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Vision Pro Development Made Accessible: Apple’s Three-Pronged Approach for App Testing

With the much-anticipated Vision Pro launch approaching, Apple offers developers a beta release of Xcode with visionOS support, along with developer kits and app compatibility evaluations, to facilitate early testing

Vision Pro

Ahead of its much-anticipated Vision Pro launch next year, Apple has recognized the need for a wide range of third-party apps. A major hurdle, however, is that the majority of developers don’t yet have access to the headset. To overcome this, Apple has come up with a triumvirate of solutions, allowing developers to test their apps on Vision Pro hardware well before the official release.

This isn’t exactly a bolt from the blue; Apple outlined these initiatives at the WWDC. However, now the rubber meets the road as developers can actively start utilizing these resources. A beta release of Xcode, Apple’s integrated development environment (IDE), has been made available to provide preliminary support for visionOS, the operating system for Vision Pro. This version contains a visionOS Simulator, which allows developers to test their apps in a simulated 3D space.

Although the simulator is helpful, the complexities of the Vision Pro hardware mean it’s not enough on its own. Therefore, Apple has introduced three innovative testing programs.

Firstly, Apple is offering Vision Pro developer kits to selected applicants. This program includes loaned Vision Pro hardware, setup assistance, regular check-ins with Apple experts for UI design and development guidance, and two code-level support requests. Developers wanting to get their hands on these kits need to be part of the Apple Developer Program, have a strong development background, and express a willingness to leverage the features and capabilities of visionOS. Apple has the final say in who gets a kit, and it is unclear whether there will be a fee for this opportunity.

The second option is Vision Pro compatibility evaluations, where developers can submit their apps to be tested by Apple’s team. Developers need to ensure the app passes a basic checklist – like the ability to launch – then the app can be sent to Apple. After testing, developers receive a comprehensive report with any issues, relevant screenshots, and logs.

Finally, developers can reserve slots in Apple’s visionOS developer labs, located in several major cities worldwide. These labs offer an environment for focused coding and design work, with the added benefit of in-person hardware access. The opportunity to use these labs is granted on a case-by-case basis.

As it stands, developers can create visionOS apps using either Xcode and SwiftUI or via the Unity game development tool. Recently, Apple and Unity announced the inclusion of visionOS support in Unity, further facilitating the app development process.

Despite these resources, it is worth noting that diving into visionOS development is a calculated risk for developers. With a steep price tag of $3,499 for the Vision Pro and an expected low-volume production run, the initial consumer base will likely be a small group of affluent early adopters. Nevertheless, this could present an opportunity for developers to establish a strong reputation and possibly charge premium prices due to the lack of competition.

Investing time and resources into the visionOS platform is an educated bet on its future popularity as prices decrease and production increases. If it fails to gain traction or mimics the Apple Watch – popular but with little interest in third-party apps – developers may find their investment unrewarded. Yet, for those willing to take the leap, they could find themselves well-positioned to ride the wave of success if the Vision Pro becomes a hit.

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