Impressions and Thoughts from Early Vision Pro Reviews

Originally published at: Impressions and Thoughts from Early Vision Pro Reviews - TidBITS

After reading and watching reviews of Apple’s just-released Vision Pro, Adam Engst came away with some initial impressions and thoughts about the near and far future of the product.


I have to admit I’m not a fan of including a recommendation for iJustine in the same collection as Joanna Stern’s review. Joanna Stern does series reviews (albeit in an entertaining manner) and is ready to offer actual insight and critique. iJustine is an entitled hyperactive brat that does content-devoid puff pieces for Apple marketing. IMHO she needs absolutely no advertisement at all from a reputable source. Just my 2¢.

Thanks for this summary and pointers. I’ve watched many of them, and overall I was reminded of early iPhone reviews where people felt compelled to find flaws, to the point of absurdity. (Such as the angst over messing up your hair, or complaining that it’s too heavy while simultaneously suggesting the battery should be in the headset.)

Thanks much for a great review. I haven’t taken the time to follow all the links, but there’s a lot to see here.

I wonder how long before developers can have fun with things like EyeSight and Personas - like the ability to use cartoony avatars instead of your real face. (Am I the only one who thinks it would be fun for the front display to show Simpsons-style spherical eyeballs?)

I thought all the videos you mention were well done and informative (though I skip iJustine for the same reason I never watch Linus). I have two thoughts about the device.

First, I think it is unfortunate that they base visionOS on iPadOS. I don’t think much of the latter and am particularly unimpressed by the iPad App Store. As I have mentioned elsewhere, it lacks the apps that I am interested in: things like compilers and development apps, scientific data analysis apps, CAD apps, etc.

I have found iPadOS hard to use for productive work largely due to the lack of a flexible file management capability and the many little annoyances in iOS generally.

I wish visionOS were based upon macOS. Then, one could have a completely self-contained computer in the headset and, moreover, a computer one could use for productive work, with a keyboard, mouse and no AppStore requirement. The last is a dream, of course.

Second, I think the Vision Pro would be a superb device for certain professions such as surgeons, architects, certain machine operators, robot controllers at nuclear power plants and pilots. As an inactive pilot, I think that the device would be a great platform for a superb, immersive flight simulator.

As some reviewers (e.g. Gruber) have said, its greatest strength at present is in entertainment. While I agree, the solitary nature of the experience is somewhat disturbing. I am guessing that entertainment will be dominant for at least a year or so for those not bothered by watching movies and sports events alone.

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I’m disappointed with the one monitor, heck I wanted more than one Mac.

I have three Macs on the go at my desk, two with two monitors, which isn’t typical I acknowledge, I’d have been curious about a virtual replica of that. With a couple of iPads…

Version 1. It will develop.

I hesitated about including iJustine’s review, but at this point in the Vision Pro lifespan, any additional perspective is interesting. For instance, she was the only person who covered Guest mode, which feels important early on.

And while her style (I’ve never met her; there’s no telling how much is an act) grates on my nerves as well, I could see some (very different from me) people finding her more compelling than the others.

I don’t think there’s any reason to believe this. All of Apple’s operating systems share a great deal of code and interface approach, and visionOS is a new fork of that OS core focused on the interaction methods possible with the Vision Pro and appropriate to the level of processing power available with the M2. It’s a little hard to imagine writing code on a Vision Pro, though, of course, you could do that in a Mac window. Things like data analysis and CAD apps are much easier to imagine, but it will take developers some time to figure out what’s possible, after which they’ll have to decide if there’s sufficient marketing for such focused apps or if such an app could be so compelling on the Vision Pro that users would buy the hardware to get it. I could see it going either way eventually.


Perhaps I didn’t understand what was said in many of the reviews, but I thought that visionOS was deliberately based on iPadOS so that all the existing iPad apps (with the developer’s approval) would run seamlessly on Vision Pro. I have not heard any mention of the possibility of loading Vision apps except through the Vision App Store.

If Apple runs true to form it will not be possible to run compilers or development systems on the device, as is the case with iOS and iPadOS. I understand from the developers of TeXpad for iOS that they had great difficulty in getting it accepted since, as a typesetting app for math, it came close to violating the compiler ban.

I have always been surprised that there were so few CAD apps for the iPad. One would think that the platform would be a natural, with the pencil. I have heard users of the one good CAD app praising to the sky the iPad plus pencil as the best platform for their software. Perhaps it is the App Store, which seems inhospitable to fairly expensive apps together with Apple’s 30% cut, that dissuades developers.

It’s absolutely true that iPad apps can run on the Vision Pro if the developer allows it (iPhone apps too?) but that doesn’t imply that visionOS is based on iPadOS. macOS has the same feature.

I can’t imagine there ever will be one unless Apple is forced to do it by the EU. ;-)

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Given that the EU alternative app stores will not be available for devices other than the iPhone, the Apple Store will be the only path to obtaining Vision Pro apps for the immediate future.

Thank you, Adam. I was just fantasizing a Vision Pro based upon macOS where one would have an almost infinite screen in which to place one’s Mac windows where one could drag and drop between windows and use the Mac UI to manage all this. This seemed better than having a single Mac screen surrounded by iPad windows (or visionOS windows) with (at present) limited capacity to drag and drop between them.

