Apple Considering Putting Cameras in AirPods: Report

A pair of AirPods lie next to their white charging case on a gray surface. Beside them is a smartphone with a black case, featuring multiple camera lenses on the back.

According to a new report, Apple is considering putting infrared cameras into future models of its popular AirPods wireless earbuds.

The news comes from a post by respected industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.

“My latest supply chain survey indicates that Apple plans to mass-produce new AirPods with camera modules by 2026, featuring an IR camera similar to the iPhone Face ID receiver (not the transmitter),” Kuo says on Medium.

The analyst explains that the new AirPods technology would work in tandem with the Apple Vision Pro or any other headsets the company launches. More specifically, it could improve spatial audio features which change where the source of audio sounds like it’s coming from. For instance, if the audio is equal on both sides, when a user turns their head to the left, the right side might then be further emphasized, creating a more immersive listening experience.

Additionally, the infrared camera could “detect environmental image changes, potentially enabling in-air gesture control to enhance human-device interaction.” Though Kuo did not expand on what this could look like, it sounds similar to the pinch gesture added to the Apple Watch, a gesture that doesn’t actually require the user to touch the device in question to interact with it.

Kuo further noted that Apple already possesses patents in this area, lending strength to the credibility of such plans. However, it is worth mentioning that many tech companies may aggressively file patents to prevent competitors from doing so without plans to use them. Just because there’s a patent for something doesn’t mean that technology or product will ever see the light of day.

If this rumor is true, Asian tech company Foxconn would be the supplier, “with an annual capacity plan of 18–20 million units, or about 10 million AirPods,” according to Kuo, as each side (left and right ear) would theoretically have its own camera.

As for how likely the rumor is, Kuo feels confident on the matter.

“Apple’s planning for hardware, software and services has always focused on strengthening the competitiveness of the ecosystem, and spatial computing is no exception,” Kuo says. “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.”

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.