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I used the Apple Vision Pro on a flight to Costa Rica — and it was chaotic

Apple boasts that the Vision Pro can be used on a flight. I put it to the test.
I used the Apple Vision Pro on a flight to Costa Rica — and it was chaotic Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable
Apple Vision Pro

The Bottom Line

Apple boasts that the Vision Pro makes an excellent travel companion. While it delivers an immersive, virtual cinematic experience, its front-heavy design isn't ideal for flights.

"The Apple Vision Pro is out-friggin’-standing, but what the hell am I going to use it for?"

This is what many tech journalists and reviewers with early access to the $3,499 swanky headset said. They gushed about the accurate eye tracking, the nuanced hand tracking, and slick visionOS interface, but scratched their head over how it’d fit into their daily lives.

I thought I knew the answer to their conundrum: travel. As a frequent jetsetter, I often see the AirPods Max or AirPods Pro as one of the most popular travel accessories, allowing people to drown out the annoying drone of a plane. And I was certain that, in a few years, the Vision Pro could be the next big thing for travelers.

I put my hypothesis to the test, taking the Apple Vision Pro along with me on a JetBlue flight from JFK airport in New York to Juan Santamaría International Airport in Costa Rica. As it turns out, I may have spoken a little too soon about the Apple Vision Pro being the next breakout travel accessory.

Apple Vision Pro price

The Apple Vision Pro is often touted as being a spatial computing headset with a $3,499 price tag, but with taxes included, it set me back $3,800 via Apple's website.

Fortunately, shipping is free. (Hey, it’s the least Apple can do, right?)

The configuration I got comes with the following specs:

  • 256GB of storage
  • Two 3,660 x 3,200-pixel micro-OLED displays with up to a 120Hz refresh rate
  • 16GB of RAM
  • M2 chip with 10-core GPU and the R1 co-processor
  • 12 cameras and five sensors

You can increase storage to 512GB and 1TB, but that’ll cost you $3,700 and $3,900, respectively — and that’s before the taxes kick in.

If I had the wherewithal, I’d grab the 512GB or 1TB configuration because I plan to store countless videos, including spatial content, over the course of my time with it.

Apple Vision Pro

What I like about Apple Vision Pro

So why did I bring my Vision Pro with me on my flight to Costa Rica? Apple boasted that the headset can bring a private cinematic experience to users, allowing them to expand the virtual display to a gigantic, floating screen.

Tired of the tiny, seatback screens, I thought the Vision Pro would rectify this issue, finally bringing a massive display bright before my eyes without disturbing other passengers.

Download shows for a theater-like experience

I subscribed to Apple TV and Max (formerly HBO Max) to download shows before my flight so that I could access them on the plane. Even without WiFi, I watched several episodes of Euphoria. I also watched the first half of Dune and a few minutes of Ex Machina, one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time.

My Vision Pro offline downloads set to be played on my flight
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

All of them played without a hitch, and unlike at the theater or on a laptop, I can make the virtual display as massive or as tiny as I want. Plus, I can toggle on captions, too. To top it all off, the quality, from the rich colors to the sharp imagery, is as crisp as seltzer water.

Easy to carry around

I’m sorry, but there’s no way in hell that I’m going to spend an additional $200 on a travel case. Instead, I had another pouch lying around my house that I used to store my Apple Vision Pro.

Carrying the Apple Vision Pro around my neck
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, I barely used the makeshift travel case. Most of the time, the Vision Pro was hanging around my neck, giving myself easy access to the headset.

The Vision Pro has an awkward ski mask-like design. The “mask-esque” portion consists of a laminated-glass front plate. It also features a stretchy, knitted rear headband. Once you put it on your head, you can tighten it with a circular dial on the right side of the device.

The Vision Pro is adjustable via a dial on the side of the device.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

As you'll find out in a later section, I'm not the biggest fan of the design — "comfortable" and "Vision Pro" do not belong in the same sentence.

Seamless TSA experience

Similar to your tablet and laptop, you’ll have to take the Apple Vision Pro out of your carry-on or personal bag before placing it on the conveyor belt for security scanning.

The Apple Vision Pro is, in fact, TSA-compliant.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

I placed my M2 MacBook Air and the Vision Pro in one tray and the headset came out the other end without being flagged as a threat. Nice!

‘Travel mode’ is a must

Before heading to the airport, I’d advise turning “travel mode” on.