By the way, I can’t imagine a comfortable use of the single Mac screen without a mechanical keyboard and pointing device. For some reason, Apple does not support Bluetooth mice (like their own Magic Mouse), my preferred pointing device. That seems odd and I hope it changes and, further, that Apple allows more than one Mac screen. For those Mac-centric people (like me), it would make much more sense to buy a couple of Studio Displays than use a Vision Pro for Mac operations at present.

It will be interesting too see how the Vision Pro evolves.

Yeah, having Mac app windows being able to stand alone within the visionOS interface would be nice, but it really is a fantasy. macOS just isn’t designed for the gaze-oriented interface of visionOS, so Mac apps would be very hard to use that way. iPad apps are already assuming a touch interface and thus have controls with larger targets because a finger is much larger than a mouse pointer.

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I like the phrase “gaze-oriented interface”, an apt description of the visionOS UI. Although it is potentially more accurate than a touch-based interface, it still lacks the multiplicity of modes allowed by a mouse with multiple buttons. Furthermore, it limits one’s use of one’s gaze for more than pointing - gazing elsewhere during a UI operation could have weird consequences. I wonder whether users will get fatigued by this after a long session.

If it’s a laptop you’re mirroring inside the AVP, you can still use the laptop’s existing keyboard and trackpad. It works really well, and you can even use the trackpad to control Vision apps (similar to using a trackpad on iPad).

You can also use a bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. But not bluetooth mice as you mentioned – I wonder if that’s because the OS wants the trackpad’s touch gestures?

(Personally, I can’t use mice any more. Tried a few years ago and got hand cramps. So weird. I’ve just been using trackpads since the mid-90s when Apple started putting them on laptops and never looked back.)

It’s important to keep straight how the different OS’s in Apple’s ecosystem overlap.

  • They’re all based on the Darwin Unix kernel (originally based on BSD, but I assume has evolved in unique directions since then).
  • It is safe to assume that builds of Darwin for different hardware platforms (Intel Mac, Apple Silicon Mac, iPhone, iPad, Watch, TV, Vision Pro) are compiled with different sets of device drivers and with various kernel-level features enabled/disabled, as appropriate for the products.
  • On top of Darwin is a huge slew of frameworks - libraries upon which apps are built. Some (e.g. CoreFoundation and CoreImage) are probably present on every platform, even if the capabilities provided on each are not 100% identical. And some (e.g. Cocoa or UiKit) are going to be platform-specific (only Macs have Cocoa. UiKit is for iOS, iPadOS and TVOS).
  • And then, of course, there are the bundled apps. Even when two platforms have apps with the same name and icons (e.g. Mail or Keynote), they are probably not built from identical code, although they may share some app-specific libraries under the covers.

I think it is reasonable to assume that the VisionPro is based on a Darwin kernel, just like all of Apple’s products. But it’s going to be a custom build designed for its distinctive hardware devices. And although there will be many common frameworks for app developers to use, I can guarantee you that they won’t all be present, there will several unique ones, and those that are cross-platform will not have identical implementations.


I have been using both trackpads and mice and have a strong preference for the Magic Mouse, despite its slightly uncomfortable feel. The 2D touch surface is wonderful and can be used for (2D) scrolling, switching, screens in Safari and lots of other things. I still like trackpads - my first one was the pad on a Powerbook 1400, where they introduced tap-to-click and I loved that.

I find mice much more convenient to use in CAD and drawing apps - for some reason, drawing is easier using a mouse (for me).

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I get it.

Speaking of drawing, yesterday I tried Apple’s Freeform app for the first time (the one they announced last summer as part of the new OS), but on Vision Pro. That was freaky. You draw in the air with your hand! I can’t really draw so I don’t know how a real artist would like it, but it much better than I thought. The finger tracking was surprisingly good.

But it was weird and I’m sure to my dog watching me, I looked rather insane. :joy:


One thing about Apple first editions: they become obsolete pretty quickly, and the price drops rapidly. Remember the first iPhone - and how Apple had to give all buyers a big Apple Store credit when they quickly lowered the price? And how the first iPad didn’t have a camera? And how the Watch original version died away as Series 1, etc., were introduced?

So I think this is for the most serious of Apple maniacs with money to spare.

One thing about the “extras” that seems strange to me (well, extra for the carrying case seems weird to me too) is the prescription glasses thing. So many people wear glasses! Why can’t they adjust for that in VR software?

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The Marques Brownlee reviews are possibility the best ones to get an appreciation of the set up and working features of Vision Pro. In his last video, he discusses ‘how it feels’ to be in Apple’s Vision Pro spatial environment, in other words his psychological reaction to a new way of interaction. Also his idea of doing his video editing while sitting in an airline seat shows advantages of such a device. There’s now others by people wearing the headset in real life and it’s interesting how people respond to someone wearing one.

I have come away from these reviews being impressed by the deep thinking by the Apple developers into what is needed to be functioning in this device. A remarkable achievement given the one we are seeing today is the first edition - we know how previous Apple products developed over time. Like many products you don’t buy the first edition unless it is a book.

Further development or functions and reduction in weight are obvious next steps. But it will be app developers who now have real opportunities to develop apps beyond the personal use cases and for these apps together out in the industrial and business world…


I think Apple does not want to get involved with the certification and licensing required in many jurisdictions to fill prescriptions and does not want to work on the ramifications of doing it virtually. Even for the in-store demos, they will not work with a written prescription but instead measure your current glasses and provide lenses that should be close enough. For purchase, Apple manages the sale of the inserts, but lens maker Zeiss provides the lenses.

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