Apple is going to sell us $3,500 headsets next year. It still hasn’t said why.
Did you watch Apple’s latest new product launch? Did you read about it or watch a video about it? My guess is no.
That’s because these things used to be a big deal — at least for a certain kind of person — but haven’t been for a while. Most of the time, Apple just uses them to introduce a new iPhone that is just like the last iPhone plus a few new features (once they debuted talking poop emojis) and a new model number. That’s what happened today.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
On the other hand! A few months ago, Apple did use a launch event to show off a genuinely new thing it’s never sold before, and one that it promises will be a huge leap forward in tech: Its Vision Pro headsets, which are meant to mash up virtual reality, augmented reality, your phone, and your computer.
Emphasis on the “meant to.” Apple doesn’t plan on selling its new goggles until “early next year.” The only people who’ve been able to touch them so far are a limited number of journalists who got very brief opportunities to use them under the oversight of Apple executives, plus some developers who are building apps for the device. For now, all we really know about them is that they’re going to be expensive — $3,500 and up — and that we have yet to see how and why we’d use them.
So there was some speculation that Apple might use its “Wonderlust” event on September 12 to start expanding on the case it started making in June — that the Vision Pro is the portal to the new world of “spatial computing.” Or, at a minimum, the company would show us some cool examples of things you can do with the Vision Pro next year.
Nope! Instead, Apple used the event to reaffirm that it will indeed sell the Vision Pro “early next year” and that its newest AirPods Pro will work well with the device. It also noted that its new iPhone 15 Pro models will shoot “3D spatial videos” you can watch on the Vision Pro. That would in theory help create a lot more content for the goggles, though at first glance this seems like the stuff we used to look at on View-Masters a long time ago. More novelty than anything else.
Apple announces Spatial Video #AppleEvent
Capture 3D spatial videos on your iPhone 15 Pro & relive them with Apple Vision Pro, coming later this year pic.twitter.com/qNN6BIXAAQ
— GYX Deals (@GYXdeals) September 12, 2023
To be clear: Some people do seem to want to know more — anything, really — about the Vision Pro. Presumably, that’s why some people are drawing a link between a hand gesture you can use to control new Apple Watches with ones you’ll eventually use to control the headsets. Maybe! Then again, you’d think Apple would just say so if it were so.
So why didn’t Apple tell us more about the Vision Pro today?
The simplest answer is the most obvious: Apple always has an event in early September to show off its new iPhones, and this was that event, so that’s what it did. Get over it.
That’s also, basically, what Apple told me, via email, when I asked its comms department today: It didn’t say anything else about the Vision Pro because “our focus was on iPhone, Apple Watch and our 2030 milestone [a pledge to be carbon neutral in seven years].”
But just because Apple always does something doesn’t mean that it always will do it in the future. Take, for example, the Vision Pro, which was announced in June but won’t be available for at least seven months after that, at the earliest. That’s a very long gap for Apple, which almost always announces a product and starts selling it at the same time or shortly after. (The longest gap I can remember prior to this was the original iPhone, which had an announcement-to-ship gap of six months back in 2007.)
Another obvious answer is that Apple doesn’t have much more to say about what you can do with the Vision Pro because developers haven’t had much time to make something awesome for it.
So far, the only reference I’ve seen to an actual Vision Pro app is via an editor at Apple Insider, who says he got to look at software that “trains the users on an industrial process that demands absolute procedural compliance.” That could be useful! Though not titillating. So maybe the “holy shit I get it now” moment is yet to come.
It’s also possible that there are less optimistic reasons for the relative quiet around Vision Pro.
The most worrisome possibility: Maybe no one is creating those moments because maybe they aren’t forthcoming. That’s presumably the view of some unnamed current and former Apple employees, who have told reporters like the New York Times’s Tripp Mickle that they don’t think Apple should be making the headset at all.
Then there’s the problem that’s going to bedevil the Vision Pro for a very long time: In order to understand what high-tech headsets can do when you wear them, you have to actually wear them. By definition, simply showing off the device itself — or even a video of what you can see or do when wearing them — won’t do it justice.
So until we’re all wearing these things, it’s always going to be hard for Apple to tell us why it’s great to wear these things. Maybe they’re going to hope we all line up at Apple Stores to try them instead of watching keynotes. But until then, I’m going to keep watching these launches, hoping to be convinced.