Apple’s long-awaited Vision Pro headset is now available for preorder, with deliveries beginning on March 15th. However, enthusiasm around the $3500 mixed reality device has been dampened by the limited number of apps that will be optimized for it at launch.
Just 150 Apps Designed Specifically for Vision Pro So Far
According to a report by TechCrunch, only around 150 apps have been built specifically to take advantage of the Vision Pro’s capabilities as of now. The Vision Pro runs a new operating system called VisionOS and features advanced spatial computing and hand tracking that enables innovative mixed reality experiences.
But developing apps tailored for this requires significant additional work by developers. As a result, many popular apps will not be available in optimized form when the Vision Pro hits stores next month.
Critical Entertainment Apps Lack Support
Some of the most glaring omissions are critical entertainment apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify, which will not have apps optimized for the Vision Pro launch. Users will have to access these services through the Vision Pro’s web browser instead of dedicated apps.
This could seriously limit the Vision Pro’s appeal as the “ultimate entertainment device” that Apple has touted. The lack of commitment from top streaming platforms casts doubt on whether the device can live up to expectations.
|Vision Pro Support at Launch
Other missing apps include social platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Popular mobile games like Call of Duty Mobile and Genshin Impact also won’t be available.
This means the Vision Pro will ship with mostly Apple’s own apps like Safari, Weather and Mail that have been adapted for mixed reality. Even some of Apple’s tablet apps will run unoptimized iPad versions due to the hastily prepared VisionOS.
Most Apps Will Be Web Apps Without Special Integration
Industry analysts believe that over 90% of apps accessed on the Vision Pro during the initial period will simply be 2D web apps running in the browser instead of made-for-VR software.
This could greatly diminish key features like spatial interfaces, realistic depth perception and controller integration. Users may feel they aren’t getting the full mixed reality experience from popular apps and services.
“It will mostly feel like using a giant virtual iPad strapped to your face rather than being immersed in a believable 3D environment,” said industry analyst Thomas Husson.
Apple Faces Backlash for Web-Centric Strategy
Apple is facing criticism for relying too heavily on web apps instead of fostering a robust ecosystem of bespoke mixed reality software. Developing for an unproven platform like VisionOS entails significant risk and uncertainty for developers.
By comparison, Apple has over 2 million iOS apps optimized for iPhone and 900,000 iPad apps. This vast ecosystem has been key to the success of those products. But Apple risks repeating the fate of Microsoft’s Zune or Windows Phone by launching a product without solid app support.
“It feels like Apple is passing the buck to developers instead of doing the heavy lifting to ensure the success of Vision Pro,” said Mike Peterson, a senior developer at VR studio Anthropic Labs. “We can’t commit resources to a platform that may turn out to be another dead end.”
What Apps Will Actually Be Available?
At launch, Vision Pro will have about 20 Apple apps optimized for mixed reality, including VisionOS Home, Vision Browser, Vision Mail and Vision Calendar.
Third-party apps designed specifically for Vision Pro will number around 100-150. These are mostly games, media/entertainment apps and some productivity tools:
- Vision Store for app downloads
- Vision Reader for accessing Apple News+ articles
- DirecTV for streaming shows and movies
- Readdle’s Scanner Pro for digitizing documents
- Knightscope for public safety applications
- Wookey for financial visualizations
- Harmonix music games like Dance Central and Audica
- Productivity suite Vision Office from Microsoft
Various game publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Valve have also committed to launching VR versions of titles like Battlefield, Assassin’s Creed and Portal for Vision Pro in the coming months.
But for now, the device won’t have access to much familiar software beyond Apple’s own walled garden. This could make the transition to mixed reality difficult for mainstream consumers used to iOS and iPadOS.
Will Apple Resolve the App Gap Over Time?
The Vision Pro app landscape is likely to improve gradually as developers get access to hardware kits and VisionOS software development tools. It took over a year for the original iPhone to move beyond the initial web-based experience.
Hopefully Vision Pro will follow a similar trajectory – but only if enough headsets sell to make the platform viable long-term. With the high $3500 price tag, cost-prohibitive hardware could hinder developer adoption too.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has expressed confidence that developers will eventually “flock to Vision Pro” given enough incentives and support. But the pressure is high on Apple to ensure the headset doesn’t end up a forgotten product like the Newton or Apple TV of old.
Only real-world success can galvanize developer momentum to close the Vision Pro app gap. For now, consumers keen to be early adopters may have to temper expectations around the device’s capabilities until more made-for-VR software comes online later. The Vision Pro’s ultimate fate will hang in the balance this year.
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