The Apple Vision Pro headset came with all of the unspoken (from Apple) hype that you expect from unannounced Apple products. And, as I watched the introduction at WWDC 2023, I was both intrigued and ... I'll admit it, bored.
Call them ski goggles if you want, but I'll admit I find the Apple Vision Pro look pretty cool. Not as much sold on the projection of your eyes that others will see on the glass, but that's something I can look past right now.
The bigger issue, though, is that Apple's big new headset arrives with a huge price and a very small use case — at least for me. And that one use case is why I'm hoping Apple will rent this thing out.
Apple Vision Pro's biggest problem is its 'sameness'
As comfortingly familiar that above home screen of the Apple Vision Pro is, this is possibly where Apple lost me. This is a first generation product not due til next year, I know, but the fact that this thing is being sold to let you project apps you already use into your field of vision, is boring.
It reminds me why I can't convince my parents to care about the iPad. They already have iPhones and laptops, they don't need a new way to interact with their devices. When I saw someone using the Apple Vision Pro to browse photos at home, I simply thought "but I have my iPhone, my MacBook Pro and my Apple TV 4K."
Yes, even someone deeply ensconced in the Apple ecosystem can look at this and go "okay." I love my 14-inch MacBook Pro, I'm excited to upgrade to the iPhone 15 and I have a fantastic TV I plug my Apple TV 4K into. I don't see much that needs fixing here.
Heck, Apple's own iPadOS 17 presentation talked about the health problems that occur when you hold screens too close to your eyes. So, imagine my surprise when the company then pitched us on strapping screens to our faces.
The Apple Vision Pro offers immersion at high prices
And if you say "oh, but this is better, because it's immersive," I'll ask what about wearing a headset with short battery life will have you feeling truly immersed? Yes, there are other use cases that leverage the way the Vision Pro takes over your eyes.
My colleague Mark Spoonauer got to use the Apple Vision Pro, and explained that he "was blown away when I watched the 3D version of Avatar: The Way of Water on the Vision Pro." Characters jumped off of the displays. This is cool, but I honestly don't want to plunk down $3,499 for a home theater experience I can't share with others. Even paying about a third of that for the LG OLED C2 4K TV gave me sticker shock.
Unless everyone you want to watch TV with can afford an Apple Vision Pro, the immersive entertainment experiences it could offer will come with an intense loneliness. Video games are often experienced on your own, but I don't want to trade the headset back and forth with a friend who's come over to try out Starfield (I'm assuming that it will be out by the time I can afford a Vision Pro).
Hopefully, the price will eventually go (way) down. I know we all have to start somewhere, but until then that price will isolate the Apple Vision Pro buyers. And even if the price comes down to a point where these headsets are as affordable as iPhones, I feel like I would still rather be in the moment, rather than see one projected in a headset.
I don't see the 'vision' that headsets are better than phones. Sure, if we can shrink this down into something inside of regular glasses with tremendously-long battery life? Why not. But that's a world away from Apple's release.
The Apple Vision Pro feels made for the skies
Air travel is up there in most people's list of "the worst" things they can do. It feels cramped, the in-flight TVs stink and unless you have the money to casually purchase the Apple Vision Pro, you're probably surrounded by the other grumpy people in coach.
So it makes sense that Apple showed the Vision Pro as a solution to mid-flight malaise, and a way for someone to lose themselves in Everything Everywhere All At Once.
When I fly, I have never have room for the gadgets I bring on board, and I'm always creating an accidental Jenga tower of stuff in my area. This is why I'm keeping my eyes open for Apple partnering with airlines. I don't know how much I'd pay to rent the Vision Pro for a single flight, but I want to see if this is how you fix flying.
In flight, you can keep the Vision Pro plugged in. And you're already pretty isolated in that tiny seat, too. So its negatives turn into acceptable situations.
Outlook: We'll find out Apple Vision Pro is meant for
Much like how the Apple Watch's true destiny as a fitness device deviated from the original marketing surrounding sending heartbeats and notifications, the Apple Vision Pro could very easily find its purpose outside of the pitch Apple made yesterday. Yes, the in-flight entertainment was part of said pitch, but I digress.
You've heard of noise-canceling headphones? Well, the Apple Vision Pro looks like the next step further: the reality-canceling device. And in 2024, we'll start to get a better sense of what real-life situations need its disruption, and which do not.
Maybe by the time Apple's selling us on Apple Vision Air headsets, I'll agree that the company has figured this product out. For now, it just looks like a horse in a race that Apple doesn't want to lose.