AT&T and Magic Leap formed a partnership last year which looked a lot like the one between Cingular (now merged with AT&T) and Apple which led to the launch of iPhone. The idea was that the iPhone was an all new mobile computing device that needed a next-gen network which only Cingular could provide; the iPhone first launched exclusive to the Cingular network. AT&T and Magic Leap are pitching a similar marketing message involving Magic Leap One and 5G, and have begun exclusively selling the headset in select AT&T stores… but the whole thing falls flat upon the realization that the headset doesn’t actually have any 5G hardware.

Magic Leap’s marketing for its first AR headset, the Magic Leap One ‘Creator Edition’, has been… curious, to say the least. From the presentation on the company’s website, to a consumer-facing augmented reality Game of Thrones demo, to the availability of the headset in select AT&T and stores… it very much seems like the company is saying that this device is ready for a broader audience than just developers. But there’s little to justify the headset’s $2,300 price tag if you aren’t expecting to build applications for the headset that may one day make you money years in the future when such devices are more widespread.

Image courtesy Magic Leap

This unclear messaging about who the headset is really for has reached a new peak of strangeness when AT&T and Magic Leap announced recently that the Magic Leap One is being exclusively sold in a handful of flagship AT&T stores.

“Beginning next week, AT&T and Magic Leap will take the leap to a new reality, further enhancing the way consumers experience their world [my emphasis],” reads a press release marking the occasion. The release is also filled with quotes from both companies about how critical a 5G network will be to building the future of computing that Magic Leap is promising:

“Our journey with Magic Leap to transform industry and consumer experiences starts today with the launch of the Magic Leap One only available from AT&T,” said John Donovan, CEO, AT&T Communications. “Together with Magic Leap, we’re making the future of education, telemedicine, sports, entertainment and everyday experiences extraordinary. But there’s so much more creativity ahead. 5G will help drive the next generation of spatial computing that will deliver immersive, interactive content everywhere.”

“AT&T’s investment in 5G will enable the widespread adoption of emerging and innovative technologies like Magic Leap’s spatial computing and will help to redefine how we access and experience everything from work, play, communication, media, healthcare and education,” said Rony Abovitz, CEO of Magic Leap. “The Magic Leap team and I are excited to take this next step in our exclusive partnership, tapping into AT&T’s vast retail distribution and the Magicverse innovations that will be powered by their game changing 5G network.”

The central message is clear: 5G is the key to realizing Magic Leap’s vision—one where spatial computing is part of our everyday lives. But the headset that’s now being sold in some AT&T stores doesn’t actually have any 5G hardware at all, which really convolutes the story the companies are spinning.

The press release does specify that the headset is Wi-Fi only, but in a way that doesn’t at all address the fact that it simultaneously talks about how important 5G is to the future the device is supposed to enable: “The initial launch will operate over a Wi-Fi connection and provide new communication and entertainment experiences at a whole new level.”

Magic Leap didn’t respond to our request for comment on the nature of their 5G messaging and partnership with AT&T.

Ostensibly, AT&T wants people who come into their stores to buy the $2,300 Magic Leap One. But at the same time they’re saying ‘for the real future that we’re promising, you’re going to need to buy another headset that’s equipped with 5G’.

It would have been as if Cingular and Apple talked about how the iPhone was the future of mobile computing, and then launched it exclusively in Cingular stores as a Wi-Fi only product… expecting customers that believed in the vision to later buy another iPhone which actually had cellular connectivity.

– – — – –

This is just another oddity in a string of unclear messaging from Magic Leap’s marketing approach, which from an aesthetic standpoint, looks and feels targeted at consumers, but from a pricing and feature standpoint can’t be considered anything but a development kit.

Magic Leap is no clearer on messaging with developers who are actually understand that the product is a dev kit through and through. One developer I spoke with believes in the future of spatial computing, but feels Magic Leap’s poorly communicated direction makes it a risky platform to seriously consider for anything more than experimentation.

“Developing something usually takes a good amount of time. And when you pick a target platform, you’re partnering with that platform. It’s hard to pick Magic Leap as a partner when they won’t share key information with you,” the developer said. “Following someone who shares no information with you and keeps saying ‘Trust me, it’s all gonna work out!’ is often a bad business decision. They share their long term, 10–20 year vision all the time, but refuse to share the year’s vision. A company that wants to build the future needs to do well in the present.”

– – — – –

Magic Leap isn’t the first to try to straddle the line between ‘dev kit’ and ‘consumer ready’ with a new product that’s not ready for prime time because of a lack of compelling content that still needs to be built up by developers.

