Apple Vision Pro Teardown: Behind New Complex Tech

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The most peculiar feature of the Vision Pro is also its most distinctive feature: even when it is turned off, its large, glossy bubble glass face sets it apart from competitors with similar metal and plastic casings. It gets crazier when turned on; rather than being completely transparent, a peculiar lenticular screen behind the glass shows a video that appears to be in three dimensions and mimics the user’s gaze. When the user is gazing at you, the display—which Apple refers to as the EyeSight display—almost gives the impression that you are seeing through smoky glass.

EyeSight has been described as “bizarre,” “uncanny,” and “of highly dubious utility” by tech writers. However, from the standpoint of repair, it appears to be a weakness. Is it really worth adding an additional screen, more cables, and several additional sources of failure to add a little unsettling feature? Naturally, we had to investigate more to learn how it functions. 

We were aware that entry would be difficult (and it was). We broke everything, even though we had intended not to. However, we were aware that the new technologies Apple had incorporated—from the external battery back to the R1 CPU to the EyeSight display and sensor array—would be worthwhile. We pulled in the big guns for this disassembly: high-resolution microscope pictures of the screens and frame-level X-ray scans. 

Regarding how we arrived at the Vision Pro that is currently on the disassembly table, we have a number of observations, a few thoughts, and a few informed assumptions. We’ve divided our investigation into two parts because there’s a lot in this gadget. In the next few days, we’ll provide more information on the silicon and lens system.

Naturally, the glass panel is glued on, and although it required a lot of heat and effort to remove, it did it without breaking. It is true that the glass’s protective plastic coating came off and maybe melted a little, so it wasn’t completely unharmed. Although Apple’s in-store technicians may be more adept than us, they will charge you $799 to replace a damaged front glass. 

Vision Pro Thick Metal

Although the glass weighs only 34 grams, when equipped with the battery, the Vision Pro weighs more than one kilogram. 

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This is where Apple pulled off a slight deception. Most advertising pictures cleverly conceal the extra battery, which you carry in your pocket instead of on your headset. The current battery integration would make the gadget absurdly hefty, just like in the early days of virtual reality. We also really like modular batteries since they allow for a simple replacement when the inevitable year or three-year-old battery runs out of power. It’s possible that Apple’s hardware team is preparing for the impending EU battery legislation, which mandates that by 2027, all gadgets must have user-replaceable batteries.

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The battery pack alone weighs 353 grams and has three batteries the size of an iPhone. Together, they provide 35.9 Wh, which is more than double the 17.3 Wh of an iPhone 15 Pro. Surprisingly, the weight of the individual cells is just around half that of the entire battery pack at 184 g each. We had to loosen a set of single-use metal clips, soften some perimeter glue, and then twist open many Torx screws in order to enter.

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However, first impressions are often positive. Experiential iFixit deconstruction lab member Sam Goldheart remarks, “The weight isn’t as bad as expected, although it’s definitely on my forehead/cheeks as opposed to my head which feels weird, like someone is pushing on my head to tilt it down.”

Headgear

Two bands—a Dual Loop Band and a Solo Knit Band made in 3D—come with the Vision Pro. These fasten to the stem ends just behind the speakers. The band featured in all of the marketing photos is the now-famous Solo Knit Band, and they really look good. It fits around the back of your head and has a dial on the side that you can turn to tighten it like a cycling helmet. 

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How does it feel, then? Sam remarks, “The fabrics are so nice.” The Solo Knit Band has a very soft, comfortable weave that is elastic enough to hold the face unit in place while accommodating a ponytail.  

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The two stiff bands that connect to the main headset are fastened to the speakers. Use the SIM-card removal tool, our old buddy, to free them. The holes are located within the main headset’s temples, while the detachable bands have a row of electrical connections that resemble Lighting connectors once again. Parts that are readily removable? just requires tools that you most likely already own? We adore witnessing it. This gives us optimism that the experience of opening the headgear might not be as intimidating as we had thought.

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The AirPods Max, which we really enjoyed, has a similar modular construction to this one. It makes it logical to have readily swappable speaker modules for wearables because they are prone to breakage. We shattered the moulded wires within the speaker as soon as we attempted to take it out of the silicon frame. That’s okay; you won’t have to force the speaker modules open.

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Facial cushions and light seals

Since every face is unique, Apple offers 28 distinct light-seal components to accommodate a wide range of face shapes and sizes. If you require Zeiss lens inserts, your seal size also varies. This is so that the cushions and seals ensure that your eyes are positioned correctly in relation to the stereo displays and eye sensors. Because of this, Apple packs each Vision Pro order by hand; there isn’t a “standard” configuration.

