Vision Pro's Inconvenient Truth

Vision Pro's Inconvenient Truth
If you start me up
If you start me up, I'll never stop.

The Rolling Stones song, incidentally the one used to launch Windows 95, is stuck in my head. Because it's what I keep thinking about while trying to start using the Vision Pro. And I do mean "trying" because it's really sort of a chore.

I know, I know. Play me the world's smallest violin.1 But that doesn't mean I'm wrong. And it's the thought I keep coming back to while using the device: it's really quite inconvenient. To be clear, there is a lot to like about it. And I have a lot more to write about such things – once it is started up, I often don't want to stop using it (hence the song in my head). But this is my daily struggle with it right now, for better or worse, a week+ in to using the device.

I went ahead and timed it. It takes roughly 90 seconds to go from having the Vision Pro in its case to actually putting it on and being able to use the thing. In there, a number of steps are required:

  • First, if you bought the official carrying case, which I did,2 and store the Vision Pro in it, which I do, just opening up the $200 puffy giant Easter Egg is a bit of a challenge. The zippers are shrouded under the fabric and go veeerrrry slowly around the oval.
  • Once you get the case open, you have to remove the battery pack from its holster and then plug the cable into the Vision Pro itself. This is easier said than done as the connector cable isn't super intuitive to connect without looking at the thing and trying to align some dots. The first few days I was trying to do this in the dark and was very frustrated by the experience as I couldn't see the dots. I'm better at it now, but it's still not great.
  • Then you put the device on, which depending on your head strap, requires pulling and/or tightening the strap. I have yet to nail this either. And I feel like I'm constantly shifting the device to make it more comfortable on my head.
  • Then you remove the screen cover – must protect the EyeSight feature at all literal cost. And then you wait about 30 seconds for the device to boot up. At first, it's just black and you're not sure anything is happening. There should probably be some sort of sound here. Apple invented the computer startup sound. Come on, guys.
  • You're then asked via an on-screen tutorial to calibrate your eye positioning by holding down the digital crown.
  • Finally, an Apple logo appears. And a few seconds later, the room you're in appears, followed by a prompt to enter your device passcode. This is easier done by reaching out and poking the numbers versus trying to do so with your eyes, in my experience.
  • Only then do your apps come into focus, and the device is finally ready to use.

90 seconds may not sound like a lot of time, but in our age of always-on/instant computers, it's a lot of time. The iPad sort of broke all of us in this regard. Because while the iPhone itself is instantly on, the iPad is the device that many "regular" folks (like my mother, for example) use as a main computer. And it's ready to roll in like a second.

Sure, it's not an entirely fair comparison, since what I'm describing with the Vision Pro is a cold start, while the iPad/iPhone is almost always a hot one (meaning, the device is already on). But even from being powered down, the iPad takes about 10 to 15 seconds to start. Not 90.

Also, I think it's a more fair comparison than it may seem because it's how I actually use each device. When I'm done using an iPad, I just set it somewhere, or put it in my bag. When I'm done using the Vision Pro, it's back to the case. Could I, say, put it on a table? Sure, but I have two little kids. This thing cost $3,500. You do the math.

Also, even if I just sat it down, it will undoubtedly need to charge soon because the battery life is only around 3 hours of usage time. Compare that to a full day for pretty much every other device at this point, including MacBooks. So my only real option if I want a faster boot up is to leave it somewhere where it's constantly plugged in to the wall. And again, this just isn't convenient.

Fine, fine, fine. Just to get ahead of this argument, I'll go ahead and just boot it from a sleep state (as opposed to being completely off). This still takes around 15 seconds – not bad, but not instant – after you put it on, take off the protector, and let the software unlock via your eye scan. You can add another 20 - 30 seconds if you want to say, connect the device to your MacBook to use as your screen (which is what I'm doing right now).

My point is that we've been spoiled in our age of instant, always-on computers. I recall very well the many minutes I used to have to wait to start up my old PC. I would leave the room and come back while... the... dots... loaded... Or to wake up the laptops of yesteryear. Cue those fans. A 90-second start time might seem reasonable in comparison. But that's not the comparison here. It's no longer 1984 or 1994. It's 2024. And this computer is on my face!

Sure, the Apple Watch was a bit rough in those early days, but it was always on (when it had a charge) on your wrist. This is quite different as it's something you have to pick up and physically put on each and every time you want to use it.

We haven't even talked about the consideration that it's going to mess up your hair each time you put it on. And potentially leave red marks on your face depending on how tight you wear it (Apple will undoubtedly say that if it's leaving marks on your face, you're holding it wrong wearing it too tight, but tight to me is far more comfortable than loose). It's hard to drink certain drinks while wearing it. Like a glass of wine. Beer bottles FTW. Also straws. If there's a big future for this device, there's going to be a big future for straws.

Practically speaking, what I'm saying is that there's a large hurdle in my head which I have to overcome each time I think about using the Vision Pro. It's not looking dumb – mainly because I'm not going to take it anywhere beyond my home. It's just always going to be faster to grab my MacBook or iPad (or yes, iPhone). And so I have to purposefully want to do something in the Vision Pro. Writing in it, which again, I'm doing right now while connected to my Mac is nice. But no nicer than doing it on the actual MacBook screen. In some ways, it's slightly worse. So it's really only going to be the handful of things that you either only can do on the Vision Pro (immersive content) or are better on it (watching movies). There needs to be a lot more of such activities if this device is going to work, long term. Or the device is going to need to get a lot smaller and quicker, fast.

It will, of course. But it will also take time. And so for now, the other devices in your life are going to be more convenient to use. And so you're going to use them a lot more than you do the Vision Pro. That's just the reality of the situation right now. No point in not being honest about it. An inconvenient truth, quite literally.

1 Actually, that would be a pretty good Vision Pro app. Though perhaps complicated given the use of your index finger and thumb to make such a gesture...

2 I've seen a lot of folks polk fun at the look of the case, but I actually quite like it. It's sort of like something an astronaut might carry while walking towards their shuttle to space. It could certainly be more svelte, but the Vision Pro definitely seems like it will be safe in there. Perhaps even if dropped from space. Putting it into a laptop bag is another matter...