Apple's next big thing is likely to be a combination of what it does best--create amazing technology that fits your life and just works. And one of its most recent acquisitions might be the key to making that happen. The company bought Intel's 5G modem business this year, and that technology is not only expected to power future iPhones but could also be a natural fit in other types of wearable tech.

Apple is already the biggest player in wearable technology, which currently includes the Apple Watch and its iconic AirPods and AirPods Pro. Wearables also represents one of the company's most important areas of future growth, especially as the growth of iPhone sales has slowed over the past few years. Sure, the iPhone isn't going anywhere, but the number of people in the market for a new one continues to shrink as the overall design remains relatively unchanged, and people are keeping their devices longer. 

Now a report from The Information includes details about an Apple company meeting held in its Steve Jobs Theater, where it detailed what might be its most ambitious and futuristic product yet. Actually, two futuristic products, including a headset and glasses set to be released in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Apple has been rumored to be working on a set of augmented reality (AR) glasses for a while now, but it's mostly been speculation. Now, however, it appears that Apple has at least semi-publicly shared its roadmap for making it a reality.

Before you balk at the idea of wearing around a high-tech pair of iGlasses, let us at least admit that if there's a company that can figure out how to do it well, it's Apple. No other company has had the same level of success dominating just about everything it touches. 

Still, it'll be a few years before anyone is walking around with whatever it means to basically have an iPhone strapped to your face. One possible reason is that Apple will likely wait until it has its own 5G technology ready for prime time.

We are far past the point where the devices we carry and wear are capable of doing incredible things. My Apple Watch can tell if I fall while shoveling the four inches of snow we got here in Michigan last night. My iPhone recognizes my face and remembers where I parked my car. My iPad Pro is capable of running Photoshop. 

The limiting factor isn't the technology, it's the speed at which that technology is able to access data, in most cases from the cloud. The coming 5G rollout of major carriers has the potential to change that part of the equation and unleash a ton of new and interesting possibilities. 

Think about what would you could do with a pair of AR glasses with 5G wireless. Imagine the ability to look around and have information layered over the world around you, in real-time. AR involves massive amounts of data and processing, both of which would be radically affected by ultrafast wireless. 

As I mentioned, all of that technology exists in some form, but the limiting factor is the ability to quickly process the data. By 2022, that won't be a problem.

On that note, Apple also hasn't ever tried to be first. Even the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone. The iMac wasn't the first desktop computer or even the first all-in-one. The iPad wasn't the first tablet, and the Apple Watch wasn't the first smartwatch.

Apple won't be the first pair of smart glasses, but so far no one has figured out a way to make a version useful enough to be something anyone actually wants to wear. Apple, by waiting, might actually ship something with the speed it needs to actually be useful.

Sometimes good things really are worth waiting for.

Published on: Nov 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.