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The seals are a perfect example of Apple design, attaching to the main headset via magnets so that it can be easily changed or cemented into place. This modularity is an effort to suit your face perfectly by raw force. It will be fascinating to see if this is a long-term requirement or if more straightforward methods are found by future gadgets to do this. Since magnets can precisely align the seals, they are now preferable to velcro. Consider how MagSafe effortlessly grabs the charger and precisely positions it over the iPhone’s inductive charging coil.

Apple suggests using water and dish soap without any aroma to clean the seals. This will prevent the sweat-soaked areas from becoming too unappealing, especially for those who use makeup. Joanna Stern said that her makeup caked the inside of the seals in her Wall Street Journal video when she generously wore the headset for a whole day. And this morning, Sam Goldheart, one of our own, experienced the exact same issue.

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A permanent seal, less prone to smudging, is located beneath the magnetic seals and is similarly wrapped in knit fabric. It also serves as the entrance to the headset’s interior. Another surprise is seen when it is removed: a thin, flexible sheet of plastic. We’re not clear if it’s to keep particles out of the inner workings or to make up for gaps in the knit. But this part definitely looks like a masked superhero.

Visual Display

The most distinctive and, based on the reviews that are starting to come in, one of the most contentious aspects of the Vision Pro is its front-facing gogglebox.

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Three display modes—”internal focus,” “external engagement,” and “do not disturb”—are described in the EyeSight patent. Pages and pages of graphics that may be seen on the screen are included in the invention; they include various cartoon animal eyes, biometric data gathered by other sensors, and hearts when the user is speaking with a loved one. It’s possible that the inside camera detects emotional states and projects visuals accordingly.

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Very cool idea. It’s difficult to see anything on the EyeSight display in real life, according to reviews, because of its poor resolution and dimness. Joanna Stern of the WSJ described it as “hard to see,” and Marques Brownlee, often known as MKBHD, said that using the headset made it “you can barely see my eyes.” 

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It appears that when EyeSight shows your eyes, it is actually presenting a collection of videos of your eyes rather than simply one. Three layers were discovered when we probed inside the glass shell of the front-facing display: the OLED display itself, a lenticular layer, and a broadening layer.

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Apple Chips M2 and R1

The new R1 processor, which is primarily in charge of processing the input from 12 cameras, the LiDAR sensor, and the TrueDepth camera with the least amount of delay, works in combination with the M2 Mac chip to power the headset. In order to prevent users’ perceived motions from misfiring with what they see, which is a quick route to vomitsville, you must transmit the real-world camera view into their eyes as quickly as possible while using augmented reality. 

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The R1 runs a real-time operating system to stay up to date. This implies that duties are always completed within a predetermined time frame. The time-sharing operating system that powers the majority of our computer’s schedules works on the fly, which can cause slowdowns. You may visualize it by thinking about twitchy mouse cursors or spinning beach balls. Something as important as pass-through video and object rendering won’t work with it. Any malfunction would be, at best, startling, and at worst, completely nauseating—like a glitch in the Matrix. You could even trip and fall as a result of it.

An Amazing Fight with One Very Odd Design Choice

Something similar was done with the first iPhone. A grey-and-white checkerboard would appear when its weak processors were unable to generate a fast-scrolling page, and it would respond to your swipes and flicks accordingly. Apple gave quickness a higher priority than visual accuracy. This time, they have compromised on battery life, weight, and heat in favour of a higher priority on graphics fidelity and responsiveness. This is most likely the best option for a first-generation device, considering how crucial the experience is to Apple’s augmented reality experience.

The Vision Pro has absurdly high goals. Yes, the glass is breakable, the weight is substantial, and using a connected battery might be inconvenient. However, Apple has created a computer that you can wear on your face that combines the functionality of a new specialized AR chip with the capability of a Mac.

Although it’s not really repairable, some of the connections are rather enjoyable. When our disassembly team discovered that the side arms could be removed with the SIM-removal tool and that the magnetic cushions are even more user-friendly, you should have seen them leap with excitement.

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Therefore, why did Apple fall short of their own expectations with the EyeSight screen, given that it was evidently created over several years and represents the company’s most recent wager on the direction of computing?

It is low-resolution, and dim, and adds a significant amount of size, weight, complexity, and cost to the headset’s most weight-sensitive component. Did they ultimately miss their intended performance by the drop-dead date? Could there be a production fault that happened late? In any case, we’re confident that choosing to promote it was a challenging choice.

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