Why does Apple make it so difficult to share the Vision Pro?

Shortly before The edge published his review of the Apple Vision Pro, I set it up to take some photos. The review sample was for our Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel, but I had worn it a few times as a guest and had a surprisingly good experience with it. But that afternoon I foolishly decided to skip the typical guest setup, which involves about a minute of calibration for the Vision Pro’s eye-tracking cameras. I turned the thing on and it didn’t work at all.

I quickly realized that the Vision Pro’s cameras were expecting someone else’s eyes. The cursor jumped around wildly or refused to move. It wasn’t an unexpected outcome, but it did bring up an inconvenient fact: Not only would I have to go through the setup again, I’d have to do it every time I wanted to use the headset.

If The edge After covering the release of the Vision Pro, we’ve come across several ways Apple is hindering device sharing, from not supporting multiple accounts to making it difficult to purchase additional parts. This isn’t just a computer you use alone, it’s apparently a computer you use yourself own alone – for reasons that seem unnecessary at best and user-unfriendly at worst.

Despite its lonely reputation, the Vision Pro has clear multi-user appeal

To set the tone here, let me make a somewhat counterintuitive claim: the Vision Pro, despite its solitary reputation, feels built for sharing. In its bulky, expensive, first-generation form, it’s not something most people want to wear or carry around all day. Its most obvious use is as a special-purpose tool for tasks like 3D design, or as a personal entertainment device, such as a virtual TV set-top box or gaming console. These are exactly the types of products that are common used by one person at a time, but are usually held in a household (or workplace) and are often passed on.

The hardware of the Vision Pro facilitates this surprisingly well. Unlike some VR headsets, the device’s Solo Knit Band is adjusted with a single, easy-to-use dial; no need to change size by readjusting troublesome Velcro straps. Changing the tires if necessary is also easy. It requires a light seal that fits your face – and there are a whopping 17 possible sizes – but attaches with an easy-to-change magnetic snap closure. There’s even a simple biometric login option: the face tracking cameras are mounted inside.

It’s easy to imagine a world where this translates into making the Vision Pro more valuable as a multi-user device. Like many people, I tend to share electronics; my criteria for a good entertainment device include whether my husband will use it too. I can’t see myself wearing the Vision Pro all day for work, but I can imagine putting one on for a few hours to play VR/AR games, then handing it over so he can watch TV on a virtual big screen after I fall asleep. Yet the Vision Pro feels designed to subvert that fantasy at every turn.

The most obvious problem is the lack of multiple accounts or profiles. The Vision Pro allows exactly one person to have a permanent account linked to their Apple ID. That is similar to the iPad and iPhone, but different almost every other computing device in my household, from my Android phone to my MacBook to my husband’s humble Nintendo Switch. Even with the Meta Quest system, which tied hardware to personal Facebook or Meta logins a few years ago, you can switch between up to four accounts!

On the iPhone, the single-user setup is annoying for privacy and customization reasons, but it makes a lot of sense. The lack of multi-user support on the iPad makes a lot less sense (we’ve been complaining about it for years), but at least some iPads are relatively cheap.

This headset costs $3,499 and only one person in a household can fully use it

The Vision Pro costs $3,499 and only one person in your household can ever fully use it, which makes no sense at all. The privacy issues are technically there with the Vision Pro: letting someone else use it without setting guest mode restrictions gives them access to everything you have on the headset, including your messages. But as my experience shows, they may not even be able to use it well enough to get that far. You can start a guest session by pressing and holding the hardware button on the left side of the Vision Pro for four seconds, but you can’t save a second user’s credentials so they can quickly log in next time without calibration. Imagine if every time you passed an iPad to someone else in your family, he or she had to poke colored dots for a minute.

Then there is the matter of an extra light seal. As I said, I felt fine with a Vision Pro which wasn’t for me, but others have had problems. Edge For example, product manager Parker Ortolani thought the Vision Pro with Nilay’s seal size was too small and said it leaked light into his eyes. An additional stamp costs $199, and you can purchase it in only two ways: order online and scan your face with an iOS device with Face ID, or go in person to an Apple Store and have it scanned there. Edge video director Owen Grove tried the latter, and his experience wasn’t great.

“I had to make an appointment for [a] demo I didn’t want to just buy an extra light seal,” Owen told me. He had called ahead to confirm the availability of the stamps, but discovered after the half-hour demo that most were sold out, including his size, which the store said he had to buy online. In general, not being able to simply buy a few different sizes and figure out what works best is inherently limiting for a single user – and makes it almost impossible to share among a few people in a family or workplace.

Things get even more complicated if one or more potential users wear glasses, although this feels like an inherent inconvenience rather than an intentional roadblock. The Vision Pro uses Zeiss-made prescription lens inserts, which must first be paired with a passcode stored in the Apple Health app or a physical card. On the plus side, the interface allows you to save multiple lens attachments, so it looks like you don’t need to do this each time.

Some of these annoyances may be resolved over time, as Apple has removed other inconvenient Vision Pro design quirks with software updates. The company is clearly trying to get people comfortable with a new class of computers, and right now that means controlling the experience as precisely as possible. If the Vision Pro achieves any success, things like the demo requirement could go away. Apple could also roll out more options specifically for business or education customers, such as the shared iPad feature that allows some multi-user support.

But Apple has also stuck to the idea that its devices are made for just one person, and with the Vision Pro it can enforce that idea in a way that wasn’t possible before. Even as the hardware gets cheaper and sleeker, it could easily push for a basic single-user experience – and that’s a shame, as the Vision Pro seems to be built for so much more.

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