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What to expect from the Apple Vision Pro in February

Enlarge / Apple Vision Pro.

Apple

After years of delays, preorders for the Apple Vision Pro are just a few days away. It’s been a long, winding road to get to this point, and the nature of the headset has shifted through numerous rumors, both true and false.

Because of all that, this is a good time to clarify exactly what you can (and can’t) expect from Apple’s most ambitious new product in many years.

Apple showed more or less what it had finally landed on at WWDC in June, and I got some hands-on time with it then, but I still had a lot of questions. Fortunately, a few relevant details have been clarified since.

The Vision Pro is a real gamble for Apple, and its rollout will be an unusual one. There are likely to be relatively few units available on launch day, at least compared to the company’s other products. Apple knows a first-generation product that starts at $3,499 won’t sell as fast as a new iPhone model—not even close.

Until a full review, I won’t know for sure who to recommend it to. But if you’re on the fence about being bold enough to preorder before reviews come in, treat this as a cheat sheet for the next couple of weeks.

The launch (and the price)

Online preorders start on January 19 at 5 am PST. February 2 is the day the device will start arriving on the doorsteps of those who preordered, and it’s also when the device will start being available at all US Apple Store locations. It’s important to clarify that the Vision Pro is launching in the US first; other key regions are expected later in the year.

The base configuration of the Vision Pro will cost a whopping $3,499, far more than the consumer VR or AR headsets we’ve seen in the past. However, there’s a lot more going on with Vision Pro hardware than in those headsets. And Apple has been careful not to call this a VR or AR headset at all; instead, the company dubs it a “spatial computing” device as a way to differentiate it from its predecessors.

Apple has reportedly been giving retail employees intensive training on a special process for selling the device in stores. Expect things like consultations on fitting, prescription lenses, and so on—similar to what I experienced when attending a demo of the device at WWDC. That will all follow a 25-minute demo, according to early reports. Signups for the demos start at 8 am on launch day.

When I tried the device, Apple asked about my vision and glasses prescription, used a 3D scan to measure my head, and more. Those who order online will be able to do all of this remotely, provided they have a recent iPhone or iPad with the TrueDepth sensor array. Apple used an iPhone when it took these readings in person at the demo in June.

There’s not enough room inside the Vision Pro for most people’s glasses, so you’ll have the option to buy corrective lenses as inserts specifically for the device. Fortunately, these aren’t quite as expensive as many of us initially feared: The standard price is $150, with reading lenses costing just $100. That’s still not cheap, but it was easy to imagine worse.

Supply chain analysts have come out and said they expect supply to fall far short of demand, so it’s likely that initial supply will sell out quickly, with potentially long wait times for new orders after that. We’ve seen similar things happen with launches for other Apple products like iPhone and MacBook Pro models before.

The situation could be worse, though; initial reports predicted hundreds of thousands of units, but respected supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently said he believes Apple will only produce between 60,000 and 80,000 units for the launch. Demand will obviously be tempered by the very high list price, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine it being bigger than that relatively small number, so expect delays.

That said, there might be a cap on just how many people are willing to spend that much for a first-generation device. So after the initial rush from enthusiasts and ambitious developers, demand may taper off relatively quickly, with ample supply in later months. You never know for sure, though.

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