The Eyes Have It

The Apple Vision Pro Reviews
Techmeme's collection of the reviews...

Okay, I've read most of the initial wave of Vision Pro reviews now – and watched a number of them on YouTube! I feel like I have a good sense of the takeaways. And I feel like those are very much in line with the takeaways I predicted ahead of said reviews. This is not because I'm clairvoyant, but rather because of Apple's weird roll-out strategy for the device, where many of these very same reviewers have already used the device (and talked about it) multiple times. So these "official" reviews are sort of like the second or third or fourth wave of reviews.

On the other hand, that's probably good for the reviews themselves. So often, the reviews we're reading are written after just days of using something. If we're lucky, it's a week. And many things are hard to fully grasp until after more than a few hours of usage, obviously. So again, we're sort of getting that here with these reviews, unintentionally.

Anyway, here are some key takeaways upon reading all of these reviews (which I recognize is weird – takeaways from others' takeaways – because I don't yet have the device myself, and won't until next week when I'm back in the U.S, so... yeah):

  1. It's heavy. And this gets tiresome, quite literally, pretty quickly.
  2. The screens (there are two of them, one for each eye), are absolutely amazing. And also why this device is $3,500.
  3. Personas, the name for Apple's virtual avatars representing you in video calls, are pretty bad. In many cases, quite literally laughably so. Very much something that deserves the "beta" moniker (take note: Meta).
  4. But they're not quite as bad as the EyeSight feature of the device (the forward facing screen which shows the eyes of your persona to the world). It's incredibly hard to see and often looks blurry and dark.
  5. The eye-tracking and hand gesture UI is pretty awesome at first, but has some clear limitations as you dive deeper into using it. Still, this would seem to be the future of interaction for such devices (take note: Meta).
  6. Likewise, video passthrough is awesome at first, but over time the excitement fades a bit. It still is clearly the best way to do a device like this today.
  7. Typing on the virtual keyboard is awful.
  8. Using the Vision Pro to extend a Mac display is awesome.
  9. The battery life is actually slightly better than what Apple was promising (2.5 hours is more often like 3 hours).
  10. It's still weird that Apple makes you tether to the battery – especially because you cannot hot swap them if you have a second one – but it's clearly a weight trade-off issue. It's also weird if they knew they were going to do that, that Apple didn't include a larger external battery for more juice.
  11. Using iPad apps in the device is a pretty good experience. Obviously the native visionOS apps are better, but there are so few of them to start.
  12. There are basically no gaming experiences from day one – at least for these early reviewers – which seems wild (take note: Meta).
  13. Ditto fitness experiences, which seems weird given Apple has their own Fitness+ service. But that clearly seems related to the weight issue of the device mentioned above.
  14. Watching "spatial videos" on the device is a profound experience – shooting and filming content from the device is far less so.
  15. The absolute killer app of the Vision Pro is watching content. In particular from the native Apple TV and Disney+ apps. It's like being in your own private movie theater, in many cases with even a larger screen – and it makes 3D movies actually better then seeing them in a theater.

One more thing: the box is fucking huge.

So those are the main thoughts I had after reading these reviews. Tying most of them together, it's pretty clear that this is very much a gen-1 version of a device that isn't going to be for most people – as if the price points didn't make that clear enough! It's like buying a (very polished) dev kit, or just paying up to get a glimpse of a potential future for computing right now.

Apple clearly had to ship some features before they're fully baked: Personas (hence, "beta"), and clearly seems to have made a wrong call with one of the key, highly-touted selling points: EyeSight. The good news is that they can probably backtrack in version 2 and it should make the device cheaper and lighter while upping the battery life.

At the same time, Apple is a stubborn company. They kept with the TouchBar in the MacBook Pro for multiple iterations even though that was clearly a mistake from day one as well. And EyeSight is even more tied to something Apple really wants to believe and make happen: that their face computers aren't going to be as isolating as other VR/AR/XR technology. Sadly, Apple just seems misguided here. All these reviews make it very clear that the Vision Pro is a device best used alone, away from others. And it's hard to see that changing anytime soon.

Again, that's not what Apple wants for this. But sometimes the reality of your reality device can't be denied.

Aside: yes, I reused a headline of mine on a different site. For shame.