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I tried Apple Vision Pro for a weekend and here are my 3 biggest takeaways

Whether you're buying the $3,500 spatial computer or not, keep these three things in mind as Apple learns, adapts, and evolves the Vision Pro into something greater.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Apple Vision Pro Lenses
June Wan/ZDNET

I'm on Day 3 with the Vision Pro and the reality of using Apple's $3,500 spatial computer has just about settled in.

I'm now navigating the operating system with precision, the hidden navigation buttons are easier to find, my partner no longer jumps in fear whenever she meets the gaze of my EyeSight, and my neck pain is almost, sort of gone.

Review: Apple Vision Pro: Fascinating, flawed, and needs to fix 5 things

While I still can't answer whether or not the Vision Pro is worth your money -- I probably won't be able to give a definitive answer until a year or two later, to be honest -- I spent the past weekend collecting all of my lingering thoughts about Apple's not-a-VR-headset, much of which I've encapsulated into three main points. Here they are.

1. The killer app of Vision Pro is not on the App Store

"What's the killer app of the Vision Pro?" That's a question I've been asking myself and others ever since Apple announced the headset last June. After using it over the past three days, I have an answer, but you may not like it. 

No, it's not Personas on Zoom, ChatGPT, or DJing on a virtual turntable. Instead, it's the sum of its parts, the ecosystem that surrounds the Vision Pro. Sound familiar? Of all the apps and services that I've tested on the headset, nothing has raised my eyebrows quite like AirDropping spatial videos from my iPhone, seeing the "Connect" bubble appear when I lift open my MacBook, and seamlessly moving my mouse cursor from the Mac Virtual Display to the various floating windows on Vision OS. Oh, and watching immersive videos with AirPods Pro almost made me forget that movie theaters existed.

Also: Why you'll need a VPN for the Vision Pro (and other XR headsets)

Vision Pro feels like an extension of Apple's already robust ecosystem of hardware and software -- which you likely already own a product or two of -- and therefore the experience is familiar, safe, and burdenless.

2. The hardware is ahead of its time, and that's good news

Vision Pro screenshot
June Wan/ZDNET

I'm not the first to say that the Vision Pro feels like a product that was made by people from the future with the materials of today. The seamless curvatures of the front glass, the blend of fabric and textures, and the various sensors that magically track my eyesight and hand movements are a testament to Apple's crack team of industrial designers. 

Save for weight distribution and how easily the Light Seal lifts off from the display front -- meaning you will inevitably get your fingerprints all over the front glass because that's a primary touchpoint, I have little to complain about with the Vision Pro's hardware.

Also: 10 reasons the Apple Vision Pro is secretly brilliant

That leaves me with the software front, where Apple's "first generation product" woes take precedence. From floating windows randomly disappearing to native app features that feel half-baked, as if they were rushed to meet an aggressive launch window, the software experience of Vision OS 1.0 has already left me counting the days until version 1.1 gets released. More news at WWDC, perhaps?

The occlusion of physical accessories -- think Bluetooth keyboards and mice -- is at the top of my wish list. While Vision Pro does an impressive job at hand occlusion, even adjusting my skin tone to the immersive environments that I'm in, accessories including Apple's own Magic Keyboard remain hidden. It's touch typing or saying goodbye to drafting emails from the Moon.

My smaller gripes include the lack of dark mode on iPadOS apps (including Slack and Outlook, which I often leave floating on the side), the inability to rearrange apps on the home screen, and no microphone input for screen recordings. All of which, again, may come with future updates. I'm hopeful.

3. It's lonely in the spatial computing world

Using the Apple Vision Pro is like putting on a pair of headphones. Once it's on, you're isolated, immersed, lonely. I'd like to be an optimist about it, thinking that this will only be a short-term phenomenon, as 1) With time, virtual reality headsets will eventually be accepted as a piece of apparel, 2) In social environments, we'll learn how to physically communicate with each other, even with the face barrier, and 3) There will be more meaningful ways to connect with people in VR. Bringing FaceTime to Vision Pro is just the beginning.

Also: Apple is now marketing Vision Pro as the 'ultimate entertainment device'

For now, Apple's vision of the headset being naturally embedded into our interactions with family and friends just isn't there yet, at least not from what I've experienced. I can only put into words the emotional joyride that is watching spatial videos on Vision Pro, or how 3D movies on the headset are not the same as 3D movies at the local theater. They're both far better than they sound, and no one else but me will know.

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