Travel mode provides stabilization while flying.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

If not, while you’re walking — and even while you’re zooming through the air at 500 miles per hour — your apps will fly past you erratically. With travel mode off, windows would disappear from view, hiding in a far corner or under my chair. When my significant other spotted me frantically looking for something — and I looked extra silly with the Vision Pro strapped on — he said, “What are you looking for?” I said, “I can’t find the home apps! I think they flew under my seat.”

Looking for the apps that hid under my seat.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Realizing how ridiculous I sounded, we both laughed.?That’s why you need travel mode. With it on, it pins your windows right in front of you so they don’t move, holding them in place.

Picks up subtle hand tracking

As the only person on the whole entire plane with an Apple Vision Pro, I’m not gonna lie, I was super self conscious about using it. I could just feel people staring daggers at me — and sniggering behind my back.

I felt a little ridiculous as the only person wearing the Vision Pro on my flight.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Fortunately, the Vision Pro’s hand tracking is elite. For example, in order to make selections inside the headset, you need to use a pinching gesture. Even the most subtle pinches — one where I keep my hands low and close to my body so no one can see any conspicuous movements — the Vision Pro picked up on them with ease. It was super impressive!

And that’s on top of the incredible eye tracking. Being able to simply “tell” the headset what you want to click on by simply looking at it is so Black Mirror — and I’m here for it.

‘Mindfulness’ app for turbulence

On my way back from Costa Rica to New York, my JetBlue flight suffered from some turbulence while flying over Florida.

Sitting inside a rattling winged, metal thingamajig isn’t my idea of fun, so I pulled up the Mindfulness app and launched a meditation session. While being shaken and stirred inside the plane, I found my own slice of peace for five minutes while following breathing exercises with an expanding and contracting spherical virtual artifact.

What’s ‘eh’ about the Apple Vision Pro

Although I have plenty of positive things to say about the Apple Vision Pro, it still needs a lot of work. Let’s start with some things that make me go “eh” – features that aren’t necessarily dealbreakers, but they’re irksome enough to be noteworthy.

Battery pack requires you to wear the right clothing

If you’re going to drag the Vision Pro with you on a plane, you must wear something with pockets. Fortunately, I wore an athleisure two-piece set with pockets, allowing me to place the Vision Pro’s cumbersome battery pack inside my right pocket.

You're going to need somewhere to put the battery pack.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

You must make sure the pocket is snug, too, or else it will fall out frequently. Of course, the battery pack is a bit of a nuisance, but it fit nicely into my pocket, so I forgot it was even there.

Streaming with airplane WiFi is OK

Fortunately for me, JetBlue offered free WiFi. As such, I connected to the “FlyFi” network before takeoff. I streamed Apple TV movies including Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon, allowing me to watch films that I didn’t get to download beforehand.

I had a better screen than the seatback one provided on my flight.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

This is no fault of Apple, but as you can imagine, airplane WiFi is iffy. Consequently, the quality dropped significantly. I’d say visual content was streaming somewhere between 480p and 720p. On the plus side, I didn’t experience any signal dropping while watching movies — playback was seamless and consistent. However, your mileage may vary. Flying over the ocean, for example, can impact the plane’s WiFi.

‘Sharing’ is a pain

Sometimes, I’d stumble upon a funny or wild scene while watching a movie inside the Vision Pro and I wanted my significant other to have a laugh, too.?

Trying to show my partner a funny scene proved annoyingly difficult.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

I wished I could “freeze” the content where it stands and have my partner continue where I paused so that he, too, can chuckle along with me. However, passing on my headset to my partner was a pain. He had to ask me for my password and re-navigate to Apple TV app himself before resuming the episode I was streaming.

There is a “guest mode” you can turn on, but it’s still such a hassle. Perhaps in a future update, Apple will allow us to add “trusted users” to the headset so that they don’t need to go through so many steps before seeing the content I want them to see.

Some audio bleed, but Vision Pro works with AirPods

If you turn down the Vision Pro volume, it can be low enough that it won’t bother your neighbors nor alarm flight attendants, but just loud enough for your content to be audible. The sound, by the way, is crisp, sharp and full — à la the divine audio that comes out of my M2 MacBook Air.

If that doesn’t sit right with you, you can pair your AirPods to the Vision Pro — similar to how you’d pair one to your MacBook — allowing you to listen to Vision Pro content at any volume setting.

