Apple Vision Pro: A Trillion-dollar Insurance Policy

At the launch of the iPhone 15 and Watch 9 series this week, Apple mentioned that it was on track to release the Apple Vision Pro, which it announced in June this year, in early 2024. It has also included some features in the new iPhone and Apple Watch that are consistent with its Vision Pro development:

  1. A double-finger tap gesture can be used to select actions in the Apple Watch 9. The gesture uses a mix of sensor inputs processed by the Watch 9’s upgraded neural engine to identify the prompt. While the Apple Vision Pro uses cameras to spot gestures, the new Watch interactions will engender the use of subtle hand gestures that will also be used to interact with the Apple Vision Pro.
  2. The new iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max cameras can record images and videos stereoscopically. When viewed via the Vision Pro, the images and videos will have depth and provide a more immersive experience.

In our analysis of the Apple Vision Pro, we highlight that it is the most complex consumer electronics product ever made. And it is already causing a shift in approach by its rivals.

Nevertheless, we still believe that Apple is using the Vision Pro essentially as an insurance policy. The majority of Apple’s revenue and profit is derived from the iPhone product line, and related products and accessories – Watch, for example, would not exist without iPhone.

Therefore, iPhone is the core of Apple’s almost $2.75-trillion market cap (at the time of writing). Apple is bound to do anything in its power to defend the iPhone’s market position.

For a long time, people have speculated that the product most likely to replace the smartphone as their primary interface with digital life will be some sort of augmented reality device. So far, the eXtended Reality (XR) market has been disappointing – generating a few 10s of millions of unit sales but not a huge amount of consistent usage, apart from some niche enterprise use cases. Furthermore, the technical challenge of making true augmented reality glasses has proven to be beyond the capabilities of even the most technically gifted companies.

Apple is therefore not immediately threatened by the slowly developing XR industry. But would it be wise for it to sit on the sidelines and watch while potential competitors work on what might, one day, be a product that can truly compete with its iPhone revenue stream? Of course not, and it hasn’t.

For Apple, the worst possible outcome would be if the XR segment took off strongly and it did not have a product in the game. Even if Apple spends a few billion dollars developing its XR products and the market still doesn’t take off, it would be costly but scarcely make a dent in its ample cash reserves.

So, Apple has made the logical choice and invested in creating the Apple Vision Pro. Along the way, it has amassed an impressively large patent portfolio that it can use to defend its position.

If, ultimately, the XR market does take off, Apple will be in a prime position to exploit the opportunity. However, if it continues to behave as an interesting niche market, then Apple has cemented its place by having a product that will be used to measure all others.

Subscribing clients can read our full analysis of the Apple Vision Pro that also includes sales projection scenarios.

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Peter has 27 years experience in the mobile industry with extensive experience in market analysis and corporate development. Most recently Peter was Global Head of Market and Competitive Intelligence at Nokia. Here he headed a team responsible for analyzing and quantifying the industry. Prior to Nokia, Peter was an equity analyst at SoundView Technology Group. And before that he was VP and Chief Analyst of mobile and wireless research at Gartner. Peter’s early years in the industry were spent with NEC and Panasonic.

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