Samsung’s Gear VR ‘Innovator Edition’ Headset

In 2014, Oculus and Samsung launched the first Gear VR headset which they dubbed the ‘Innovator Edition’ (not dissimilar to Magic Leap One ‘Creator Edition’). And while we were also critical about the companies’ marketing in a grey area, Gear VR was more than 10 times less expensive ($200), and neither company was saying that the headset lacked some essential functionality that would be key to the future they were promising. That made it lower risk for both consumers and developers to buy in. In subsequent years, the headset was upgraded and got more content, and thus lost the ‘Innovator Edition’ tag, but the newer versions were essentially the same device/platform that had been promised to those who bought into the vision from the outset.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Trenix

    Not buying anything that has any affiliation with CNN. Fake news!

    • Simple O’Rourke

      Smart man/woman

    • dk

      there is a cnn app for the phone u use

    • Morgan Spiritz

      Yes, trust the lying Trump instead. What a genius

      • Trenix

        What does this have to do with Trump? CNN been lying way before Trump even got in office.

        • Morgan Spiritz

          The irrational hatred for CNN started with Trump’s campaign in 2016

          Ask a Trump voter to name the list of lies of CNN and they can’t. They’re just parroting empty, dumb rally slogans and Russian propaganda.

          • garas

            Lol. We got a live one here folks. Keep drinking the Kool Aid.

          • Trenix

            Irrational hatred? They’ve been lairs before Trump, lairs after Trump. Everything they say is a lie. Their sources, statistics, everything. You know how many times people call up claiming to be an expert and then troll the stupid and oblivious news reporter? Those are hilarious. Or what about when one day they say eggs are healthy, year later they’re unhealthy, wtf?

            Anyway, it’s pure propaganda. They only tell us what we want to here, one side of the story. Also Russian propaganda? Dude it’s already been revealed that there was no Russian collusion. You’re the parrot buddy.

            Next you’re going to say that pokemon go somehow interfered in the elections. Oh wait…

            Have some self respect for yourself, stop being gullible and start researching things on your own. Look at BOTH sides of the story. All of mainstream media repeats the same script. Operation mockingbird buddy, and you are the one being played.

          • Morgan Spiritz

            Stop making garbage up. They’ve independently fact-checked all news sources — guess which ones were at the bottom? FOX News (most provable lies). Try for one (they won a Pulitzer Prize). Conservatives sites tell the most lies. CNN and MSNBC, BBC, Guardian fare much better and tell more truths. Only crybabies who hate that their crooked lying President is getting criticized throw out tantrums about the “evil MSM” because they know they can’t defend the torrent of lies coming from Trump.

            Who says there is no Russian collusion? Trump? Why are we listening to the fool who is being investigated? Who else said that there was no collusion? William Barr? He was appointed by Trump and his summary is worthless without the full Mueller report. When Mueller says Trump isn’t fully exonerated, that means Trump is still in trouble and did lots of bad and suspicious things, and tried to hide it. You don’t spend two years and 400+ pages and find nothing.

          • Trenix

            Politifacts is a left leaning website which has been wrong many times. It’s not a reliable source at all. Keep up believing a lie, we’ll keep laughing at your losses. Russia honestly is no threat either, they’re far inferior and behind our times that it’s not even funny. I remember when Obama said that voting fraud was a joke, now all the democrats claiming there was a collusion. You know what’s collusion? Taking in all the illegals and allowing them to vote and interfere in our election.

            Mueller SPECIFICALLY said there was no collusion. My God your mind is pure rot.

          • Morgan Spiritz

            No, William Barr said that. The Special Counsel (Mueller’s team) said they were disappointed because they left behind their own summaries to be given to the public, and William Barr the Trump goon chose to misinterpret and omit their words. There is no rush or limit to the number of pages that can be in Barr’s report, which wasn’t even asked for. And yet, the Trump-appointed goon couldn’t even summarize Mueller’s report correctly. Barr is the same guy who pardoned people during the Regan years, even people who lied to Congress (look it up). Also, Barr’s report also said “the President isn’t exonerated” which means he is not cleared. Even the Goon admits Trump isn’t cleared, because if he said that and the real report was released, Barr would be in jail for Obstruction of Justice.

            And you can cry “Politifact is a left leaning site” all you want. You realize others could say the same for where you get your news? All of the Hillary and other fake points you raise are from Right-leaning sites that border on filtered propaganda — none of them won Pulitzer Prizes or esteemed journalistic awards, and never will.

