US Apple stores on Friday will start selling the Vision Pro, the tech giant's $3,499 headset and its first major release since the Apple Watch nine years ago.
Vision Pro's release by the world's most iconic device maker is a major milestone for the lovers of virtual or augmented reality, who see the technology as the next chapter in online life after the smartphone.
But with a high sticker price, and the middling success of similar and cheaper releases from Facebook owner Meta, early reviews are unconvincing that the Vision Pro will be a game-changer, at least initially.
The Vision Pro is an "astonishing" product, wrote The Verge, but "also represents a series of really big trade-offs" that are "impossible to ignore."
It is "an impressive product, one that has been many years and billions of dollars in the making" but "even after trying it, I still have no idea whom or what this thing is supposed to be for," wrote The New York Times.
Critics acknowledge a definite "wow" factor, noting its state-of-the-art image and the joy of opening and closing apps floating in space with your eyes and fingers.
However, the headset is heavy, messes up the user's hair and requires a clunky battery pack, they add.
In a big promotional push, Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing the Vision Pro.
He drew criticism at a conference in June when he revealed the device without ever trying it on.
Apple refers to the Vision Pro as its first foray into "spatial computing," refusing the term virtual reality, which is typically associated with tech geeks and gamers.
In ads, in addition to streaming movies, users are shown wearing the Vision Pro to work or chat with friends or toggle through apps.
Apple says there are 600 specifically designed apps and games available for the Vision Pro alongside one million compatible apps.
"These incredible apps will change how we experience entertainment, music, and games," said Susan Prescott, Apple's vice president of worldwide developer relations.
Disney has partnered with Apple and will provide 150 3D movies at launch, the companies said.
Netflix, Spotify and Google for now have declined to modify their apps specifically for the headset.
The Vision Pro can be tested out by appointment in US Apple stores. That is because the device requires finely-tuned adjustments and some training as "most consumers don't have experience with gesture controls," Forrester Research wrote in a note.
According to analysts from Wedbush Securities, pre-orders have been strong and Apple should expect to sell about 600,000 units this year.
"For Apple the ultimate goal in our opinion is that Vision Pro will work alongside the iPhone and other Apple devices over the coming years," said Dan Ives of Wedbush.