Apple opened pre-orders for its first augmented reality (AR) headset, the Apple Vision Pro Pre Order, on January 19, 2024. Initial sales estimates indicate solid but not spectacular demand for the cutting-edge device. While the Vision Pro brings Apple into a new product category, its niche appeal and high price leave questions about its mainstream viability.
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Strong Pre-Order Sales, But Limited by High Price and Niche Appeal
According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, a reliable source on Apple’s supply chain, Apple sold between 160,000 and 180,000 Vision Pro headsets during the first weekend of Apple Vision Pro Pre Order. Other reports estimate sales of around 200,000 units so far.
These figures represent a decent result for a first-generation product in a new category for Apple. However, the company is expected to produce around 500,000 Vision Pro headsets this year. Given the early sales momentum, Apple may sell most or all of its initial production run to early adopters. But broader mainstream demand remains uncertain.
The biggest barrier to mainstream adoption of the Vision Pro is its price. At $3,500, it is far more expensive than popular consumer tech products like iPhones. Augmented and virtual reality headsets remain a niche market, with most existing products targeted at enterprise and technical users rather than average consumers.
The Vision Pro’s cutting-edge specs explain some of the high price. It features two ultra-high-resolution displays for immersive AR experiences, over a dozen advanced cameras for spatial mapping and hand tracking, and its own dedicated Apple S1 chip. But these features may be overkill for more casual users.
Unique Capabilities Create Intrigue Among Early Adopters
While the Vision Pro’s niche appeal limits its addressable market for now, its innovative features have generated excitement among technologists and Apple loyalists.
As Apple’s first device created solely for augmented reality, the Vision Pro aims to define the category and shape developer creativity. Its advanced hardware enables visual overlay of digital objects onto the real world. Users can interact with virtual screens and interfaces using hand tracking and voice commands.
Apple is also marketing the Vision Pro as a communication tool. Its spatial audio and front-facing cameras allow users to have FaceTime calls where participants are represented as avatars in a virtual environment. This points to the potential for AR headsets to create new social interaction methods.
Additionally, the Vision Pro integrates with Apple’s ecosystem via handoff features with the iPhone and iPad. This deep integration with Apple’s existing devices makes the Vision Pro intriguing for its existing customer base.
Overall, tech enthusiasts are excited by the Vision Pro’s capabilities and see its long-term potential. But it may take some time for AR experiences to become practical and appealing for mainstream audiences.
Table: Vision Pro Tech Specs and Features
|Specs / Features
|Dual 3D OLED displays with retina-resolution visuals
|Up to 120Hz for smooth visuals
|Field of view
|Over 100 degrees for immersive AR
|15 total cameras for spatial mapping, hand tracking, more
|Apple S1 chip designed specifically for AR and VR
|Up to 3 hours continuous use per charge
|Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking
|Seamless handoff and integration with iPhone and iPad
Developer Platform Provides Glimpse of Future AR Apps
A key part of Apple’s long-term AR strategy is enabling developers to create new applications and experiences for the Vision Pro. At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2023, Apple previewed some of the AR apps in development for the headset.
These apps highlight some of the headset’s key capabilities, like visual overlays, hand tracking, shared AR spaces, and integration with iPhone and iPad apps. While many are proofs of concept, they provide a glimpse into the types of apps that may eventually find a broad audience.
Some of the AR app concepts shown include:
- Virtual monitors and workspaces to replace real desk setups
- 3D virtual models overlaid onto real objects for easier visualization
- Educational apps with interactive virtual lessons and objects
- Digital avatars that users can customize and animate
- Games with shared augmented worlds
- Tools to preview digital furniture and art in a real room
As developers get access to Vision Pro headsets and Apple’s ARKit toolkit, many more innovative apps are likely to emerge.
Future Mainstream Appeal Depends on Content and Use Cases
While the initial batch of Vision Pro apps focuses on technology demonstrations, Apple’s long-term AR play depends on finding everyday practical uses that appeal to average people. This may take time.
Early personal computer systems were mainly used by hobbyists until apps like word processing and spreadsheets emerged. Similarly, VR headsets have yet to find mainstream appeal despite years of availability. AR may follow a similar trajectory.
Apple’s large install base provides a built-in audience if it can convince people to try the Vision Pro for communication, entertainment, creation, and productivity. But it needs to develop compelling use cases likely using a mix of first-party apps and partnerships with developers.
As AR headsets shrink in size and price, they may eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones. But in the near term, Apple needs to focus on finding “killer apps” beyond technology demonstrations to make the Vision Pro indispensable for anything more than niche users. Analysts expect it to take years to develop an AR ecosystem, with mass adoption not occurring until the end of the decade.
Vision Pro Marks Major AR Bet by Apple
The lukewarm consumer response to AR so far has not stopped Apple from making a huge investment in the technology’s future. The Vision Pro headset represents the biggest leap yet by a major consumer tech company into augmented reality hardware and software.
By integrating the Vision Pro into its broader ecosystem, Apple is betting it can kickstart developer and user interest in AR platforms. It has the technical prowess and software ecosystem to potentially realize AR’s long-promised potential.
But it remains to be seen whether Apple’s first-mover advantage in the AR space will pay off. The initial pre-order demand indicates enthusiastic early adopters. But uncertainty looms around whether average users will buy into augmented reality in the near future at current price points.
For now, the Vision Pro is a technological marvel and provides a valuable development platform. If Apple can identify compelling consumer use cases as the hardware and software matures, it may eventually make AR ubiquitous through its devices. But the Vision Pro is just the first step on what will likely be a long journey.
The Vision Pro marks a major milestone for Apple and the broader AR industry. Its initial pre-order sales show promising demand among early adopters, but mainstream success is far from guaranteed. To achieve its long-term AR ambitions, Apple needs to demonstrate real-world utility beyond technological demonstrations and encourage developers to build an ecosystem of apps. If it can develop this ecosystem and use cases, the Vision Pro could pave the way for AR to become the next major computing platform. But that widespread adoption likely remains years away as Apple iterates on the hardware and builds out the software experience. For now, the most important outcome is spurring developer and user creativity with this first-generation product. If nothing else, the Vision Pro pushes Apple to the forefront of defining the AR landscape.