Everything You Should Know About the Apple Vision Pro

The Apple Vision Pro is now officially on sale. Don’t worry if you were late to jump on the “spatial computing” hype train; there’s still plenty of time to get yourself one of the new $3,500 headsets if you’re really keen to see what the folks under CEO Tim Cook have cooked up.

Top Takeaways from the Apple Event

Buying a Vision Pro is a bit more involved than your usual Apple release, not just because of its massive upfront cost for a consumer-level device. Apple has added a few more hoops to jump through to order one. Not to mention, you may find the number of apps to start rather limiting, even if the hardware has plenty of processing power, offering small yet notable innovations to the VR genre.

How Long Will I Have to Wait for an Apple Vision Pro after I Order?

Though you shouldn’t worry about the Vision Pro selling out any time soon, you should know straight off that it will take you a fair bit longer to get your hands on a Vision Pro, especially if you’re ordering online. If you try to order one now, the one store tells you you’ll need to hold out until late February or early March. Picking it up in a physical Apple Store should simplify the waiting process, as pickups should be available closer to the February 2 release date.

However, that may depend on availability at your local retailer since the Apple Vision Pro may have sold out in most locales. You can simply go onto the Apple Store page to see what kinds of dates and times you can expect to receive one. It’s best you don’t trawl aftermarket sites like eBay, as the scalpers have already set up shop and are commanding exorbitant prices for what’s already a very expensive device.

There are three versions of the Apple Vision Pro available. The starting $3,500 version comes with 256 GB of internal storage. The next 512 GB edition costs $3,700. If you want to nab a Vision Pro with 1 TB of internal storage, expect to pay $3,900. There’s the option to finance your purchase with 0% APR through an Apple Card, which is only available when you go through the Apple Store.

There’s also a lot more involved in purchasing a headset than when trying to tell Apple to “shut and take my money.” When you first hit up the Vision Pro purchase page, Apple directs iPhone and iPad users to its App Store, which will prompt you to perform a face scan. Some users have noted this can take quite a few tries, and I’ve personally had to take the test five times before Apple recognized the left side of my bearded noggin. After that, you must return to the Apple store page, where the company will ask if you need any prescription glasses inserts from Zeiss.

Those keen to get their hands on a Vision Pro have already led to an estimated 160,000 to 180,000 preorders so far. That’s not a lot compared to the usual iPhone release, but remember, this is a $3,500 headset. The upfront cost to build these devices has most analysts thinking Apple wants to ship far fewer Vision Pros than it does its other products, and currently, most expect Apple will only ship about 500,000 Vision Pros this year.

Still, there’s not much impetus for going in early on a new headset. Limited supply might make it harder to procure a Vision Pro in the future, though that’s only if the headset proves far more popular than even Apple anticipated. Considering what most folks who have had the chance to test the device have said, you’re probably safe taking a wait-and-see approach.

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What Are the Specs of the Vision Pro?

The Vision Pro is akin to other enterprise-level VR headsets, though with a fair bit of Apple’s flair thrown into the mix. First, the headset is powered by Apple’s 8-core M2 Chip with an additional 10 GPUs and a 16-core “neural engine” to handle various AI tasks. The chip boasts 16 GB of integrated memory.

The next most important thing for most users is the Vision Pro’s displays, which are already a doozy. They’re two 4K micro-OLED displays sporting refresh rates up to 100 Hz. The headset also boasts a wide array of cameras, some for its eye-tracking capabilities and others meant to understand your hand gestures. The Vision Pro uses a user’s biometric data—their eyes, in this case—to unlock the device when slipping it on.

The other sensors situated around the headset are meant to capture the space in front of users, including two main cameras, six tracking cameras, a LiDAR scanner, and a “TrueDepth” camera. The headset also has a built-in audio system for spatial audio no matter where your head is pointing, though you can connect a pair of AirPods Pro to the device for better sound closer to your ears.

What Do We and Others Think About the Vision Pro?

