"There's never been a product like the Vision Pro." That's the assessment Apple CEO Tim Cook gave investors and members of the press on the company's earnings call last week. But it's what came after that which some people might find most interesting.
"And so we’re purposely bringing it out in our stores only, so we can really put a great deal of attention on the last mile of it,” he added. He continued, saying that Apple will "be offering demos in the stores, and it will be a very different process than the normal grab-and-go kind of process.”
If that sounds like buying a Vision Pro in early 2024 will require more time to buy than your average Apple product, you're probably right. And there's no need to read between any lines based on Cook's statement — the Vision Pro won't be sold online, at least not at first. You'll have to buy one in-store and go through what sounds like a more involved buying process. That sounds like a bit of a nightmare for Apple Store employees but for customers? It's the right approach. And I'd wager it's the best one for Apple itself, too.
A product like no other
Bloomberg's Mark Gurman has been saying for a little while that Apple intends to require shoppers to make an in-store appointment to try and then buy the Vision Pro. He reiterated that over the weekend, adding that there "also will be special Vision Pro areas in its flagship stores for curious customers." Gurman goes on, adding that those looking to buy a Vision Pro outside the United States will have to wait beyond that early 2024 timeframe — the UK and Canada will be the first to offer the headset towards the end of 2024.
That all sounds very much like a slow, measured release for a product that will start from $3,499 (we still don't know what that actually means, or what you get for that money) but could well garner plenty of attention in stores. Much like the Apple Watch did at launch, the Vision Pro will grab the attention of anyone who enters an Apple Store that has it, and we can be sure that Apple's point of sale advertising will be plentiful (and colorful) to make sure everyone is well aware it's there. And in a largely post-pandemic world, trying the headset on will be a relatively easy thing for those who want to take it for a spin whether they intend to splash the cash, or not.
And it's that try-on experience that will make Vision Pro's Apple Store debut so vital. Because as Cook said, there's never been a product like it. If there was one recurring theme from those who spent time with the headset at June's WWDC unveiling, it was that the headset was considerably better than they expected. It's that hands-on time that will sell Vision Pro. Of that, I've no doubt.
It's about the buyers, not the tryers-on
But the real benefit of having the Vision Pro be an in-store only affair isn't so the headset-curious can take it for a test drive. It's so that those who slap down their $3,499 can get the best, personalized shopping experience around. The Vision Pro will be among the most expensive items in the store and its success depends on people getting the most out of it.
Having not used a Vision Pro headset myself, I don't know how discoverable it is. How easily will people find its cool features? How quickly will they know to pinch here, scroll there? How intuitive is the visionOS experience? With an in-store setup, Apple Store employees can make sure buyers know what they're getting and more importantly, how to get the most out of it. And when that happens, and buyers start waxing poetic about how great the Vision Pro is? That's when these things start selling.
A cheaper model won't hurt, either.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.