380M iPhones are ARKit-ready

This article originally appeared in Upload by VRARA SF's Mike Boland. It highlights data that is available through VRARA's new research subscription. More information can be found here

We’ve all heard the story: Apple’s ARKit will accelerate augmented reality’s market penetration by creating the world’s biggest developer platform overnight. The premise is based on the platform’s software-centric approach that makes it compatible with a whole lot of existing iPhones.

But how many is it? We’ve heard “tens of millions,” “hundreds of millions,” and of course “a crap ton.” So to ease the suspense, we at ARtillry did the math. The verdict: there are 381M ARKit-compatible iPhones active today, 505M projected by the end of 2017 and about 850M by 2020 (chart below).

Not including iPads (more on that in a second), this is essentially the installed base of iPhones that have A9 or A10 chips. That translates to the iPhone 6s and 6s+, or greater. Taking into account its September 2015 launch and the 2.5 year replacement cycle for iPhones, number crunching ensued (more here).

But perhaps more interesting than the current snapshot is the future projection. As noted, we project about a half billion units by end of year, or 65 percent of total iPhones at the time.  This will be driven by holiday-quarter sales that tend to move 75M+ units, not to mention a shiny new AR-centric body.

By the end of 2018, replacement cycles will wipe out all but 48 million non-ARKit-compatible phones in active use. Moving toward 2020, almost all 850M iPhones we project as an installed base will be ARKit-compatible, considering a very small portion of (second-hand) active devices older than 4 years.

But the takeaway isn’t just AR-compatible devices’ share of the iPhone universe. It’s also the degree to which that universe itself will grow. Year-over-year iPhone sales have waned; an AR-packing unit could give it the sales resuscitation it needs (though a rumored $1k price point could temper this).

As for iPad, we project 32M ARKit-compatible units by the end of the year. The smaller total has a lot to do with components like processing and optics. AR apps on the iPad could also be narrower, based on range of motion and portability, but we’ll certainly see at least some bigger-screen use cases develop.

Market-sizing credentials can be seen here. 

Market-sizing credentials can be seen here

Mike Boland

Michael Boland is Chief Analyst and VP of Content for BIA/Kelsey, covering online and mobile media. Mike is a frequent speaker at top industry conferences such as BIA/Kelsey events, Search Engine Strategies, ad:tech, and WHERE 2.0. He has authored in-depth reports on the changing local media landscape including online video, social networking and mobile. He contributes regularly to highly read online news sources such as Business Insider and the Huffington Post. A trusted source for reporters covering the interactive media space, his comments have appeared in major news and trade media, including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes. Previously he was a San Francisco-based freelance writer for business and technology magazines, such as Red Herring, Business 2.0, and Mobile Magazine. Mike began his career in business analysis and journalism as a staff reporter for Forbes magazine, where he covered tech & media.