Image: Apple

Full unsupervised reviews finally went live Tuesday, and those who’ve put the hours in seem to have come away impressed and confused in equal measure. Tech writers consistently praised the headset’s displays and the fully capable hand- and eye-tracking. Though reviewers said the headset required some occasional adjustment, they also didn’t have much trouble moving through apps or even typing using only the headset. The video quality was also extensively praised, though some complained the field of view was slightly lacking compared to products like the Meta Quest 3.

At the same time, those who used it also complained about the 1.4 pounds of weight being so front-centric, leading to some discomfort. The device comes with two straps, and the better of the two was the one with a band that goes over the user’s crown. Reviewers also didn’t have many nice things to say about the 3D Personas, with one reviewer saying her coworker called and said it made her look “like Botox from hell.” Many questioned how much use most users could get from such an expensive headset with a mere 2- to 2.5-hour battery life.

It seems everybody’s got their own opinion about the Vision Pro, even those who haven’t had the chance to use it yet. There’s a fair bit of murmuring among the top tech brass, wondering if Apple can really revitalize the flagging VR space with its ultra-premium device. Netflix’s co-CEO Greg Peters went as far as to call it “subscale” in a recent interview.

Former Gizmodo editor Dan Ackerman described the Vision Pro’s augmented reality passthrough capabilities as some of the best in the VR field, partially thanks to the headset’s twin 4K lenses. It’s certainly more capable than the $500 Meta Quest 3 (though at seven times the cost). However, just like most VR goggles, you’ll never tune out and forget you’re wearing this Apple-brand headset. First, because there will always be a bit of an uncanny valley to the proceedings, and because you can litter your field of view with app icons like you would on desktop space, though with much more fidelity and choice of where your apps can go. Hand gestures rather than controllers control everything, and one of the most consistently praised aspects of Apple’s latest device is its rather seamless gesture recognition tech.

It’s a rather large headset, and some other users have complained about its weight distribution when settled on their foreheads for any length of time. It’s clear Apple had to make several concessions for the Vision Pro’s high-fidelity internal screens and both the internal and external cameras. To reduce weight, the company, at the end of 1 Infinite Loop, took the rechargeable battery pack off the device and connected it via a wire. The battery is supposed to sit in your pocket during use, so while this is ostensibly a “wireless” VR headset, you might still have to swat away a pesky cord during use.

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Folks who have used it found that the Apple-brand M2 processor is up to the task of running all the various apps running on it but questioned just how usable it is. Some also complained of discomfort and overall bulk for a device that’s supposed to be a replacement, or at least a compliment, to your regular workspace devices. Wired also pointed out how everyone allowed to use the headset in the last few weeks was doing so sitting down, giving the impression that Apple wants you to use its headset from a comfortable position where the external battery won’t be as much of a bother.

What Apps Will Be Available to Start?

Image: CARROT Weather

Several mainstay apps won’t be making it to the Vision Pro at launch. If you buy one now, don’t expect to access your YouTube, Spotify, or Netflix accounts except through the Safari browser. All those apps have decided to skip Apple’s latest launch, likely because they don’t know if it’s worth building an app to work with Apple’s visionOS and gesture-specific controls if there aren’t too many people actually using it.

Apple is trying to fill in most of the blank spaces for its upcoming headset. Apple includes Vision Pro-specific versions of its apps like FaceTime (with the ability to create a 3D deepfake of you to chat with your friends), Safari, Freeform, Keynote, Mail, Messages, Music, Notes, Photos, and more available pre-installed. The Encounter Dinosaurs AR experience works more as a tech demo for the headset’s 3D capabilities rather than anything you can expect to spend your time on months down the road.

However, there still are holes as far as those first-party “spatial experiences” go. Many Apple apps such as Pages, Numbers, Calendar, Home, News, and Maps aren’t specifically optimized for the Vision Pro. That may come in time, but for now, you may be disappointed by how many real Vision-specific apps are on by default when you first put it on.

