In the time since it launched in early February, we’ve heard a lot about how Apple’s Vision Pro could replace some of the company’s other devices, especially the iPad. Now, prominent leaker Mark Gurman has joined the fray and lent weight to the idea of the headset becoming a tablet killer. But while that seems plausible, there’s one major problem with it.
Specifically, it’s the price. Because while Gurman’s Power On newsletter makes some good points about the Vision Pro’s strengths, it can’t get around the unavoidable obstacle that is the device’s $3,500 asking price. If the Vision Pro really is going to replace the iPad, a lot has to change first, especially given how wide of a range of prices the iPad line hits.
When comparing the Vision Pro and the iPad, Gurman notes that the former “has the potential to provide a far better experience for the main jobs that Apple’s tablet was designed to handle” (although he admits “it’s still very early days”). Everything you might use an iPad for — light work, entertainment, viewing your photos, and more — can be done more immersively and expansively on the Vision Pro. The two products cover many of the same bases, even using many of the same apps. Meanwhile, the Vision Pro’s “spatial computing” trump card gives it an edge in a great many ways.
Of course, Apple would simply say that it would like you to buy both products, and that there’s no reason why one has to replace the other. But the company is not afraid of cannibalizing its own products — just look at what happened to the iPod after the iPhone arrived on the scene.
So, the idea of the Vision Pro replacing the iPad certainly seems plausible. If Apple truly feels that the Vision Pro can do everything that the iPad can, but in a better, more immersive way, it won’t hesitate to promote its headset over its tablet. But I’m not convinced that we’re anywhere near that scenario, nor that we will be for a long, long time.
The main problem is a very simple one: the price. There’s no escaping it — the Vision Pro is simply too pricey to oust the iPad any time soon.
Think about it this way. The Vision Pro starts at $3,500, marking one of the highest entry price points of any product Apple currently sells. At the same time, you can buy a brand-new iPad for $329 — over 90% less than the Vision Pro. Even an absolutely maxed-out iPad Pro will set you back $2,399, which is still $1,100 less than the entry-level Vision Pro. And even a much cheaper version of the Vision Pro is going to have this same problem.
Sure, some iPad users might look at the Vision Pro and think it does exactly what their tablet does but in a better, deeper way. But will they think it does all their important tasks 10 times better than their iPad? Or will they believe that it justifies the enormous financial outlay when they can perform similar tasks for a fraction of the price on the iPad? I’m skeptical about that.
Of course, there’s a very obvious elephant in the room: the cheaper Vision Pro model that Apple is supposedly working on. Could this solve the pricing problem and finally allow the Vision Pro to eat the iPad’s lunch?
Well, yes and no. Right now, the cheaper Vision Pro doesn’t look like it will actually be very cheap, with rumors pegging its price anywhere from $1,500 to $2,500. That still puts it out of reach of most people, and the only iPad that can really compete for that kind of price is the top-end iPad Pro.
But I understand the argument that the Vision Pro’s price will fall over time. If the headset is ever going to become a mainstream device, it has to drop. It’s not like the iPhone, a device that can afford to have its price rise over the years because it’s so integral to everyday life. The Vision Pro isn’t at that stage yet and likely won’t be for a long time — and its price is one of the major factors preventing that from happening.
The other big reason is the immaturity of the mixed-reality industry. When Apple first introduced the Apple Watch, it gave people a device that they innately knew how to use. That’s not the case with the Vision Pro — it requires a detailed demonstration from Apple and a ton of personal customization.
Until the Vision Pro becomes an everyday part of life, Apple’s headset will never be able to fully cannibalize the iPad. It’s just too complex to appeal to most people, despite Apple’s excellent work in simplifying its gesture control system.
So while I can see the Vision Pro eventually making moves into the iPad’s territory, a lot has to change between now and then. Not only must the price go down, but we need to change our entire relationship with mixed-reality headsets and embrace them much more fully. That’s going to take a long time, and it may end up being a future that’s left tantalizingly out of reach.