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Why Apple Vision Pro will never replace your TV

Three young women on a couch watching an old-time movie. Without goggles.
Apple Vision Pro can never replace this experience. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

We are drowning in early Apple Vision Pro takes. Many from those who have actually used it. Probably more from those who have not yet done so. I will now add to that latter pile.

I have no doubt that Apple Vision Pro is a remarkable product. It would not surprise me in the slightest if we all look back 10 years from now and say, “Yep, Apple didn’t do it first. But it did it best, and look at how far it’s brought that category.”

And there’s been plenty of noise about whether Apple Vision Pro can replace your living room television. I think that’s the wrong question. It’s the wrong way to think about it. It’s not (yet) anywhere close to supplanting the TV like the iPhone (and Android phones, to be fair) supplanted the old-fashioned landline.

At least, I don’t think it will ever do that for anyone who doesn’t live alone.

Humans — not all, but most — are social creatures. We crave connection. In fact, we hear the tech execs say that all the time. It’s all about connecting people. Apple does it with hardware. Facebook does it as a platform. (Whether it does so for ill or good remains very much up for debate.) And that’s not to say that Apple Vision Pro won’t connect people. It will, and in very much the same way that your iPhone lets you connect with someone who’s not there. Yes, even on your TV.

But in a family unit of more than one person, there’s nothing quite like curling up on the couch with a good (or bad!) movie. Or a 30-minute or hour-long show. There’s nothing like knowing a jump scare is coming and glancing over to see the reaction from your spouse or kid. There’s a reason why we get together for major sporting events. Or to stream Taylor Swift’s concert. These are communal events by nature.

Apple Vision Pro will never replace the experience of a family in the same room.

They don’t have to be, of course. You can watch whatever you want, however you want, with whomever you want. No one’s going to force you to do it with someone.

But Apple Vision Pro takes away that immediate sense of family. Somewhere, there probably is a Gary Larrson-type comic (or maybe a Simpsons opening credits gag?) or a family all watching headsets, watching the same thing. Together, but utterly alone. Dystopian to the max.

Sure, Apple Vision Pro lets you make FaceTime calls. (That whole Personas thing is absolutely very creepy but also likely will improve.) That’s togetherness, in a sense. But it’s also the avatar of one person in a headset talking to someone else — very possibly to their own avatar representing their owner in their own headset. It’s communicating, sure. But it’s not communal. Not in the same way it’d be if you set up your iPhone as a Continuity Camera for a FaceTime call over Apple TV, with everyone grouped in front of it.

I’ll even go so far as to say that none of that is even a strike against Apple Vision Pro. Maybe it’s not going to replace televisions because it’s not really supposed to. It’s something different. Better in some instances, perhaps. Worse in others.

It doesn’t have to solve all the world’s problems. And in the case of what it means to sit together and kill an hour or two in front of the TV — it simply can’t.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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