AirPods with cameras could be arriving in 2026 but they’re not going to be designed to take photos—yet. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a report stating that the tech giant has been working on AirPods with camera features, more specifically, infrared cameras supplied by Foxconn. The AirPods camera report likens this integration to the ones on the iPhone that help operate Face ID to unlock your smartphone. The full range of applications of this new capability remains unclear but the one use that has been discussed is its link with the Apple Vision Pro headset.

In recent weeks, Apple’s Beats Pill speakers have received positive reviews right on launch so perhaps the company has dialed in on what it takes to make a successful audio device.

AirPods camera features

Image: AirPods Pro (2nd generation)

AirPods with Cameras Are Getting Set For Mass Production 

Wireless headphones and earphones are growing more complex by the day and playing high-fidelity music is no longer enough of a reason to invest in a particular pair of audio devices. Active Noise cancellation, transparency mode, Bluetooth multipoint connection with improved range, water resistance, head tracking, and wireless charging are all examples of features that earbuds are expected to provide today and the large majority do. To stand out, businesses are forced to invest in technology with an unexpected bonus. 

Despite their simplistic design and miniature size, AirPods stand at the top of their game with a range of features and quality audio now supported by USB-C connectivity. The AirPods camera report by Ming-Chi Kuo suggests that within the next generation or two, we could also see an infrared camera added to the already-packed device. The evidence for this was gathered through a supply-chain survey that indicated the company was gearing up to mass-produce the AirPods with support from Foxconn. 

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman was the first to report Apple’s infrared cameras back in February. In his Power On newsletter, Gurman noted that the Cupertino company was experimenting with different form factors for their wearable products, testing out the range of devices they could bring to the market. We’ve seen reports of an Apple smart ring making the rounds for months now, which was one of the ideas the company was floating to its teams. 

Similarly, the report also included details of a pair of smart glasses that could capture more of the market that the Vision Pro has failed to impress. Last came the discussion of the camera-enabled AirPods. The AirPods camera features were expected to support AI functionality and enable some degree of health tracking but exactly how it would do this was not explained. Now we have an idea of what Apple’s infrared camera can be expected to do. 

Apple infrared cameras

The AirPods’ Camera Features Could Change How We Use Our Earbuds

The idea of a pair of AirPods with cameras equipped on them sounds fascinating, but a user’s willingness to try the device will solely depend on how well it can be used. One of the primary applications of Apple’s infrared cameras on the AirPods is its integration with the Vision Pro headset. which could enhance the spatial-computing experience for users. The camera feature could support head tracking capabilities that would let users have a very realistic audio experience while using their headsets, turning their heads to have the earphones follow their movement. 

Unfortunately, if this is the only application for the AirPods camera features, the company will have a hard time selling the earbuds to its customers. The Vision Pro headset has not been able to sell too well and if the rumors are to be trusted, the company is working on a cheaper headset to better appeal to its customers. An expensive pair of AirPods to go with it won’t necessarily help the device sell better, so the audio device has to do more.

In his AirPods camera report, Kuo also suggests that the IR cam integration could be used for gesture controls, which is a much better offer for the wider public that wants to invest in the device. Operating the control present on the external surface of the compact earbuds gets annoying with the cramped space available, which is why gesture controls could help with the incorporation of a wider range of settings.

We’re certainly looking forward to AirPods with cameras in 2026 as long as these devices aren’t designed for photography. Smart glasses that are always watching and recording are unsettling in their own right and the Humane AI Pin added its own off-putting touch to photography on the go. We haven’t reached a point yet where putting our smartphones out to take a picture has become too much of a hassle, so as long as we have another purpose for the AirPods with its cameras, we should be good to go.