Federico is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, iPad, and iOS productivity. He founded MacStories in April 2009 and has been writing about Apple since. Federico is also the co-host of AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, and Unwind, a fun exploration of media and more.
He can also be found on his other podcasts on Relay FM: Connected and Remaster, two shows about Apple and videogames, respectively.
It all started because I wanted a better keyboard for my Vision Pro. I had no idea that, in looking for one, I’d accidentally create the hybrid Apple computer of my dreams.
As I quickly discovered after working on the Vision Pro daily, you can get by without an external trackpad, but a keyboard is necessary if you want to type something longer than a passcode. That’s where my journey began: if I wanted to write and edit articles on the Vision Pro, what would the best keyboard-trackpad setup be?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve tested all the options at my disposal. I started with an Apple Magic Trackpad and Keyboard, which I then placed inside a Twelve South MagicBridge (it was too uncomfortable to put on my lap for longer stretches of time). Next, I tried using differenttypes of “trays” for these two accessories that offered a laptop-like layout (comfort was better, but lack of palm rejection was an issue). I even attempted to revive an old Brydge keyboard and use it with the Vision Pro, but, alas, third-party trackpads aren’t supported on visionOS at the moment.
Eventually, I settled on the solution that I should have known was coming for me all along: the best keyboard and trackpad combo for a Vision Pro is a Mac laptop. So I started using my MacBook Air every day, taking advantage of Mac Virtual Display and Universal Control to get work done with the Vision Pro in a mix of classic desktop apps and new visionOS experiences. I’ll write more about this soon, but, so far, it’s felt powerful and flexible in a way that iPadOS hasn’t made me feel in a while.
Here is, for instance, a screenshot of a nice-looking Italian pizza and a Hylian shield just floating around my living room:
Pizza and Zelda? Yep, that’s me.
According to the website’s creator, more than 100,000 items have been uploaded to the site in the past week alone, and the developers are working on a curated daily feed to showcase the best objects you can view on a Vision Pro.
Fun project, well worth a few minutes of your time even just for opening 3D models of stuff you can’t afford in real life. I hope they’ll consider adding a search functionality next.
For the past nine years, Six Colors’ Jason Snell has put together an ‘Apple report card’ – a survey to assess the current state of Apple “as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple”.
I’m happy that Jason invited me again to share some thoughts and comments on what Apple did in 2023. As you’ll see from my comments, I was very disappointed with the iPad – there was literally no new hardware last year and only minor changes in software – and more intrigued by what’s happening in macOS land. This, I think, will be a recurring theme on MacStories in 2024: as I move my workflow to the Vision Pro with the Mac as an accessory to it, I expect I’ll be using macOS a lot more as a result. In 2023, I was also very impressed with iPhone hardware, somewhat annoyed with the lack of changes to the AirPods line, and surprised by the updates in tvOS 17.
I’ve prepared the full text of my answers to the Six Colors report card, which you can find below.
I have low vision. A kind you can’t really correct for with glasses or contacts. I also bought Apple Vision Pro at launch. Why would I do this? Well because I’m a nerd who wants to see the future, but also because I was fascinated to see how Apple would handle accessibility for this new product. Apple’s track record on accessibility in the past decade has been stellar, in my opinion, with their teams adding powerfuloptionsevery year and ensuring every new platform has accessibility support built in from the start.
After watching Apple’s WWDC23 session on visionOS accessibility, I knew accessibility on visionOS was an important point for them. But even after consuming as much information on the platform as I could, I knew I had to try it for myself to know the answer to the important question: how well does it work for me?
It’s no surprise to learn that Apple’s Accessibility team did some amazing work for this new platform too, but it’s impressive to see that on day one of the Vision Pro there are already dozens of Accessibility features and accommodations in place. And keep in mind that these are Accessibility options that work with Apple apps and third-party ones, right out of the box. This is the kind of ecosystem advantage and platform integration that newfound tech reviewer Zuckerberg probably forgot to mention in his video.
The Vision Pro is $3,499 and only one person in your household can ever use it fully, which makes no sense at all. The privacy issues are technically there on the Vision Pro — letting anyone else use it without setting restrictions in guest mode grants them access to everything you’ve got on the headset, including your messages. But as my experience demonstrates, they may not even be able to use it well enough to get that far. You can start a guest session by holding the Vision Pro’s left-side hardware button for four seconds, but you can’t store a second user’s information so they can log in quickly next time without calibration. Basically, imagine if every time you passed an iPad to somebody else in your family, they had to spend a minute poking colored dots.
