First World Problems Tech

Apple Vision Nope

Vaguely disturbing art courtesy of Bing Copilot. It doesn’t seem to know what an AVP is, so an Apple logo is the best it could do.

Add me to the ranks of commentators who are returning their Apple Vision Pro headsets. I’m kinda disappointed in this outcome, but hey, at least I tried. It’s already packed up and the return labels are printed.

Apple, you have to hand it to them, make it very easy. They’ll even take back my prescription inserts and refund me the full amount, even though I can’t imagine they’ll bother waiting for someone else with the exact same prescription and desire to engrave initials. I didn’t expect to be able to return these, but Apple offered to take them back.

Why, though? I have four reasons, and I think it’s worth exploring them in some amount of detail. Please mentally add ‘for me’ to each of these.

  1. It’s uncomfortable
  2. It’s not there yet
  3. It’s not useful
  4. It’s very expensive

It’s uncomfortable for me

In the end, this is what ended up killing it above everything else for me. I can’t wear this thing for extended periods of time. This renders every other consideration moot, because if I can’t put it on my face I can’t use it.

I was originally going to go to the Apple Store to get fitted in-person and make sure it was the best it could be, but I tested positive for COVID and don’t want to pass it on to other people. So going to the store was out, and the return window was closing. Faced with the deadline, I concluded I can’t keep it pretty much for this entire list of reasons.

In my first impressions post, I mentioned the headset feels heavy. This never went away, and it digs into my face. I tried both straps. I adjusted it every which way. It was also extremely finicky on my face, tending to slip and need constant adjustment. The one use-case where it worked perfectly and was comfortable was lying on my back watching a movie on the ceiling… and even for that, I had to be perfectly still.

Also, it dries my eyes something fierce, and this didn’t go away with more use. My eyes hurt. That’s never going to be a keeper.

It’s not there yet

Some of the half-bakedness is expected. It’s a V1 Apple product. It’s a new category, for them, and by far the most ambitious headset on the consumer market.

Even though the technology is impressive, with a critical eye it still falls short, especially for its serious aspirations. In the ‘I can’t believe I’m actually writing this’ category, the resolution is still too low. Things are not-quite-crisp enough, and this seems to drive the size of UI elements. Everything is too large, by default, perhaps so it can be easily readable.

The external cameras kind of suck. It’s a compromise. There are limits imposed by physics. I don’t expect Apple to overcome physics, but… let’s say their commercials suggest they might.

The largest user experience issue, in the end, was the field of view. It’d be fine for a Quest headset, but you can buy many of those for the price of one of these. I could get over the resolution; I could get over the pass-through. I thought I’d get over looking through a periscope. Not even when just watching a movie.

I’m also unsure if this is a me problem or a device problem, but there’s some targets I just can’t hit with gaze tracking. Especially things at the bottom. I can look at them, or I think I’m looking at them? But I consistently can’t get them to register. This means, for example, that typing letters on the bottom row of the already-terrible virtual keyboard turned out to be almost impossible.

It’s not useful

My main use case for AVP was creating a virtual office. Setting aside that I can’t keep it on my face comfortably, having just one virtual monitor is a wasted opportunity. Either let me float individual Mac windows into my virtual space (and yes, I know there’s people already working on this) or multiple monitors. There are bandwidth limits in the way of this, but it’s still a disappointment.

The other usefulness problem is visionOS’ iPad heritage. Maybe a completely locked-down computer for $1,000 is OK, but for a geek who likes to tinker, and at this price? It’s too much of a content consumption device at the moment. I love watching a movie or TV show, but I want to do stuff beyond the walled garden.

At this price point, it needs to run a macOS derivative, and be able to do wild things. Let me open a terminal. Let me run my enterprise applications, even if they look terrible. It’d be useful.

It’s very expensive

Let’s talk numbers. First, the AVP is $3,499; but that’s for the lowest-storage tier, and if you’re experienced in Appledom and would like to keep a device, you up the storage. So I got the 512 GB model, for $3,699. Of course, I need lens inserts because I wear glasses. So $150 for that. And a fragile, portable, wearable Apple device demands AppleCare unless you can shrug off destroying the $3,699 thing – so that’s a ludicrous $499 on top.

And where do you put it? It should be protected. And the travel case is, frankly, awesome. And an absurd $199, but since we’re spending Big Boy money into the shopping cart it went.

ItemExpense (rounded)
AVP 512Gb$3,699
Zeiss inserts$150
Travel case$199.00
Sales tax (WA+Seattle)$466
Actual money$5,013

When we price out things in the USA we pretend sales tax doesn’t exist, but it does, hoo boy it does, and most of us pay it. So the actual outlay for the Apple Vision Pro in my case was just a little over five thousand American dollars. Sure, Apple makes it more doable with 0% 12-month financing, because I guarantee (rounding down) no one would buy one otherwise.

Even for a technological tour de force, 5K is a lot of dough. If I used it, and loved it, I’d keep it. But for discomfort, actual eye pain, looking through a periscope, and the inevitable resulting gathering-dust-in-a-corner? I’m not insane. It has to go back. I’m a early adopter, but not a throw-away-5-kilodollars early adopter.

So I just dropped the boxes off at FedEx. I’m sorry to see it go, but I won’t be sorry to see the refund.

Bonus: where is this going?

I’m going to read tea leaves here. The AVP, today, is not a compelling enough product for my personal needs/wants/head shape. But it articulates a vision, pun not intended, and I think it’ll be extremely interesting to see where it takes us.

The endgame in a few generations, ignoring physics, is a pair of eyeglasses or _discrete_ goggles that can dim completely at will, and onto which the visionOS interface is projected. The cost should be around the $1,000-$1,500 mark. When visionOS is not invoked, they should be just a piece of glass – no need for pass-through cameras or the rest of the current bonkers setup.

Will it ever be this? I kind of doubt it, but lightweight goggles, lighter materials, and faster processors and sensors could get us closer.

I can’t wait to get one in a few iterations. I think Apple’s on the right track, but it’s a clear early-adopter device at the moment. Not even early adopter; bleeding-edge.