Magic Leap today announced that AT&T, one of the leading cellular carriers in the US, has invested in the company and solidified a partnership making AT&T the “exclusive wireless distributor of Magic Leap products for consumers in the U.S.”

Magic Leap, which is building a highly anticipated AR headset, today announced that it has “completed” its Series D equity funding round with an investment from AT&T. The company had announced its $502 million Series D back in 2017, but it isn’t clear if the round had grown to include AT&T’s investment, or today simply marks the conclusion of investment matters for AT&T’s portion (we’ve reached out to Magic Leap for clarification). As part of the investment, AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan joins the Magic Leap board as an observer.

The investment also forms a partnership between the two companies, with AT&T becoming the “exclusive wireless distributor of Magic Leap products for consumers in the U.S.” That means the consumer version of the Magic Leap headset will be sold in AT&T stores, but that may not include the company’s very first headset, the Magic Leap One, which is being positioned more as a development kit than a consumer product.

“When available for consumers, AT&T customers will be among the first to experience [the Magic Leap product] in select AT&T stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with more markets to follow,” AT&T said.

Magic Leap Will be Priced 'Like a Premium Computer', Availability Details in Spring

The partnership also gives us reason to believe that future Magic Leap headsets (if not the ML1) will include cellular radios for wireless data.

“We’ve joined with AT&T because we believe in a combined vision of expanding high-speed networks, edge computing, and deep integration with creative content,” said Rony Abovitz, CEO of Magic Leap. “Coupling the strength of the evolving AT&T network with Magic Leap’s spatial computing platform can transform computing experiences for people.”

The move is similar to Apple’s play when it launched its first iPhone. The company struck up an exclusive distribution partnership with US cellular carrier Cingular, promising that the two companies would work together to push the network infrastructure forward to enable new applications and uses for the iPhone. Cingular merged with AT&T in 2007.

Magic Leap is among the top funded tech startups in the world, having raised more than $2 billion, according to Crunchbase.

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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."
  • NooYawker

    A terrible decision by Apple. The lack of access to the iPhone accelerated the proliferation of Android.

    But this makes no sense for an AR device. Do you need a cellular contract or something?

    • MosBen

      That’s what I was thinking. A partnership with a cell carrier may not have been the best decision, but it made sense. I don’t understand the Magic Leap to be a product that people will wear around outside on the go, so I’m not sure why anything other than wifi and some onboard storage would be needed.

    • Str][ker

      I think the intent is that people will wear the device away from home (probably not the once shown but perhaps). Connected AR will be huge some day but it has a lot of work ahead of it (I don’t foresee people roaming around with these contraptions on their faces). Perhaps using these in ways which people use phone based AR is the goal (like the Pokemon Go gaming?) This might be AT&T’s way to help get in on the ground floor so to speak. I remember how much of a game changer it was to have a connected iPhone with an actual web browser built in.

      • MosBen

        I don’t doubt that people will carry it with them, but in order for a device to be something that people will use continuously in the world, even more than we tend to use cell phones, then the battery life needs to last all, or at least most, of a day. They haven’t revealed how long this thing will last on a charge, that I’ve seen at least, but there’s no reason to believe that it will last any more than a few hours before needing to be plugged in. We also haven’t seen this tech work in any way in outdoor conditions. Combined with a not-very-slight form factor and nobody is going to be wearing this on their way to work, or hanging out at the park. All of which means that the vast majority of time that people are going to be using this thing they’re going to be somewhere that has wifi.

        It just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that you’d need a mobile cell radio in there, which itself will drain the battery faster than the regular hardware will on its own.

  • Trekkie

    Just watched the Twitch stream..THIS IS A SCAM guys… believe me.

    • Oh I think the product is real, but underwhelming. Funny what billions of dollars will buy you.

      • Trekkie

        Thats what I meant

      • Jerald Doerr

        Sing it with me!!!
        What is it good for…. Absolutely nothing…

  • LowRezSkyline

    It’s hard to imagine this coming out ‘summer’ with them showing so little still.

    The AT&T demo thing is cool though, nothing like giving it a real try. Would have been nice to know exactly when those demo units are hitting ATT stores. Sure, must be soon if this thing is launching summer 2018.

  • sfmike

    Would never go with AT&T again no matter what the product. They screw you for every penny they can.

  • Hey Ben, what did you think of the Twitch live-stream? Look forward to read your thoughts.

    As you know I called the TX2 over a year ago to be in the ML, but only knew this since I had approached NVIDIA about using the TX2 and was giving a lot of run-around except from one executive I met at GDC in 2016. Sadly, he didn’t have a lot of pull, but it now makes sense with both the Nintendo Switch , this announcement and the upcoming Oculus Santa Cruz. If you are not a big fish, NIVIDIA will lie to you about its plans to keep you strung along while making their deals with others. One of the reason I think we have seen no standalones from anyone else except Gameface, which also has not released a product (or developers).

    Anyway, as I have said before the TX2 is powerhouse SOC , but with Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, I don’t know how much of margin it still has over it. It is also noteworthy that this is about the same as GTX1030/MX150 in performance but a much better power consumption. But keep in mind, if the SOC handles positional & eye tracking as well, the graphic performance will be reduced. This is something Qualcomm has alleviated by creating discrete chips for these purposes, as seen already in the Lenovo Mirage and Vive Focus.

  • Kenji Fujimori

    Very smart and strategic move. Most likely monthly subscription payments too, for the masses to afford. The distribution deal will also give ML more visibility and make it less of a niche gimmicky overpriced-fantastic plastic device.

  • Rock Throwing guy will be exclusive to AT&T