Apple's Vision Pro to focus more on AR and non-gaming applications at launch, says DIGITIMES Research

Jack Wu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Credit: AFP

After Apple announced the MR headset Vision Pro in June 2023, its top-of-the-market specifications and equally top-of-the-market price have left many wondering what Apple plans to achieve with such an expensive device in the still quite niche XR sector. According to DIGITIMES Research, Vision Pro will be focusing on AR and non-gaming applications at launch, with the long-term goal of giving developers time to create the "killer application" that can truly complete the VR ecosystem.

DIGITIMES Research analyst Zouhao Shen pointed out that Vision Pro "is not really comparable to other XR headsets on the market." This is mainly because other headsets, headlined by Meta's Quest series, are focused on offering fully immersive socializing experiences in the metaverse. They're doing so through VR and their primary applications are video games.

Vision Pro, in contrast, is not using immersion as its main selling point. Rather, it emphasized AR and the connection with the real world. Additionally, video games are barely mentioned in Apple's announcement of the Vision Pro. Rather, Apple went with "spatial computing" as the key term and highlighted applications like Virtual Avatar FaceTime and the seamless transfer/expansion of existing applications and devices like the Mac.

Source: Suppliers, compiled by DIGITIMES Research, July 2023

Source: Suppliers, compiled by DIGITIMES Research, July 2023

The control method Vision Pro elected is another sign that video games aren't the target application for this device. It doesn't support any controller input and relies on gestures, eye-tracking, and audio input to conduct its human-machine interactions. Gesture-based control schemes lack the input precision to be viable in video games. In contrast, this can be seen as a positive for office applications, as it removes the requirement for additional pieces of hardware.

Shen mentioned that this approach of expanding its existing applications in the App Store to AR has both pros and cons. The upside is that it allows Vision Pro to gain access to a massive application ecosystem with an established user base. Since it's all within Apple's own ecosystem, implementation can also be done faster and more conveniently.

As with the downside, this type of approach is just not particularly interesting or attractive to customers. Applications like 3D photos and virtual avatar FaceTime, while technically impressive, aren't significant enough upgrades over their current existing 2D counterparts to justify buying Vision Pro.

All in all, Vision Pro and even the XR sector in general still lack that "killer application" truly unique to it, one that consumers will specifically buy an expensive device for. However, Shen stated that Apple is very well aware of this issue, hence why he believed that the Vision Pro wasn't meant for the consumer market, at least not this current version. "This (Vision Pro) is not for the average consumer, but for developers and very high-end corporate users," he said.

Apple recently announced that the software development kit (SDK) for its visionOS is now available, meaning that third-party developers can start building apps for not just the Vision Pro, but also its subsequent models. It is reported that Apple is planning to launch a cheaper version of the Vision Pro as early as the end of 2025. Shen believes that the two to three years between now and the launch of that cheaper model is time for developers to make that "killer application," and Apple will adjust its product based on what that app turns out to be.

Shen mentioned that the sales prediction of Vision Pro is based on the first iPhone. After several downgrades, it's currently at 150K units for its initial wave of orders. Due to the positive feedback Vision Pro received after its announcement, Apple has plans to increase shipments. However, it's unable to do so due to its main panel supplier Sony's inability to expand production capacity in a short time.

About the analyst

Shen Zouhao has a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Information Management and has accumulated approximately three years of industry research experience in government think tanks. He has assisted in the execution of large-scale government projects. Currently, his main research areas include telecommunications technology and mobile phone market trends observation such as the open RAN market and B5G technology development trends.

Zouhao Shen, Meet the Analyst