How AirPods With Cameras Could Make the Vision Pro More Affordable

An upgraded AirPods design might balance out a cheaper Vision Pro.

An employee of Rosellimac, an authorized reseller of Apple products, tries the Apple Vision Pro mixe...
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The best new Vision Pro accessory could be... AirPods.

According to industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple is working on AirPods with infrared cameras that could help it understand gesture controls and even pair with the Vision Pro.

Unlike a typical camera, rumored infrared AirPods could detect changes in the environment, according to Kuo. It should be similar to the iPhone’s FaceID, which uses the TrueDepth camera system to capture an infrared image of your face to unlock your smartphone. On top of that, as noted by Google Venture’s M.G. Siegler, AirPods with infrared cameras could allow Apple to offload sensors from its Vision Pro as a way to reduce size and costs.

Apple has to figure out which components to exclude to make a cheaper version of its Vision Pro.


Figuring Out What To Cut

According to The Information, Apple has prioritized building a cheaper headset instead of a high-end follow-up to its first spatial computer. To make that headset, Apple has to downgrade the Vision Pro’s internal components to reduce costs. Inverse’s Deputy Editor Ray Wong suggested that Apple could remove the external display that powers the EyeSight feature. Others have proposed shipping the Vision Pro with a weaker chipset than the M2 and R1 found in it currently.

The idea of stripping the TrueDepth camera that’s found in the Vision Pro and pairing it with AirPods that can pick up the slack could also mean a lower overall starting price. If pairing AirPods with a cheaper Vision Pro is the route Apple goes with, there could be an opportunity to offload the Vision Pro’s other sensors, like its LiDAR scanner, flicker sensor, or ambient light sensor, to other Apple devices in its ecosystem, like the iPhone that’s already equipped with all these or even the more portable Apple Watch models.

Apple could lean on its other devices to pair with a cheaper Vision Pro design.


Along with saving on production costs, these AirPods with infrared cameras could work even better with the Vision Pro when it comes to spatial audio. Kuo indicated that using AirPods and the Vision Pro together could let the devices detect when you turn your head and target the audio playback from a specific angle.

A Long Wait Until 2026

Per The Information, Apple is currently working on ways to cut down costs for its Vision Pro but plans to release a more affordable version by the end of 2025. Even if Apple’s intention is to pair a cheaper Vision Pro with its AirPods in the future, it may take longer than a year.

The latest rumors indicate that Apple may launch its AirPods 4 this fall alongside the iPhone 16’s expected release. However, Apple may reserve its infrared cameras for the AirPods Pro 3, which are rumored to also arrive in 2025. Still, Kuo’s report claims that Apple won’t start production on its wireless earbuds with infrared cameras until 2026, so this could align with even later generations of AirPods.

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