One of the biggest features that could be coming with the next generation of Apple’s iPhone is support for augmented reality (AR). A recent Wall Street Journal article on predicted suppliers for the iPhone 8 noted that many of the listed suppliers provide the kinds of parts that could be used to make the next iPhone AR-friendly.

Companies like Lumentum and STMicroelectronics were among the suppliers mentioned. Both of those firms make 3D sensors, which are useful for mapping the environment around a phone and could be utilized by AR applications. These companies also reported revenue increases, which could point to a possible order from Apple, the report said.

It’s worth noting that Apple’s iPhone 7 already makes use of 3D sensors, but an increased investment in the technology could see them take a more central role in the iPhone 8. And getting more mobile users interested in the technology could help boost AR and VR markets.

SEE: Virtual and augmented reality policy template (Tech Pro Research)

In a September 2016 ABC interview, Apple CEO Tim Cook, mentioned his preference for AR over virtual reality (VR).

“There’s virtual reality and there’s augmented reality–both of these are incredibly interesting,” Cook told ABC News’ Robin Roberts. “But my own view is that augmented reality is the larger of the two, probably by far.”

Outside of their mobile applications, AR and VR’s standalone headset are set to explode in popularity in the coming years as well. IDC predicts that AR and VR headset shipments could hit 99.4 million by 2021, up from 10.1 million in 2016.

Consumers will be interested in the potential for more immersive content, while enterprise and business users could leverage the headsets to improve productivity. And while Cook suggests that AR will be the bigger of the two technologies, IDC believes that it will take a minority share of the shipments relative to the VR headsets.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple could be courting certain suppliers for its iPhone 8 that could bring AR capabilities to the device.
  2. The suppliers make 3D sensors, which could help the phone more readily map the environment around it.
  3. The standalone headset market for AR and VR is also expected to grow, with IDC predicting 99.4 million shipments by 2021.