back to article The harsh reality of Apple's augmented reality toolset ARKit: It's an incredible battery hog

Apple's most significant announcement at its Worldwide Developers Conference was not its vaporware HomePod speaker. Rather it was ARKit, an iOS framework for placing digital graphics into mobile device camera scenes while taxing batteries. AR here stands for augmented reality. It's virtual reality's more practical sibling. …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Makes sense

    It uses the GPU for most of the computation, so it will drain the battery just like a game would. But that's hardly a disadvantage for the use of AR - that would be like saying having cellular data capability is a disadvantage, because LTE drains battery much more quickly than wifi. That may be true, but if you don't have wifi where you are, your only other option would be to not have internet.

    1. Baldrickk

      Re: Makes sense

      Indeed, nothing comes for free, you want to do more compute intensive tasks on a device, it needs to drink more power. This isn't exactly flappybird.

      1. Dave 126

        Re: Makes sense

        MS's Hololens uses custom chips for scene tracking. Apple announced it will soon be using a GPU of its own design. Apple announces its AR toolkit.

        I suspect battery drain will be less of an issue by the time AR comes to consumers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Makes sense

          Well, at least for the phones coming out this fall and later that will have the Apple designed GPU with the AR special sauce.

  2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Improves with age?

    Apple is well known for getting a lot of oomph out of their iDevice CPU's. They seem to be able to get stuff done using less cores than Android devices so it is not beyond the possibility (IMHO) that future iDevices will use an optimised core for AR plus their own GPU which may well also be optimised for AR operations.

    They may well be seen to have (Despite being late to market) gone about this the right way.

    Apple as ever do things according to their timetable and not the markets. Sometimes this does not pan out and they quite rightly get a slagging off in the press and internet. Others, set new benchmarks that the competition have to reach just to stay in the game.

    IMHO, going to AR and not VR is the right way forward at the moment.

    In the past, Occulus have been critical of Apple's GPU's (rightly so). I've not seen their reaction to this move yet.

    Interesting times ahead even though VR/AR are not really my sort of thing they will have implications outside of those fields.

    1. Dave 126

      Re: Improves with age?

      Indeed. And let's not forget that Apple will soon be using GPUs of their own design and not those of Imagination Technologies'. When that news was announced, the more informed speculation was that it was because Apple wanted its GPU to do more than just shunt pixels, just as MS's Hololens has custom DSPs.

      1. Chris 3

        Re: Improves with age?

        Lets also not forget that Apple's beta software tends to be pretty battery-heavy, but then gets better optimisations before release. So it could well improve fairly rapidly with age.

    2. ecarlseen

      Re: Improves with age?

      Exactly. For as much as it's talked about, Apple is rarely an innovator. What they are is (mostly) patient and disciplined enough to not bring products to market before the hardware, software, and consumers are ready. They sell results, not technology. This is what their "It Just Works" reputation is built on, along with its associated high margins and profitability. The downside is that this approach alienates many technology enthusiasts who want more cutting-edge gear even if it lacks polish.

      Another thing is that Apple rarely goes vertical in their supply chain unless their vendors are unable or unwilling to deliver something they feel they need. If they're dumping Imagination for mobile GPU designs, then it means they want something radically different than what they think Imagination can deliver. Their advantage there is that they have intimate knowledge of and full control over their existing and future software stacks and can feed their silicon teams very precise directives for capabilities and optimizations. It also doesn't hurt that their CPU teams have proven they can go toe-to-toe with anyone - Intel, ARM, Qualcomm, Samsung, whowever - and deliver solid wins when it comes to design efficiency. Everything from the A7 onward has been a flat-out slaughter in terms of IPC vs power consumption. I would expect they'll announce a GPU this year that delivers solid AR performance and machine learning functionality while maintaining great battery life. Because otherwise they wouldn't bother with it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Improves with age?

        Another reason to go vertical would be to keep what they're doing for themselves. If you buy something 'off the shelf' it is easy for the competition to match you step for step. If you design your own, it takes them longer to do so - for example, look at how far ahead Apple's custom ARM cores are versus everyone else's.

  3. imaginarynumber

    If only Ikea's AR app showed you the hidden shortcuts in their stores...

    1. James 51

      Virtual apple shops coming to an iDevice near you....

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Look closely at the map large map at the entrance to the store. ALL shortcuts are actually on there, just not all marked. The shortest route is sometimes through the displays instead of along the path. I can get anywhere in my local Ikea from any other point in a few minutes (And it's one of the largest ones in the Netherlands). And yes, I've been there way too often...

      BTW, it's also a good idea to bring along one of the smaller maps just to keep yourself grounded. Ikea stores are purposefully designed to desorient you so that you feel there is no other option than following the path laid out by the store.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge

        "BTW, it's also a good idea to bring along one of the smaller maps just to keep yourself grounded. Ikea stores are purposefully designed to desorient you so that you feel there is no other option than following the path laid out by the store."

        Shouldn't be that hard if you ever mapped adventure games with pen and graph paper. (and who didn't?)

        Ikea showrooms are rectangular and the paths always have 90 degree corners so it's easy. Just watch out for those disorienting teleporters!

  4. James 51

    I have a gear vr. It's good for watching netflix (though I wish the virtual screen the image appears on could be bigger) but my s6 overheats too quickly to play the demanding 3d games for long. I've seen the AR examples mentioned in the article but nothing appeals to me (though an app which animated combat between units in WH40K would be a laugh, at least for a few minutes).

    1. Dave 126

      Hehe! I posted such a comment a few years ago, only my implementation involved a fixed projector facing down onto the gaming table, taking input from a Kinect-like device. Not only could it provide special effects, but it could aid in the play - for example marking how far a unit could be moved on one go.

      1. James 51

        No more front to back base for measuring distances...

  5. Danny 14

    "unyielding belief that immersive 3D content is better than the alternative"

    Not all 3D implementations are a waste of time (like TV sets). Elite Dangerous on Oculus rift is awesome. I am lucky that I don't have glasses and don't get motion sickness. I also have decent neck muscles too. Seriously though, the game looks spectacular in 3D.

  6. Not also known as SC

    Action Transfers

    So AR is basically electronic action transfers (

  7. Stevie


    Augmented Reality is Fake Views! Sad!

  8. Nimby

    Augmented Reality - It's like real reality, only sadder.

    Other than a couple of cheesy games, this is a technology with no future. It's like 3DTV or Angry Birds. After you pop your cherry, the novelty wears off and you just realize how annoying it actually is. Wait, are we talking about AR or VR? Or 3D? Or indie games? Doesn't really make a difference, does it? All gimmicky crap that quickly lose their luster. All doomed.

    But on the plus side, at least AR has the benefit of Darwin Awards. Trains. Buses. Cars. Gotta catch 'em all! It's about time that we finally use technology to positively advance genetics. And it drains your phone battery? Apple ARKit for the win!

    Sometimes "the only winning move is not to play."

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