The other major 3rd-party apps fit into the realms of passive entertainment and productivity. The likes of Disney+, Max, Paramount+, and the now-ad-filled Amazon Prime Video will be available at launch. Also, you can browse your feeds in a Vision Pro-specific TikTok app. Otherwise, Slack and Zoom will make sure you won’t be able to avoid your boss, even when you try to duck inside Apple’s headset.

If you can’t get enough workplace apps, Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365 are available for the Vision Pro, the former of which uses that still-awkward Persona feature. You can also use Microsoft’s AI Copilot in 365 if your company is paying for that specific software suite license.

Other apps are going full 3D to use Apple’s latest format. Weather app CARROT Weather showed off its interactive, 3D globe (which I will continue to refer to as “the orb”) that shows off worldwide rain forecasts and wind speeds. CARROT developers told MacRumors that the Vision Pro-specific app will be available when the Vision Pro releases Friday, though we should note the app requires a paid subscription.

If you’re on a fantasy home-buying kick, Zillow has a new Zillow Immerse app that could make pining for home ownership a little more in your face with full 3D tours. Other apps are doing more than 3D-ifying your existing life. App-maker Squint’s Expert Eyes app is a kind of homemade how-to application that offers step-by-step instructions for anything from changing your car tires to drying your clothes to making a smoothie. It uses the spatial windows and spatial video features to make these how-tos far easier to follow when you don’t have to glance down at your phone for step-by-step instructions constantly.

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While few specific Vision-specific experiences are available from Apple Arcade, some experiences, like BorderLeap’s puzzle games Illustrated and Patterned, can use the Vision Pro’s eye tracking and pinch gestures. Otherwise, Super Fruit Ninja, Candy Crush Saga, and NBA 2K23 Arcade Edition will have some “spatial” elements.

On the flip side, Apple has effectively ported over every single iOS and iPadOS app to the Vision Pro—or at least all those apps from developers who didn’t opt out in time. These apps won’t have any real “spatial” capabilities but will instead work on a 2D field like a MacBook. Also, users can mirror their iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or MacBook screens on a Vision Pro, which may be the only way to access certain games or programs not available to the headset natively.

What Will Apple Add to the Vision Pro in the Future?

Apple will likely support its visionOS with updates after launch. Still, other than making even more of its apps spatial-specific, such as Calendar, Maps, and Voice Memos, the company could have more health and wellness capabilities in store. Those digging into the software for the Vision Pro’s on-device sensors show Apple could, theoretically, offer mental health diagnoses through its headset.

Apple also has its M3 chip currently on the market for its latest MacBooks. It would only make sense if future releases were upgraded to the newer chip. While the next Vision Pro could be far cheaper than the current version, it might offer different prices for the regular M3, M3 Pro, and M3 Max chips.

Apple could also turn its Vision Pro into a kind of 3D designer’s personal Cyberpunk braindance. PatentlyApple first noted that the Cupertino tech giant won the Vision Pro-specific Apple Pencil patent. That stylus would work to manipulate objects in the users’ field of view, whether drawing on a faux-2D plane or editing 3D objects. The company is pushing the Vision Pro as a workspace device, so this kind of device would be right up Apple’s alley.

But any new capabilities coming to the $3,500 headset belies the apparent fact that this is nowhere near the final version of Apple’s AR dreams. The Vision Pro is a big, expensive AR tech demo. Future versions will necessarily need to be far cheaper if they want to reach a wider audience. CEO Tim Cook explicitly wanted a pair of AR glasses rather than a headset. In an interview this week, Cook told Vanity Fair the original headset was a “monster” and an “apparatus” that “wasn’t wearable by any means of the imagination.”

Apple doesn’t like compromises, and the Vision Pro—with its external screen and battery pack—is full of them. Hell, that external battery pack has an attached cable that Apple stated was not removable. But users found out it was indeed removable and included a fat Lightning-type connection that plugs into the charging unit. Just know that if you buy the $3,500 headset now, you’re acting as a test dummy for Apple’s VR ambitions. Nothing is necessarily wrong with that, but you shouldn’t expect anything more than a big budget roadmap for Apple’s VR ambitions.

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