Apple iOS 13 Code Hints At Rumored AR Headset With StarBoard Viewing Mode

A recent report suggests Apple has scrapped its plans of releasing a set of augmented reality (AR) glasses, but there are clues the company is still interested in AR hardware in some capacity. More specifically, the documentation for an internal build of iOS 13 hints at Apple readying an AR or mixed reality headset.

Apple Glasses
Apple AR Glasses concept (Source: iDrop News / Martin Hajek)

It was around this time last year when rumors of Apple working on a set of AR glasses popped up. At the time, TF Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo suggested Apple would releases its own-branded AR glasses in 2020, noting they would required an iPhone. In addition, Apple has filed a variety of AR patents over the past decade, and released its first ARKit for developers in 2017.

Skip ahead to now and the folks at MacRumors say they spotted a few interesting tidbits related to iOS 13. One of them is a "STARTester" app for switching in and out of a head-mounted mode. There are two modes, including "worn" and "held." While nothing is confirmed, this is likely an app to test the functionality of an AR headset on an iPhone.

They also found interesting strings of code in iOS 13, including a reference to a "StarBoard mode." Several of the strings reference AR functionality, such as "ARStartBoardViewController." There's also a mention of a "StarBoard" system shell for stereo AR-enabled apps inside the accompanying README file in iOS 13. This hints at there being an AR headset.

There are no concrete details at the moment, though Apple's interest in AR is well documented. Going all the way back to 2016, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about AR being a bigger technology than virtual reality (VR).

"I do think that a significant portion of the population of developed countries, and eventually all countries, will have AR experiences every day. It will be almost like eating three meals a day because it will become that much a part of you," Cook said. "A lot of us live on our smartphones, the iPhone, I hope, is very important for everyone, so AR think will become really big. VR I think is not going to be that big, compared to AR. I’m not saying it’s not important, it is important."

Nothing of AR substance from Apple's hardware division has materialized since then, but if the recent clues are any indication, something is coming soon.