The worst part of using the Vision Pro for the past two weeks has been trying to get someone else in my family to use it. As a novel type of computer that almost demands to be tried by different people in your life, the lack of multi-user support at launch is a major cause of friction for me right now. I’ve been able to get a separate set of light seal and cushion for Silvia and my mom, but the problem is visionOS. There is a guest mode, but every time someone other than me wants to try the Vision Pro, they have to do the eye setup process from scratch. It gets annoying quickly without the ability to save calibrated presets for other people.
In the demos I’ve conducted for people in my family over the past week, I’ve also realized how hard it is to guide someone else through visionOS for the first time. I wish Apple had built a dedicated “demo app” for new users who try the Vision Pro – sort of like a pre-installed (and interactive) version of Apple’s guided tour, which is also very similar to the demo I had at WWDC last year.
While I admire the great care Apple takes before it brings a product to market, I do sometimes think that the company is missing out on some potentially great products because they’re not willing to get weird and risk failure. Consider the original MacBook Air, which was deeply weird but led to a second-generation model that became the template for Apple’s laptop design for the next decade!
The technology already exists today for Apple to create some wild stuff, the likes of which we’ve never seen from them. The Vision Pro has broken the seal. Let’s get weird, Apple.
As a longtime proponent of Weird in my computing life (I mean), I love that Apple released the Vision Pro in its current form: it’s a weird product with tons of rough edges and I want to make it my main computer. But, like Jason suggests, there are so many other product categories where I’d like to see Apple try and make something weird and wonderful. I have some experience with Android foldables, including some recent ones, and while I like the form factor a lot, I can’t help but think how glorious an Apple device that unfolded to become a larger tablet could be.
Luke Miani (who runs a great YouTube channel I’ve been following for a while) has created the sort of beautiful monstrosity I would absolutely consider for my own workflow: he was able to remove a display from an M2 MacBook Air and use the remaining “macOS slab” as a fully functioning computer for the Vision Pro’s Mac Virtual Display mode.
If the sentence above doesn’t make any sense to you, go watch the video first:
The idea of using headless MacBooks has been around for a while, but I was wondering if it’d find new life with the Vision Pro and the ability to virtualize a Mac display or use Universal Control with it. Which is why I’m very glad that Miani tried this first and confirmed that, yes, a headless MacBook Air totally works as a very expensive Vision Pro accessory.
The reason I’m so fascinated by this project is that I find the current keyboard/trackpad setup on the Vision Pro lackluster. If you don’t want to use a Mac in the middle, your best bet is to get an accessory like a Twelve South MagicBridge to hold a Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad together. However, as I shared earlier this week, that accessory’s form factor is not ideal for lap usage:
I’m waiting for twodifferent “trays” that promise a laptop-like configuration, but as I’ve been told by others online, those don’t fix the fact that the desktop Magic Trackpad doesn’t offer the sort of palm rejection features typically found in Mac laptops.
Which brings me back to Miani’s wonderfully weird and amazing experiment: what if the input portion of a Mac laptop could become a more portable and accurate input method for the Vision Pro, with support for Mac Virtual Display when needed? What if a keyboard computer (Apple II says hi) could be used with the Vision Pro or docked at a desk with a Thunderbolt hub and external monitor?
Realistically, Apple should make this kind of accessory and I’m so surprised that their answer for people who want to work solely on a Vision Pro is “buy the keyboard and trackpad from a few years ago that still have a Lightning connector”. I’m not going to do this to my own MacBook Air. But you have no idea how tempted I am to try.
John covered Juno, Christian Selig’s new YouTube client for visionOS, on MacStories last week, and I’ve been using the app for the past few days as my default way of watching YouTube videos on my Vision Pro. Today, Selig released version 1.1 of Juno with some welcome quality-of-life enhancements such as the ability to choose video quality, faster load times, and support for dropping YouTube links in the app to watch them directly in Juno. You can read more about the changes on Selig’s blog.
The one new feature I want to call out here is the addition of URL schemes which have, once again, come to the rescue to help me navigate the early limitations of a new Apple platform.
Who would have guessed that the category of visionOS apps I’d obsessively download from the App Store would be…digital clocks?
Hear me out: it’s very easy to lose track of time when using – and especially working with – the Vision Pro. It’s not just that the current time, in the absence of a status bar – is tucked away in Control Center, which requires you to look up and open a separate window; it’s that with this new platform, and with all these new apps, I want to try everything and my brain is reacting to dozens of stimuli every minute. Time flies when I’m wearing the Vision Pro, filling my workspace with windows and juggling multiple tasks, and that’s not even to mention when I’m in an immersive environment.
Which brings me to humankind’s greatest invention: the clock. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could always see a digital representation of the current time as a tiny window somewhere in your workspace? And wouldn’t it be even better if that digital clock had configuration options that, you know, a physical clock on a wall can’t offer?
For the past few days, I’ve been downloading essentially every clock app I could find on the visionOS App Store, and I’ve compiled a list of my favorite options so far.