            And just give it up. Trump is the worst liar in Presidential history. His Trump Foundation and Trump University have been shut down because of fraud. For most candidates, that would be discrediting alone. The man won’t show his tax returns because there’s guaranteed dirt in there he doesn’t want the public to see. He makes statements that frequently contradict his previous ones, and he can’t even fact-check anything when he spouts statistics (lies about crowd sizes at his rallies when Fire Departments mention the actual figures). Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer for 11 years, said Trump would play with numbers to always make something appear larger than it really is, only because Trump knows his followers are too idiotic to check.


            Yes, it’s funny we’re in a AT&T + Magic Leap comments section talking about Trump. But I’m not letting you get away calling Trump a thoroughly honest, cleanly transparent and dignified man with a spotless history worth emulating. That’s Fake News.

          • Trenix

            Everyone has a bias. The news however shouldn’t. They don’t show two sides of the story, they only lean left. I take in information and make my own determination. You however follow whatever mainstream news says and believe it. That’s the difference between you and me. I’m not saying Trump is perfect, there are many things that he’s doing currently which is bugging me.

            However this Trump-Russia collusion thing was a joke. You guys lost, you had no evidence and continue to not prove that he’s guilty. We live in America, it’s innocent until proven guilty. There is a reason for that. Until you or anyone else, can prove to me that Trump was not officially elected, then what you say are just meaningless words.

            As for the rest, like his university, tax returns, infidelity, bankruptcy, and all that other nonsense, is pointless. I know plenty of it, way more in-depth than you do, but to actually show you how you’re full of it, will take numerous hours and sources to show you how the world works. As for the rest of his personal life, I don’t care either. What he does with others is none of my business.

            Trump did more good to American than bad and did a FAR more than Obama who was simply put in office for his skin color. But you democrats love racism, censorship, and other anti-America crap.

  • I’m sure devs will appreciate the opportunity to test the Magic Leap One in a store.

    Tech enthusiasts will enjoy a glimpse into the future at AT&T stores.

    AT&T can show off a reason for their 5G hype machine and can position itself as cutting edge consumer tech company.

    It’s a good thing for everyone. What’s the point of your article?

    • Jan Ciger

      Not really, especially given that AT&T has no 5G network anywhere (and they are actually being sued for misleading advertising already).

      Pushing hype that you can’t deliver on is actually a very shortsighted strategy that will come back to haunt you long term. Of course, if you aren’t playing the long game and are absolutely desperate for sales now, it will work short term – and completely destroy the market for you (and everyone else) in the future, because you will teach everyone that this gadgetry is useless, fake and doesn’t really work …

      We have been there before with VR and it took 20 years where nobody wanted to touch anything with “VR” in the name with 10 feet pole. It had to be hidden as “serious games”, “e-learning” (even though both are not really VR) and similar to make it palatable to buyers.

      • They will deliver. Their current focus is 5G for enterprise. For consumers it is a glimpse into the future.

        • I agree with @ar_mr_xr:disqus. He has a point. All things eventually deliver. Spatially aware computing in the context of your own personal world will be no exception.

      • Malkmus

        TBF the full press release states that the 5G network is not live yet, except at a test bed: “we are preparing for a 5G future by bringing 5G to the Magic Leap campus later this year, so developers can innovate in near-real-time on a live 5G network.”

        The ATT 5Ge label is certainly a huge gaffe though, and I expect lawsuits to come from the false advertising. To be clear though, that’s not what’s being advertised alongside the Magic Leap One.

  • Jan Ciger

    What is missing from the article is the fact that AT&T’s “5G” network isn’t really 5G neither:

    Worse, that service is actually slower than its competitors’ 4G:

    Basically they have updated some phones to show a fake 5G logo on 4G LTE networks that got some speed boost. So I guess the “5G” marketing of the Magic Leap is in a similar vein, even though ML One doesn’t have any cellular hw at all.

  • This line is Magic Leap in a nutshell:

    “But there’s little to justify the headset’s $2,300 price tag if you aren’t expecting to build applications for the headset that may one day make you money years in the future when such devices are more widespread.”

    That’s it. That’s all there is to say. If you aren’t trying to do some bleeding edge development, there’s no point. Even if you are, it seems highly unlikely that future device will ever come from Magic Leap, or look/work anything like the Magic Leap.

    Really, why wouldn’t you just pick up a Hololens? Microsoft is a real solid company who has been innovating like mad, even if they don’t get any respect for it. Their inside-out VR headsets are now practically the industry standard, as Oculus is ditching Constellation and HTC is hedging their bets with the Cosmo. Better yet, Hololens *DOES* have a real for using 5G, with their existing plans to do off-site cloud processing. A 5G Hololens is undoubtedly almost complete right now.

