Apple will mass produce AirPods carrying a major new feature in 2026

Apple will mass produce AirPods carrying a major new feature in 2026
TF International analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has an amazing track record when it comes to Apple devices, especially the iPhone. Usually, when Kuo makes a call, you can expect it to come true. So that's why it is interesting that his latest supply chain survey shows that Apple will start mass-producing AirPods with camera modules in 2026. The system will use an IR receiver similar to what is currently employed on the iPhone's Face ID receiver.

Kuo writes on his blog that the IR camera will be supplied by Foxconn with plans to produce 18 to 20 million units a year which would be enough to supply 10 million pairs of AirPods. He also says that the new AirPods will be used to enhance spatial audio and " strengthen the spatial computing ecosystem" on the Vision Pro and other headsets that Apple might offer in the future.

The analyst explains how this might work. "For example, when a user is watching a video with Vision Pro and wearing this new AirPods, if users turn their heads to look in a specific direction, the sound source in that direction can be emphasized to enhance the spatial audio/computing experience." Because the IR camera can "detect environmental image changes," air-gestures can be used to enhance the interaction between humans and the device. Kuo notes that Apple has filed various applications seeking patent protection in this space.

Kuo states, "Apple’s planning for hardware, software, and services has always focused on strengthening the competitiveness of the ecosystem, and spatial computing is no exception. As the commercialization conditions for spatial computing mature in the future, Apple, which has a significant lead in this area, is expected to generate new and strong growth momentum."

Last February, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman first disclosed that Apple was working on AirPods with a camera after shooting down speculation that at the time said that Apple was developing a smart ring. In his report  months ago, Gurman stated that the camera-equipped AirPods carried an internal codename of B798. He also said that the camera would deliver some of the capabilities of wearing smart glasses without having to wear frames and lenses. The AirPods' camera would capture data that would then be processed using AI.

We could see the AirPods with an attached camera arrive sometime in 2026 or 2027.

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