It’s embarrassing to wear

Coined by The Verge, I became a “glasshole” — someone who ignores social decorum and walks around with a silly headset all day. Some people approached me with curiosity, asking me what’s hanging around my neck — even a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer inquired about the headset.

I definitely garnered some curious — and judgmental — looks.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

Others, however, stared aggressively. Some even sniggered behind my back, which is fair — I’d probably do the same if a Vision Pro-wearing passenger was grasping at the air to make in-headset selections.

Because wearing a headset is so uncommon and the Vision Pro is still in its “early adopter” phase, I felt like an alien wearing this around the airport. As someone who is already self-conscious as it is simply wearing plain clothes, strapping a headset to my face heightened my insecurity.

It will take some time before wearing an AR/VR headset becomes normalized.

The Vision Pro isn’t heavy, but it’s not comfy either

Apple touted the Vision Pro as a travel companion, but it still needs some tweaking before it becomes the next big thing for frequent fliers.

Early users of the Vision Pro, including tech journalists and influencers, said that the Vision Pro felt “heavy,” but I don’t think that’s the right word. The Vision Pro weighs about 1.3 pounds. When I pick it up with my hands, it feels quite lightweight.

Wearing the Vision Pro for too long became uncomfortable.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

The problem is, however, that the weight distribution of the Vision Pro is off. All of the components are frontloaded, which means I felt a lot of tugging and tightness around my eyes. I constantly needed to readjust the headset to reduce that “pulling down” feeling I was sensing on my face.

‘Tracking failed’ error messages

While flying to and from Costa Rica, I took nighttime flights, which meant that the cabin was quite dim. Yes, the Vision Pro was still usable, even in low-light situations. It’s also quite helpful that I left the seatback monitor on, so the glare of the screen helped to add more illumination.

Tracking was spotty without adequate lighting.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

However, if I were to look down at my feet — away from the monitor’s glare — I’d get a “tracking failed” error message, and the virtual windows disappeared. When I popped my head back up, the content resumed without any issue.

Missing popular dedicated apps

I have Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube subscriptions. Unfortunately, none of these apps have a dedicated presence on the Vision Pro (although you can access them through Safari).

As such, to properly test the Vision Pro, I purchased two additional subscriptions: Apple TV and Max. After all, these two have apps tailor-made for the Vision Pro and I wanted to see how well they performed. As aforementioned, Apple TV and Max work well on the Vision Pro, but make sure to download your favorite shows and films before your flight.

Material gets dirty easily

Yes, the knit material, particularly the stretch headband, is breathable.

The knit head strap is comfortable, but prone to dirt.
Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

But it’s definitely prone to getting dirty. You’ll definitely have to wash it often.

Eye strain

One thing I never quite understood about companies like Meta and Apple making a push for spatial computing is the fact that they haven't addressed eye strain.

Airports can be tiring, from queuing at the TSA checkpoint to waiting for delayed planes.

By the time you get on the plane, you're exhausted. The moment I put the Vision Pro on my eyes, which have two high-tech displays sitting right before my peepers, I thought to myself, “I can’t have this on my face for more than 20 minutes!"

Apple Vision Pro battery life

I watched Wonka from start to finish and half of Priscilla on the Apple Vision Pro. With some Apple Arcade gaming sprinkled in (e.g., Jetpack Joyride), the Apple Vision Pro lasted three hours and 34 minutes on a single charge. (This battery life test was not conducted on the plane.)

This is much better than I expected. For reference, the Meta Quest 3 lasted one hour and 19 minutes.

Is the Apple Vision Pro worth it?

For Apple’s first foray into the AR/VR space, the Vision Pro is a best-in-class headset. Early reviewers were spot on when they gushed about the eye and hand tracking — it’s smooth, seamless, and sensational.

Credit: Kimberly Gedeon / Mashable

And I can understand why the Vision Pro costs an arm and a leg. At its core, the Vision Pro is a computer you can strap onto your face. If people are spending over $2,000 for laptops, it’s not too hard to grasp why you’re shelling out $3,500 for a nascent, wearable spatial computing device (which, of course, includes the “Apple tax”).

However, this review focuses on the Apple Vision Pro as a travel companion. And as it stands now, it’s not quite ready for primetime. While the Vision Pro can, indeed, deliver a cinematic experience for travelers as Apple promised, the Vision Pro simply isn't comfortable enough.

It’s also worth considering the Meta Quest 3, which is $3,000 cheaper.

Meta Quest 3

Buy On Amazon↗

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