Apple’s Vision Pro: A Review Four Days After Launch
Author: Qiu Xiaofen
Editor: Su Jianxun
It has been 4 days since Apple’s first spatial computing device, Vision Pro, was officially released, and various reviews have been gradually emerging. As a completely new product category, Apple has poured ten years of effort and more than 5000 patents into it – from chips, displays, to the AI capabilities required for gesture interaction/spatial mapping, and more.
For Tim Cook, this is also the most important work of his career after taking over from Steve Jobs, a product that proves Apple’s innovation capability after years of being labeled with the “innovation bottleneck.”
Cook attaches great importance to this product. Prior to its release, he even appeared on the cover of the famous “Vanity Fair” magazine, marking his first public appearance with Vision Pro.
In the magazine, all of Apple’s core products are laid out on the table, but the Apple Watch, iPad, and Airpods are all left behind. Cook, wearing Vision Pro, lounges comfortably on a sofa with his legs crossed, displaying a peculiar gesture with his right hand – a unique interaction mode exclusive to Vision Pro.
After going through all the authoritative media reviews, it can be said that while Vision Pro has many amazing features, it is by no means the “ultimate product” of spatial computing, with room for significant improvement. This anticipation makes us look forward to Apple’s next generation updates and innovations.
Design: Strong Apple Aesthetics with Room for Optimization
At first glance, wearing Vision Pro does not look as bulky as traditional VR devices; the overall design is similar to ski goggles. As skiing is gradually becoming less niche, this product form factor may be readily accepted.
The “Apple taste” is strong in the design of Vision Pro, continuing Apple’s past design language – the shell material is a highly technological magnesium-aluminum alloy, while the straps and the knob resemble those on Apple watches.
Apple Vision Pro has two ways of wearing it. One is the dual-strap method, which can better distribute the weight of the headgear, but the biggest issue is that it can mess up the wearer’s hairstyle.
The other is the more common single-strap wearing method, but the drawback is that the 567-gram device hanging on the face is equivalent to wearing two flagship phones on the head. This fundamental factor of weight also means that Apple’s product cannot yet become a lightweight daily smart terminal like today’s smartphones.
Another shortcoming of Vision Pro is its battery life.
To use it for an extended period, one needs to connect it to a power bank, which exposes Apple’s long-standing weakness in battery life – the capacity of this power bank is only 3000mAh, smaller than most mobile power banks today and about 80% of a normal flagship phone’s battery capacity, yet it weighs around seven ounces.
Additionally, the external power source’s charging efficiency is only 30W, slower than most flagship phones.
Several media tests have shown that the actual battery life of Vision Pro is 3.5 hours, which is considered normal among XR devices. However, if used indoors in stationary scenarios like offices or watching immersive videos with continuous power supply, battery anxiety will be effectively eliminated.
Yet, having a battery-powered device on one’s head for several hours is likely to be challenging for most users, especially since users have become accustomed to fast charging and long battery life of smartphones.
Main Highlight: Stunning Interaction but a Bit Tiring
As Cook stated, the world we live in is three-dimensional, yet the content we enjoy is two-dimensional, including interaction. The biggest highlight of Vision Pro is actually in continuing the legacy of the iPhone 4 and redefining a completely new way of interaction.
Before Apple’s release, the industry’s XR (mixed reality) devices relied on relatively inefficient voice interaction, physical button touches, or external peripherals like controllers or ring devices that emit rays to interact – using an interesting metaphor, “Vanity Fair” described this interaction as resembling long and clumsy “lobster claws.”
However, on Vision Pro, physical buttons are scarce, and the overall interaction is brought back to the user’s most natural posture. For instance, where the user looks becomes a form of “selection” cursor – looking at the top of the screen will pull down the notification bar.
The role of the eyes is not just about selection; it plays a more crucial “key” role. On Vision Pro, the user’s unique iris becomes a key that can unlock the device, make payments, etc. – compared to fingerprint recognition and entering passcodes on phones, iris recognition is more direct, efficient, and secure. Fingers of the user in action are akin to a right-click mouse, yet not limited to simple clicks or double-clicks. Users can also drag, rotate, and perform various other actions on the content in front of them. The display responds with corresponding distances, much like manipulating small objects in daily life.
It’s worth noting that in the past, VR devices required users to hold their hands up continuously while using peripherals for interaction, leading to fatigue as it felt like exercising while playing VR games.
However, the interaction method of Vision Pro adheres to the principle of comfortable and natural interaction throughout. Users can make small movements with their hands hanging naturally while sitting or lying down, all of which can be accurately captured by sensors.
Most media outlets highly praise Apple’s “Optic ID” interaction system. The Verge even went as far as to say it surpasses any hand-eye tracking system on the consumer market.
Yet, from practical usage, many users have shared that initially, it feels amazing, as if possessing superpowers. However, prolonged use can strain the eyes since users need to keep focusing to control, resulting in inaccuracies.
