision Pro headset at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in early June has therefore gathered a fair amount of interest and a lot of media coverage. One of the big questions is what will this mean for CSPs? Given that Vision Pro doesn’t include 5G connectivity, the answer may be not exactly what CSPs would want to hear – for now.
Given that headsets will be worn indoors the general assumption is that wi-fi connectivity will suffice for the first generation of Vision Pro, and adding extra 5G connectivity would only bump up the cost and drain the device’s battery. This makes sense as Apple are no doubt keen to deliver the best user experience possible in order to ensure positive customer reviews in the first year. With the Vision Pro going on sale in 2024 it will probably be 2025 when the second-generation Vision Pro comes out. The question is will this include 5G connectivity?
If we go back to 2007 when the iPhone was first launched it’s worth remembering that first-generation iPhones did not have 3G connectivity. The reason? Battery drain. It only took one year and the launch of the second generation iPhone to have 3G connectivity built in. Demand was high and the new iPhone 3G sold one million units in the first three days after its introduction. Does this history lesson lead us to believe that in 2025 we’ll see Vision Pro headsets with 5G connectivity? Given that Vision Pro will be used at work and in the home environment there will be arguments to say that 5G isn’t needed and wi-fi will work fine.
2025 will be the year that many CSPs start to roll out 5G SA, so there could be a discussion to be had if the Vision Pro, and the applications running on it, would benefit from the reduced latency, higher speed, and reliability that 5G SA provides, and the trade-off between any increase in cost and battery drain. One success story of 5G is FWA (fixed wireless access) home and office broadband. In the US Verizon announced (in their Q1 2023 results) that they now have 1.9 million 5G home broadband customers and are aiming for 5 million by 2025. It’s also worth noting that 5G SA FWA supports network slicing, so customers using XR (extended reality) headsets could have a dedicated slice to deliver low latency, high-speed connectivity to the headset. While much of the discussion on Vision Pro is around consumers (and the high price tag), there could be many industrial and enterprise applications for Vision Pro from training, to enhanced remote team communication. For enterprises, the Vision Pro price tag will not be prohibitive given the potential benefits.
At the same Apple Worldwide Developer Conference where Vison Pro was making all the headlines, the latest version of the iPhone’s operating system, IOS 17 was launched. This supports 5G SA and network slicing. It, therefore, doesn’t take too much of a leap of faith to assume that the Vision Pro’s operating system (visionOS) could be upgraded to support 5G SA and network slicing.
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