The Apple Vision Pro appears to be a highly innovative AR/VR headset that brings together numerous advanced technologies in a sleek and integrated package. This cutting-edge device incorporates features such as eye-tracking, hand-tracking, voice control, and seamless integration with mobile apps, all encompassed within Apple's renowned elegant industrial design and user-friendly interface. It has the potential to be the most advanced VR headset available to consumers.
However, it's important to note that the Apple Vision Pro is not intended for everyone. While Apple presented it as a device for consumers during the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), it is evident that this headset is not the one you would typically include on your holiday wish list. Instead, it serves as an initial release by Apple, paving the way for a future headset that will cater to a broader consumer market.
Despite Apple's optimistic claims about accessibility, simplicity, and universal use cases, the Apple Vision Pro is primarily a premium offering that provides a glimpse into how Apple intends to shape the AR/VR product category. This distinction is evident in its name and pricing structure.
The name "Apple Vision Pro" suggests a professional-grade device, implying that there may be a non-Pro version in the future. Apple has followed a similar naming pattern with its other products, such as the MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, which are high-performance models designed for users who require powerful tools for their work. These Pro variants enhance the base designs and features of their respective product lines, incorporating the best hardware and top-of-the-line specifications that Apple can offer. The Apple Vision Pro follows this trend by including every available AR/VR technology, justifying the "Pro" label. Additionally, the "Pro" label also implies a significant price point, as observed in Apple's other Pro devices. While a Mac mini starts at $599 and a Mac Studio at $1,999, a Mac Pro can cost as much as $6,999. Even iPads and MacBooks command a premium of several hundred dollars when labeled as Pro.
The Apple Vision Pro is set to be priced at $3,499 (~A$5,300) upon its release later this year. This price tag positions it as a highly expensive consumer electronics item. Comparable products such as large TVs and gaming PCs are available for half the price, and the combined cost of all current game consoles is significantly lower. In fact, the Apple Vision Pro is more expensive than the Microsoft HoloLens 2 and exceeds the prices of the Meta Quest 2, Meta Quest Pro, PlayStation VR 2, and Valve Index combined.
Even when considering the usual premium associated with Apple products, the price of the Vision Pro far exceeds any reasonable expectation for consumer sales.
For instance, the HoloLens 2 was always positioned as a proof-of-concept and enterprise device. Its purpose is to showcase the capabilities of augmented reality, and it is predominantly used in professional settings such as displaying information on construction hard hats or even military applications. It is not the kind of headset that people casually pick up at Best Buy and bring home to relax with on their couch. Similarly, the Apple Vision Pro is not a device that most consumers, except for the most affluent and enthusiastic early adopters, will be purchasing. Apple's announcement of the Vision Pro during a developer-focused conference, rather than a consumer-focused event, is indicative of its intent. The headset serves as a platform to build a dedicated software library, and it is the canvas upon which developers will create apps for the eventual non-Pro version of the Apple Vision. Credit is due to Apple for the Vision Pro's presentation.
Despite being an extremely expensive first-generation product primarily meant for proof-of-concept and software development, the Vision Pro appears to be one of the most consumer-friendly devices of its kind. VisionOS, which seems to be a derivative of iOS and iPadOS, enables seamless native running of iPad apps, providing a solid foundation for user experience. It already supports activities like web browsing, movie-watching, and video calls. In contrast to the HoloLens and other enterprise-level AR/VR headsets, the Apple Vision Pro will likely be a device that consumers can realistically bring home and start using without being limited to a small selection of apps or custom software.
However, it is important to remember that the Apple Vision Pro is still a Pro device with a price tag of $3,499. This pricing detail makes it prohibitively expensive for the average consumer, and the nature of the device reinforces this message. Looking beyond its name, the Apple Vision Pro is reminiscent of another product that initially faced challenges but ultimately defined an industry—the iPhone.
When the first iPhone launched in 2007, it sold for $499 and did not have an App Store. The App Store was introduced with the iPhone 3G in 2008, which came at a lower price of $199. The significant price reduction and the subsequent development of a robust third-party software library were the factors that truly propelled the iPhone to become synonymous with the idea of a smartphone. Initially, the iPhone was technologically advanced but expensive and not quite ready for widespread consumer adoption.
I am eager to test the Apple Vision Pro, and I believe its combination of features, processing power, and Apple's design philosophy could make it an extraordinary headset. However, it will primarily serve as a preview of what Apple has in store for the future. Until a standard Apple Vision model without the "Pro" designation is released, this headset will not be a realistic purchase consideration for any typical consumer.