Fu Sheng, CEO of Cheetah Mobile, posted on his social media after trying it, saying, “Not sure if this interaction will wake Steve Jobs up. Need to look with eyes, yet results are inaccurate. Maybe because the eyes are too small…” “Staring at the numbers with eyes, a slight distraction leads to mistakes.”
From Fu Sheng’s social media
Apple Solves the Problem of “How to Use XR”
Although design-wise, the first-generation Vision Pro from Apple is not intended for prolonged outdoor use, Apple is well aware of the current hardware limitations and skillfully navigates this predicament.
From the scenarios Apple primarily targets, Vision Pro is mainly used in situations where no extensive movement is needed, such as watching movies, working, industrial/medical/architectural design, etc.
Compared to all XR hardware manufacturers in the market, Apple’s biggest advantage lies in Vision Pro not being an isolated device but one that can interact with Apple’s vast hardware ecosystem, sparking creativity.
For instance, concerning Apple iMac, Vision Pro acts as a large external display. Reviews have shown that users can use applications on Vision Pro while working on the iMac, like typing text, video editing, using the familiar iMac keyboard and mouse to control Vision Pro.
When combined with iMac, although Vision Pro functions as an extended screen, it still holds significant productivity tool implications.
The synchronization of Vision Pro with Apple smartphones is lauded as the best feature by The Verge. Users can play 4K videos shot with an iPhone 15 Pro Max on Vision Pro and, when brought close together, the two devices can transfer data and files.
Traditionally, Live Photos were an exclusive feature of iPhones. With Vision Pro, this unique feature essentially becomes an excellent playback tool. When shooting videos of children playing with a mobile phone and playing them on Vision Pro, it feels as if the children are right there, running around. This small device assists sentimental individuals in capturing precious moments.
An industry professional mentioned that the features related to space videos are exciting many developers, and XR’s application ecosystem is gradually gaining momentum. “New app developers are getting onboard early, focusing on panoramic video, with strong paying capabilities of Apple users. Furthermore, the office experience with Vision Pro is somewhat lacking, leaving room for application development optimization.
Concerning content ecosystem, Apple’s vast content ecosystem constructed on phones and tablets is gradually being transferred to Vision Pro. According to Apple, there will be approximately 1 million transplanted apps and 600 native apps in the future.
Several users who have experienced Vision Pro expressed to 36Kr that Vision Pro is worth buying, but the novelty fades within the first three hours of usage, necessitating further exploration for practicality.
Bridging the Gap Between Virtual and Real
Although Apple does not categorize Vision Pro under the established AR or VR classifications but rather creates a new category of “Spatial Interaction Computing Device,” essentially, Apple uses the form of a VR product to achieve AR functionalities.
In the past, VR technology often led to existential crises. ### Vision Pro: Combining Reality and Virtuality
A journalist from Vanity Fair once mentioned that while experiencing various VR devices of the past, the common trajectory was to be initially amazed with a “wow,” then start feeling claustrophobic, and finally lock the device away in a drawer in the basement.
Vision Pro has solved this issue by blending reality and virtuality seamlessly.
At the core of Vision Pro lies the Micro OLED lenses that support 4K resolution per eye. Industry experts calculated that with the 120° field of view achievable on Vision Pro, the average number of pixels per degree exceeds 30. In layman’s terms, when wearing Vision Pro, the visuals people see won’t have that grainy pixelated feel.
This leads people to mistakenly perceive the virtual visuals as the real world, significantly enhancing user immersion. The majority of media reviews unanimously agree that this is the best-performing head-mounted display available to date.
Vision Pro Interface
Moreover, Vision Pro includes built-in cameras that allow users to see the outside world through the glasses. When you wear them, there is an “Eyesight” feature that lets others see your eyes through the glasses.
The Eyesight feature was highly valued and elicited surprise from many industry professionals upon its release. However, in practical use, this feature falls a little short of expectations and deviates from Apple’s promotional images.
The somewhat eerie Eyesight feature
In a review by The Verge, it was noted that in the promotional images, “Eyesight” could clearly display a person’s eyes, yet in reality, the brightness is insufficient, making it hard to see even in well-lit environments, and the projected eyes do not appear natural. Nevertheless, Apple’s attempt to blur the lines between virtual and real worlds holds significant value.
In summary, Vision Pro stands out for its design, innovative interactive experience, seamless integration with other Apple products, among other features, but drawbacks include weight, battery life, high price, and diminished real-world experience of some standout features.
However, Vision Pro is a product Apple has placed high hopes on. Analysts on Wall Street previously stated that around 180,000 units were sold during the first weekend of online pre-orders, greatly surpassing expectations. In China, the price of Vision Pro surged to 100,000 RMB initially, but has now dropped slightly, although some still buy it at more than double the price.
According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s forecast, the annual shipment volume of Vision Pro is estimated to be around 500,000 units. Calculated at a price of 25,000 RMB, this product roughly accounts for 0.4% of overall revenue, a drop in the ocean. Nevertheless, this marks the first step taken by Cook and Apple, and their upcoming challenge is to retain users on this platform once the initial novelty wears off.