Blog Post|#engineering

A Developer’s First Two Weeks with an Apple Vision Pro

Brandon Richey
Brandon RicheyFriday, March 29, 2024
A Developer’s First Two Weeks with an Apple Vision Pro

Last month, Apple finally shipped the long-rumored (and possibly one of their worst-kept secrets) Apple Vision Pro. I'll admit that my initial reactions were a healthy mix of curiosity and skepticism. As a developer, I'm constantly seeking tools that not only enhance our productivity (and get me closer to my childhood vision of a totally VR computing space, thank you Hackers "flying through the computer" montages). Enter the Vision Pro, a device that has been making waves for its innovative approach to spatial computing and app integration. After spending one month with the Vision Pro, here's a deep dive into my experience and the valuable lessons learned.

Is the Simulator Enough?

Short version: no. Apple thankfully provides some really great device simulators to help you build products with XCode, and their Vision OS device simulators are thankfully continuing this tradition. However, throughout my time with the device, it became clear that simulators pale in comparison when building complex applications, especially if those applications rely on either spatial functionality or AR functionality. Using it with the actual Vision Pro offers a unique, immersive testing environment that simulators simply cannot replicate, providing invaluable insights into the user experience of spatial and augmented reality apps. If you're building Apple Vision Pro apps, then yes, you're definitely going to need one at some point.

The Ultimate Productivity Companion

The Vision Pro proved to be the perfect sidekick for couch-based productivity, and I say this as someone with a REALLY big monitor for development. Pairing it with my Macbook Pro opened up a new dimension (see what I did there?) of comfort and efficiency, making it an indispensable tool for developers who cherish the flexibility of working from any corner of their home, without losing any of the critical screen real-estate I've come to expect from my stationary work desk. Even after a month of using it, doing anything on the couch (or frankly anywhere away from my main development rig) usually means picking up the Vision Pro first and taking it and my laptop with me.

A Developer's Dream: Tools and SwiftUI

Developing for the Vision Pro is not just feasible; it's a pleasure. The plethora of tools available, coupled with the simplicity and power of SwiftUI, makes developing engaging apps a breeze. Whether it's designing intuitive UIs or integrating complex functionalities, the Vision Pro environment is surprisingly developer-friendly, making it an exciting platform for innovation. SwiftUI is a great framework to build apps in and it's great that they put it front and center when building new Apple VisionOS apps.

BYOGDS (Bring your own game development skills)

For those versed in game development, transitioning to creating spatial apps for the Vision Pro feels like a natural progression. The skills acquired in game development, such as spatial reasoning and 3D modeling, are directly applicable and highly beneficial. This cross-compatibility not only eases the learning curve but also enhances the quality and depth of the apps developed. Hope you know your quaternions! I haven't messed around with Unity's tooling yet, but that's on my list.

Comfort: A Work in Progress

While the Vision Pro excels in many areas, comfort is one aspect that needs attention. The single nylon strap falls short in providing the necessary support for extended use. Investing in a dual strap for the top and back of the head is essential for achieving the comfort level required for long development sessions or simply enjoying the device for leisure. I've seen all kinds of homebrew bands and things that hope to fix or at least alleviate some of this, but VR raccoon-face remains an issue even after years of VR headsets.

The Uncanny Valley of Personas

Hands also suffer from the uncanny valley: it looks very virtual and there’s no “hand scanning” functionality, so it’s just enough to be a little off-putting

The attempt at creating lifelike avatars or "Personas" within the Vision Pro ecosystem is ambitious. However, it currently resides in the uncanny valley, where the avatars are realistic enough to be unsettling yet not lifelike enough to feel genuine. The few meetings I've tried so far with Zoom and their persona avatar concept were off-putting and generally just creepy. That is, at least when the meetings worked...

And the Sheer Cliff of Audio Troubles with Zoom

Frowning also doesn’t work.

...because in an era where remote work and virtual meetings are the norm, the Vision Pro's integration with popular apps like Zoom is crucial, and the app just does not function well. This is a significant drawback for developers and professionals who rely on seamless communication for collaboration. As soon as those issues are fixed, this app will be more usable. Until then, I wouldn't hope for this to be your day-to-day meeting and work device.

Unless you want to be that person. Persona. Whatever you want to call it.

Ergonomics and Battery Life: A Balancing Act

The Vision Pro strikes a good balance in terms of ergonomics and battery life. While it's slightly on the heavier side, it's not a deal-breaker. The device manages to maintain a level of comfort that supports prolonged usage, and the battery life has proven to be satisfactory for day-to-day tasks and development work. Overall, I give it a B+.

Not Just Another Gaming Device

Apple's decision to orient the Vision Pro towards apps, rather than gaming, is a strategic move that aligns well with its ecosystem. The "hand tracking by default" decision significantly reduces friction, making the device more accessible and intuitive for a wide range of applications. This focus has the potential to redefine how we interact with digital content and develop applications. It also really only takes that 30-minute demo in the Apple Store to "get it"; after that pinching, pulling, zooming, and moving feels pretty intuitive, and holding the dial to recenter/regroup windows feels quick and simple.

The Price Point Dilemma

The Vision Pro's capabilities are undeniably impressive, but its adoption is ultimately tied to its price point. At its current pricing, it remains a premium offering that may not be accessible to all Apple enthusiasts. However, I'm convinced that if the device were priced at $1,500 or less, it would become a staple in every Apple home, given its potential to revolutionize productivity and entertainment. Watching Mad Max: Fury Road on this thing, in full 3D, in my own personal theater, in super high resolution was an absolute dream and in my mind is THE way to watch that movie. I have yet to try anything else on it, though I'm excited to watch a lot more!


If the Vision Pro is indicative of where the AR/VR/XR/Spatial ecosystem is going, then I'm really excited to see how things shape out. There are some hurdles, to be sure, and that price point is...frankly not going to win anyone over. But if you look at the Vision Pro as more of a preview of coming attractions, it's hard to not get excited about what that really could mean for developers, for consumers, and for everyone in-between. It's the perfect merger of entertainment, productivity, and technology, and as the price goes down, the functionality gets more refined, and more developers start to envision what we can really do with technology like this, I can't help but be excited about what a broader consumer audience for this could bring.

I still don't have my "flying through my file system in 3D" functionality yet, though.

Brandon is a senior software engineer here at Echobind. Reach out to him on X anytime or email us at to build software for you within the spatial ecosystem Brandon wrote about above.

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