First impressions of the Apple Vision Pro

I just tried out the new Apple Vision Pro. It’s easy for anyone to do – just sign up for a demo at your Apple Store on apple.com. The demo lasts about 30 minutes, including time to customize to your eyesight and head size. I sat at a table with an Apple employee at my side taking me through the demo.

A lot has been written about the product, so I’m not going to bore you with the details. Instead I’ll bore you with my observations.:

The product is lighter than I expected and was quite comfortable. After 30 minutes with it strapped to my head, I had no problems with the weight or any dizziness. I probably could have worn it for another hour or two.

I normally wear glasses, so prescription lenses were inserted into the Vision Pro to replace them. The lenses didn’t correct my astigmatism, but it wasn’t an issue. Everything I saw was sharp and crisp.

The materials and construction is what you’d expect from Apple, from the curved aluminum structure, foam cushioning around the face , and the soft fabrics that enveloped the rear of my head. Everything felt premium.

The device is not a stand alone computer, so it needs to be paired with an iPad, computer or phone. For this demo it was paired with an iPad. Think of it as a wearable monitor. The image you see are the app icons superimposed in space with the room in front of you in the background. You can also see clearly enough through the goggles to do other things such as answer your phone.

Navigating to the apps, opening and closing them, and using them was easy. You just look at a spot on the screen and touch your fingers together, the equivalent of moving a mouse cursor on the screen and clicking the mouse button. At times I’d raise my fingers before touching, but it wasn’t necessary. It works even when my hand was resting on the desk or my lap because cameras on the bottom of the goggles look downward. A scrolling gesture lets you scroll sideways and vertically, and a click and drag gesture lets you expand the window or move it off to the side or above you, almost like magic.

Viewing your photo library was breathtaking (assume you did a good job shooting them in the first place.) You can zoom in and out, turn a panorama photo into huge surround, much like an iMax theater.

The product has great potential for virtual travel, allowing you to experience new destinations seemingly immersed in the locales. It’s easy to be awed as you are positioned on the surface of the moon, on the edge of a volcano or stand next to a high wire walker all in three dimensions.

But for the most part, content needs to be created for this product, which means support from developers and streaming services. Notably, Netflix and YouTube have declined to support the product, and many Apple developers are balking because of the limited number of units sold and animosity to Apple’s large revenue sharing rquirements. You can shoot your own 3D movies, however, using an iPhone 15.

Apple has been very controlling and wary in how they message the product, and that was true with the demo, which was very structured, with the agent reading word for word from a script. It was limited to viewing photos and videos, with no demo of productivity uses, such as typing an email or searching on Safari. While Apple did almost the impossible in creating the hardware, it’s surprising there were not better applications available at introduction or even for this demo. Gaming would seen a natural.

The Vision Pro costs a lot more than the advertised $3500 price – closer to $5000 with Apple Care, more recommended memory, and a very large, weird looking carrying case covered in a loose white fabric with a difficult to open zipper. It looked like the case was designed by a committee.

There was no hard sell, but I was reminded I could pay for it over 12 months with no interest and try it for 14 days with no obligation.

Vision Pro is a single person device. It’s not something that can be easily passed around and shared with another. You’d need to have a second set of lenses ($100?) and a second face cover ($200), and go through a calibration each time.

If the product was closer to the price of a large monitor, say $1500, it would be hard for Apple to keep it in stock. But at the current price, and limited application right now, it’s a very hard sell. After watching the demo a few times, I’d want to do much more, and would likely befrustrating that there isn’t more.

Before I went in for the demo, I wondered how I would feel at the end. Because I do get excited with new technology after seeing a new product, I’ll often get an urge to buy, even though it would be impractical or beyond my means. In this case there was no urge. I imagined that if I did purchase it, I’d be buying something that would prove to be less satisfying for a long while until it had more utility; I definitely would feel buyer’s remorse.

Many felt a similar response when the Apple Watch was first introduced. Reviewers noted that was no compelling application, but about two years later, the important applications became health tracking and notifications, and the watch has become a big success. With the Vision Pro, we might see a similar situation, but it will take a much longer time and will likely not happen until the cost is much lower.

by Phil Baker