The Vision Pro No

The questions mount about the viability of Apple's Next Big Thing™
Can Apple Rescue the Vision Pro?
The $3,500 “spatial computing” device has gathered dust on my shelf. Can tweaks and upgrades save it from obsolescence?

Kevin Roose is saying what many of us have been saying for months, but it's potentially important when this is in the pages of The New York Times, because you know Apple actually cares about that kind of thing (mainly, I fear, because Steve Jobs used to care about that kind of thing, but that's another matter).

But novelty fades, and today I barely use the Vision Pro at all. Every few weeks, I strap it to my head to do some focused writing, or watch a movie in bed while my wife sleeps. Otherwise, it sits on a shelf collecting dust.

Apple hasn’t released sales figures, but analysts’ estimates suggest that the device has been a flop, selling fewer units than expected. Social media isn’t buzzing with videos of enthusiastic “Vision Bros” wearing their headsets in public, as it was in the days after the device’s release. Some early adopters returned their Vision Pros for refunds, and lightly used headsets are selling for as little as $2,500 on resale websites.

Look, we can (and have been) argue if the device is a "flop" from a sales perspective – many are quick to suggest that given the price-point, Apple always knew it would sell it relatively small quantities, and they're perhaps okay with that in these early days – but I do think it's telling just how little Apple actually says about the device post-launch. It was a tiny part of the WWDC keynote and the last earnings reports, the first since the launch, almost seemed to want to position it as an enterprise device. And while Greg Joswiak recently noted that other Apple products were relatively slow out of the gates with some muted responses – notably, Apple Watch – this response just feels different.

And a big part of that, to me, is Roose's first point above. Even those of us that spent $3,500 – which is more expensive than any other Apple product, including any Mac, I've ever bought – use it sparingly. I'm fully in the "watch a show if everyone else in my house is asleep" camp. I don't use it for writing because I find it not only far less convenient for writing, but a much worse experience than using a MacBook (or iPad) for that task.

But I worry that the Vision Pro has slipped into a dangerous purgatory. It’s not Apple’s flashiest new project — that’s all the A.I. stuff, which Wall Street is clamoring for and which many users are excited about. And it’s not one of Apple’s big, established cash cows, like the iPhone or the iPad, that people will buy even if each version is only slightly better than the last.

I also think this element comes into play. Vision Pro just had awful timing in terms of its release. It was revealed at last year's WWDC and the world quickly shifted to all-AI-all-the-time. And that included Apple, as we saw with this year's WWDC. By the time the device actually shipped in February, the first AI era was in full swing. Even if they wanted to, touting Vision Pro too much would seem tone deaf, certainly to Wall Street.

I stand by my contention that Apple really should have waited at least another year to release Vision Pro. And potentially longer. There were obvious pressures to release the Next Big Thing™ and Apple had been working on Vision Pro for a long time. And the car project was recently killed. But if Apple had known that the full-on AI wave was about to hit, would they have waited? They'd never in a million years admit it, but I think they might have.

Instead, now the focus shifts to making the device less expensive and smaller, fast. But the issue remains that the content also just isn't there yet. And that's Apple's own fault.

Apple has also been slow to update its own offerings for the Vision Pro, like a series of “immersive videos,” filmed on special 3-D cameras and released through Apple TV. These videos — which included a prehistoric nature film and a “rehearsal room” video of Alicia Keys and her band as they perform a song — were designed to show off the Vision Pro’s high-definition graphics and its “spatial audio” feature, and they are among the best things you can do with a Vision Pro.

But Apple hasn’t released new immersive videos at a regular clip. And once you run out, what you end up watching on the Vision Pro is mostly the same two-dimensional stuff you’d watch on a TV or an iPad. It’s fun to throw on the Vision Pro occasionally to watch “Dune: Part Two” on a screen the size of a basketball court, but most of the time, it’s not worth the trouble.

And, I might add, Dune: Part Two isn't nearly as good as Dune: Part One on the Vision Pro because only Part One is available in 3D, which is a much better format for the device. Yes, that has to do with how it was shot, but Apple should have moved heaven and Earth to have it converted for the release. It's a smaller thing, but speaks exactly to the constant misses with this device.

But the biggest disappointment with the Vision Pro is how few good apps there are. Several months after its debut, there’s still no native YouTube or Netflix app. There’s no Spotify, no Instagram, no DoorDash. (You can still use some of these services in a web browser, or use unofficial third-party apps, but it’s a worse experience.)

This is also fully on Apple. They've poisoned the well with these partnerships. And that is indicative of their overall relationship with developers these days. Apple's hubris tricked them into thinking that "if you build it, they will come". For the most part, they did not come. And now with the device's viability in question, they will not come.

It’s enough to make me wonder: Is Apple giving up on the device that, just months ago, its executives were heralding as the future of computing?

One of those bad things about Apple can also be a good thing: their stubborness. They're not going to give up on Vision Pro after one iteration, no matter how bad the response. They'll shift strategies and timetables, but we will for sure see a second device. If that also fails to move any needles (not just sales, but developer interest, etc), there may be some larger questions, especially if we're into 2026 at that point.

Having Meta as a foil to push them may actually help Apple here too.