Latest Global News | How to Test Drive an Apple Vision Pro Without Buying One

Have you got 30 minutes to check out one of Apple’s biggest, riskiest, and most controversial product launches of the last several decades? The tech giant is still hosting demos for its Apple Vision Pro in stores across the U.S. If you’re like us, and you don’t have $3,500 lying around in a coat pocket–or else you don’t have any other ultra-wealthy friends to pal around with–this may your only chance to go hands-on with Apple’s hands-only “spatial computer.” Plus, you may be unable to book one of the 30-minute demos for much longer.

Gizmodo could not procure a headset from the company in the lead-up to the official unveiling. After release, I quickly booked a consumer-level demo appointment from New York City’s many Apple Stores. Even though it had only been a few days after the launch on Feb. 2, I still had to book my demo a week in advance. Whether it’s a weekday, weekend, morning, afternoon, or evening, you must think ahead before banking on any time slot.

To book the demo, you need to visit the official Vision Pro page and find one of the stores in your area. You’re currently only able to book demos until Feb. 18, and Apple has said that you can only book up to a week in advance. The company does not have an exact date when it plans to end these demo sessions, but we’ll have to wait see how long interest lasts, and how long Apple plans to support the intricate in-store demo apparatus.

Down in the warmly-lit depths of the 5th Avenue Apple Store in Manhattan, there are 16 faux-leather couches crowded toward the back of the basement shop. Each station had its own tray magnetically attached to the seat, and a few staff, AKA “Geniuses,” roved around handing out headsets on bamboo platters like servers at a wine and cheese soirée. I chose this location because it’s where Apple’s first Vision Pro customer, Aarish Syed, wrapped his arms around the VR headset and took a selfie as the assembled crowd clapped for him as he had just won the world’s most expensive single-ticket scratch-off lottery.

Every station was booked there despite it being 11 a.m. on a Monday. You’ll want to be on time and check in with one of the roving staff managing the appointments (most likely that worker holding a tablet in their hands). My device seemed clean, so Apple seems to be putting a premium on sanitation. They’re also very picky about how you pick up and put on the device, despite how ostensibly durable Vision Pros have proved to be. The demo lasts 30 minutes, and you should know going into it that it’s highly curated and, in many ways, limited.

The demo area resembles other Apple launches like their latest iPhone, but the Vision Pro demos are even more complicated than usual. First, you have to allow Apple to scan your mug for workers to get a fitting seal for your noggin. This can be a pain, especially if you’re like me and have a beard that seems to upset the face-scanning app. Once your Vision Pro gets served to you on a platter, you’re taken through the precise steps of strapping in, adjusting the seal, and controlling the headset. You’ll need to worry about only three gestures: the “pinch” select gesture, the wave to cycle through web pages or photo reels, and the pinch and drag with two hands to resize different windows.

Apple is emphasizing its spatial video and 3D content viewing experience. A big chunk of the demo is dedicated to looking at “spatial” images and “spatial” videos taken with both the Vision Pro and the iPhone 15 Pro (if you were wondering, the ones taken with the headset are of much higher quality than the smartphone versions). The staff will also let you watch a short trailer for the 3D version of The Super Mario Bros. Movie in the fake in-headset cinema mode.

You’re allowed a few minutes of scrolling on Safari and a chance to look at one or two other apps of your choice. You can get a feel for the spatial environment and use the digital crown to move from the full-color passthrough to one of the faux-3D visual environments, which in the demo’s case was a scenic lakeside vista. And after walking through a few of these apps, your demo is over. It’s enough to get a taste for the headset and feel its contours and weight to judge overall comfort.

The number of concurrent demos shows that this has been an enormous effort on Apple’s part. The entire time, workers ask what you think and if you’re considering buying the $3,500 headset. I had my thoughts on my first time using the Vision Pro, so stick around and find out how well Apple sold me on their non-VR VR headset.

Update 2/12/24 at 4:25 p.m. ET: This post was updated to reflect that there’s no current plans to end in-store demos for the time being.