    Even if it doesn’t have a Microsoft logo on the side, your future AR device will likely have Microsoft tech and software inside of it. You’d be crazy to back Magic Leap over Hololens.

    • Microsoft focuses on Enterprise because they know that it’s unlikely that they can beat Apple and Google with their dead on mobile Windows OS.

    • Malkmus

      Really, why wouldn’t you just pick up a Hololens?

      Because you can’t (and it’s $1200 more FWIW). The first one isn’t sold anymore and Hololens 2 is ony sold to enterprise teams. There might be a dev version next year, but who knows. BTW, Magic Leap 2 is already announced as coming to AT&T as well, so there will be another device. Don’t get me wrong, Hololens is a great device as well. But there is, as usual, a lot of FUD still circulating around Magic Leap that just isn’t true.

      • Fern

        I actually generate almost $6,000-$8,000 monthly via internet. It really is great to very easily replace my previous jobs salary, mainly considering I only just do the work almost 20 hour weekly from a home office.I ended up losing my job after doing work for the same employer for a long period, I required very reliable income. I was not thinking about programs that promises to make you rich in just few days you see all over the net. Those all of them are type of ponzi network marketing plan in which you need to initially get interested customers then sell a product to friends and family members or any person to make sure they will be in your team. The greatest benefit of working via internet is that I am always home with the children and also enjoy time with family on different beaches of the world. Honestly,it is simpler than you would think, all you need to do is fill out a very simple form to get front line access to the Home Profit System. The guidelines are really simple, you don’t have to be a computer whiz, but you should be aware how to use the internet. It is as easy as being on Facebook. Here’s the most convenient way to start >>>

  • iThinkMyCatIsAFlea

    Not only are they using non-existent 5G to flog this $2,300 headset, they’re also using Angry Birds!

    Other non-existent features that Magic Leap could add to help sell their $2,300 device:

    Magic Leap is Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch compatible. All games for these consoles are playable via Magic Leap*.

    Magic Leap allows you to watch Netflix while looking in a different direction to your tv. Tired of staring in one direction to watch Netflix? Magic Leap allows you to watch Netflix in any direction*.

    *Requires 5G network.

    • Ellie 187

      I can watch Netflix on my ceiling just fine with PCVR …. AR really has no real use cases.. maybe in the area of productivity, but again what can a VR headset with cameras on it already can’t do that the AR can do? HTC Vive Pro has dual cameras on the front for pass through so it can do everything the magic leap is boasting it can do.

      I’m really not sold on AR at all… it will be terrible for gaming. A small novelty is wave shooter aliens in your apartment?? whoopee doo that will become stale quite fast.

      Garbage… VR can transport you to other worlds… AR implants things into your living room.. that will get boring very fast in the gaming arena.

      • Zachary Scott Dickerson

        Same thing we talk about at work frequently… we can’t figure out who their target market is… if it’s for business, how exactly will it make us more money again? Lot’s of empty promises, and I don’t want to hire a massive software team to back a possibly obsolete OS a year from now.

      • People loved Pokemon Go

      • jj

        soon ar will be able to block out the rest of view so youll be able to go from ar to vr within the same headset. no need for console battle here.

        but yeah the ML is crap haha theyre spreading inspiration but following up with crap

  • eckehard

    In etwa kommt mir die Negativ-Haltung gegenüber Magic-Leap vor wie die Arroganz gegenüber Apple in den frühen Jahren ..
    Was haben wir denn bis jetzt im VR-AR – ein Haufen halbfertige (wie Magic Leap) Brillen mit eigenen Game-Pools …. das ist nichts anderes wie auch Magic Leap !
    Wartet es mal ab — AR wird siegen .. Magic Leap oder Hololens !!

  • Ellie 187

    I still don’t see any point of this technology….. its certainly quite limited when it comes to gaming… how fast will get tired of seeing your own home in a game??

    Great part of VR is the possibilities are limitless… AR on the other hand not so much when it comes to gaming. But if people want to spend over $2000 on technology that hasn’t proven to be useful beyond a novelty, go right ahead, i’ll stay back here on my PCVR laughing at it.

    • I’m sure you picked the right team

    • jj

      AR will absorb VR, not the other way around.

  • Adam Todd

    It’s probably 5GE

  • NooYawker

    The perfect partnership. Two bullshit companies combining to push one huge bullshit marketing campaign.

    • I left this website 3 years ago because of you and the other narrow-minded people here. And you are still at it. Hilarious.

      • NooYawker

        Well thanks for stopping by.

  • This article is a huge BURN on all Magic Leap’s marketing. And I completely agree with every single word.