It doesn’t matter how many Vision Pro headsets Apple sells

Can we all just calm down a bit?

Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Earlier this week, noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo posted an updated forecast for Apple’s Vision Pro headset, claiming production was being cut to 400,000 or 450,000 units compared to a previous market consensus north of 700,000. This came after a related report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who said in his Power On newsletter that demand for Vision Pro demos is “way down” while sales in some locations have significantly slowed.

Naturally, this incited a lot of panic and hand-wringing among Apple enthusiasts who feared that the headset that was supposed to change VR forever might not have the staying power they expected. However, before anyone else starts clutching their pearls, I want to let you in on a secret: It doesn’t actually matter how many headsets Apple sells.

While Apple says the Vision Pro is comfortable enough to use with just the standard head strap, the headset is so heavy that the optional top band feels like a required add-on.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

First, let’s talk production numbers. Is it 400,000 or 800,000, or something in between? Back in January, the same Ming-Chi Kuo estimated that the company sold between 160,000 and 180,000 units during its initial pre-order weekend, which was up from previous production predictions of around 60,000 to 80,000. But if we go back even further to last July, the Financial Times cited two people who said Apple only asked its supplier to make fewer than 400,000 units in 2024 while other sources put that number closer to 150,000. Now obviously numbers are subject to change over time as Apple responds to feedback and interest from developers and the public. Regardless, trying to predict the exact number of devices to make is extremely tricky, especially for an attention-grabbing and innovative product that has been the subject of rumors dating back to 2015 (and even before that, according to some very early patent applications).

Still, let’s take that 400,000 number and see how far it goes. Without factoring in accessories (some of which are very important, especially if the owner wears glasses), the Vision Pro sells for $3,500. Rough napkin math suggests that Apple is looking at around $1.4 billion in sales. That’s a pretty big number and for a lot of other companies, that would represent a banner year. But this is Apple we’re talking about —it raked in $383 billion in 2023 with around $97 billion in net income. And that was considered a down year. So we're talking less than one percent of the company’s total revenue, which is basically a rounding error for Apple’s finances.

One of the most important things the Vision Pro does is give Apple a platform to host apps and let developers test out new software.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

That figure looks even less impressive when you consider all the research and development that went into making the Vision Pro. Apple is always cagey when it comes to revealing how much money it invests into various departments. But if we look at another major player in VR, Meta, we can get a better sense of what Apple’s VR budget might look like. According to Business Insider, based on an analysis of regulatory findings, Meta’s Reality Labs has lost nearly $50 billion since the start of 2019. That’s a serious chunk of change and more than enough to cause some consternation among investors, with Meta’s stock recently falling big after its most recent earnings report.

But all these numbers are just noise. Analysts like to look at this stuff to help predict company growth, though they’re so busy focusing on quarterly numbers that they often miss the bigger picture. Depending on who you ask, Apple has more cash on hand than any other company in the world, with upwards of $165 billion sitting in a bank somewhere. And with recent reports claiming that Apple has canceled its secretive car project, I’d argue that the company may want to double down on its headset endeavors.

The Vision Pros lenses and microLED displays deliver some of the best visuals of any headset on the market.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

That’s because the Vision Pro might be the first step towards a platform that could reshape the company’s entire trajectory like the original iPhone did back in 2007. From the start, it was clear Apple’s first handset would have a massive impact. But when people look back, they never cite the iPhone’s first year of sales, which according to Statista only amounted to around 1.4 million units. Sure, that’s more than 400,000, but that was also for a significantly less expensive device and a drop in the bucket compared to the HUNDREDS of millions Apple has been selling more recently. Those figures were meaningless.

The Vision Pro is Apple’s Field of Dreams device for virtual reality, spatial computing or whatever you want to call the category that encompasses head-mounted displays. Apple had to build it so developers have actual hardware to test software on. Apple had to build it so there’s a platform for people to download apps from. (If you remember, the original App Store didn’t arrive until July 2008, more than a year after the OG iPhone went on sale and on its own made an estimated $85 billion in 2022.) Apple had to build it to plant a flag, lest they cede the first mover's advantage completely to Meta or someone else.

Even though it's only been out for a few months, Apple has already made major improvements to Vision Pro features like its personas.
Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Even though I’d posit that the Vision Pro is a glorified dev kit (it was announced at WWDC after all), there are features that evoke the magical feeling I had the first time I used an iPhone. The Vision Pro has possibly the best optics I’ve seen on any headset, including enterprise-only models that cost way more than $3,500. It also has the best eye-tracking I’ve experienced, and it makes navigating menus and apps incredibly intuitive. It just kind of works. And slowly but surely, it’s getting better, as my colleague Devindra noted in his recent two-month check-in.

Just like Apple’s first phone, though, the Vision Pro isn’t without its issues. It’s heavy and not super comfortable during long sessions. Its wired battery pack isn’t the most elegant solution for power delivery. Its front visor is prone to cracking, typing still feels clunky and there aren’t enough bespoke apps to make it an essential part of your everyday tech kit. But those are fixable issues and there’s clearly something there, a foundation that Apple can iterate on. Even in its infancy, the Vision Pro brings enough to compel hundreds of thousands of people (or developers) to buy a device that doesn’t make much practical sense.

The focus should be on what upgrades or additions Apple can make in the future, not on how many units it does (or doesn’t) make. So don’t let analysts or other noisemakers convince you otherwise.

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