Apple AirPods with cameras tipped for 2026 — here’s what they could do

Apple AirPods Pro (2nd Generation) in case
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple might be working to bring something unexpected to the AirPods. To make the most of its Vision Pro headset, the company is looking to add infrared cameras similar to those used on the Face ID module on iPhone and iPad. While you won't take photos with your AirPods, the company could do creative stuff with the cameras.

The report comes from noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. His report says that Apple could have these new headphones hit the market as soon as 2026, so we might not have to wait too long to hear more about exactly what they can do. 

While the Vision Pro integration sounds interesting, it only applies to a small minority of users who spend the vast sum of money required to get their hands on Apple headsets. However, there could be other features.

According to Kuo, the cameras can detect changes in the environment. He said the new AirPods cameras are "potentially enabling in-air gesture control to enhance human-device interaction." If that comes to fruition, it could offer a new way to control music with AirPods.

You could swipe the air in front of your headphones to skip a song, for example. If the cameras have the same accuracy and speed as those used for Face ID, this could be a game-changing upgrade for both Vision headset users and music listeners. 

Knowing Apple, I expect them to find some exciting ways to use its AirPod cameras, perhaps even some that Kuo's report didn't mention. We'll have to wait until next year to see what happens, but it sounds promising.

As you might expect, Kuo said Foxconn is the "new product introduction (NPI) supplier for the IR camera that will be used with AirPods." Apple tends to rely on Foxconn for much of its manufacturing, so it only makes sense that the IR cameras could come from there.

This report from Kuo comes after Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported in February that Apple could be working on camera-toting AirPods, smart glasses and a smart ring. However, the report didn't indicate when we might see these new products from Apple.

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Dave LeClair
Senior News Editor

Dave LeClair is the Senior News Editor for Tom's Guide, keeping his finger on the pulse of all things technology. He loves taking the complicated happenings in the tech world and explaining why they matter. Whether Apple is announcing the next big thing in the mobile space or a small startup advancing generative AI, Dave will apply his experience to help you figure out what's happening and why it's relevant to your life.