visionOS: Features, beta, release date, Apple Vision Pro, more

visionOS is the operating system for Apple’s first spatial computer, Vision Pro, which was unveiled during the WWDC 2023 keynote. While it was first rumored to be called xrOS—it was even named that way internally—Apple decided on this other brand, probably for marketing purposes. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

visionOS 1 features

As a first-generation operating system and device for mobile computing, it’s hard to distinguish between features as visionOS builds the ground for Apple’s first spatial computer and its future updates. Here are its top features, as Apple announced.

Apps live in “your space,” and there’s a new App Store

Vision Pro offers familiar apps such as Apple TV, Music, Mindfulness, Freeform, Safari, Photos, Mail, Messages, and Keynote. They are always synced with your iPhone, iPad, and Mac via iCloud.

These immersive apps can expand fully into your space, like during a Mindfulness session, where you can create a private moment of calm. With Environments, you can transform your surroundings with landscapes, letting apps grow beyond the dimensions of your room and create the perfect place to focus.

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visionOS has a dedicated App Store featuring apps built for this new operating system, as well as compatible iPad and iPhone apps.

Immersive way to experience entertainment

One of the biggest selling points of Apple Vision Pro is an immersive way to experience entertainment. With Cinema Environment, you can enjoy shows and movies at the frame rate and aspect ratio the filmmaker intended with immersive Spatial Audio. It’s possible to create a screen that feels 100 feet wide to watch Apple TV Plus, other streaming services, or even play 100 Apple Arcade games.

Apple Immersive Videos, for example, will offer 180-degree 3D 8K recordings captured with Spatial Audio

Spatial Videos and Photos

Apple Vision Pro Spatial Photo Spatial Video iPhone 15 ProImage source: Apple Inc.

visionOS also brings a new way to visualize captured photos and videos. With the Apple Vision Pro, you can take spatial videos and photos, which offer content with impressive depth, just like if you could jump into the moment. You can find them on the Photos app and increase the size for a more immersive experience.

Starting with iOS 17.2, iPhone 15 Pro owners can shoot spatial videos to watch on Apple Vision Pro. You can learn more about iOS 17 here.

FaceTime, Personas, and collaboration

FaceTime videos are life-size, and as new people join, the call simply expands in your room with visionOS. Within FaceTime, you can use apps to collaborate with colleagues on the same documents simultaneously.

For those wearing the Apple Vision Pro, the device creates a digital Persona that allows others to see you while you’re wearing Apple’s gadget in a “dynamic, natural representation of your face and hand movements.” Users can even take advantage of SharePlay, so you continue to see everyone in large video tiles while sharing an app.

With visionOS 1.1, Apple brought Spatial Personas, which brings a seamless experience when talking with other friends with an Apple Vision Pro. Up to four people can join this spatial conversation while enjoying SharePlay experiences.

Mac integration with visionOS

A Vision Pro user loading up multiple apps.A Vision Pro user interacting with multiple apps. Image source: Apple Inc.

The Mac will play an important role with visionOS and the Apple Vision Pro. These are two ways Mac computers will integrate with the new operating system:

  • Bring your Mac wirelessly into Vision Pro with Mac Virtual Display. You can place it anywhere in space and use Vision Pro as an enormous, private, portable 4K display
  • You can use the Magic Keyboard and Magic Trackpad as Bluetooth accessories of the Vision Pro.

First third-party apps to show visionOS potential

Flighty Apple Vision Pro visionOS appImage source: Flighty App

These are some of the Apple Vision Pro apps you should take a look at:

The Task app: Developer Mustafa Yusuf said on Twitter he felt like a “god,” as the first version of the Task App for Vision Pro got no errors as he built the first version for Vision Pro.

Flighty: As the name implies, Flighy lets you track flights on iPhone and iPad. The developers have already created a version of Vision Pro you can check it here.

Planny: Writing about Planny, developer Kevin Reutter said a lot of work is still needed. But this is the first version of the app for visionOS.

Mercury: If you want to see what a weather app would look like on the Vision Pro, the Mercury devs are here to help. Unlike the previous visionOS app screenshots, we have a video this time. It shows the Vision Pro apps are more than iPad/iPhone apps layered on top of the real world.

BGR‘s Chris Smith compiled a few other developers’ apps for Apple Vision Pro, although he also believes eight other apps should be available with this platform once it’s available.

Apple Vision Pro app strategy

Apple takes three approaches with visionOS apps:

  • Unaltered iPhone and iPad apps, which will run on Apple Vision Pro. This already works with iOS apps running on macOS with Apple Silicon. That said, developers and even Apple can release iPhone and iPad apps for this operating system without tweaking how they look;
  • Developers can choose to convert their iPad apps to run as native visionOS apps, requiring them to tweak the user’s interface and bring a mixed-reality experience;
  • Finally, they can build from the ground up their own apps to work on Apple Vision Pro. While this is very beneficial for the final user, it takes a lot for developers to create applications that will be controlled using eye and hand.

visionOS 1.1 features

Digital Persona on Apple Vision Pro Image source: Apple Inc.

On March 7, 2024, Apple released visionOS 1.1, its first major update after Apple Vision Pro launched in the US. Here are its top features:

  • Mobile Device Management: Enables account-driven device and user enrollment using Managed Apple ID, support for device configuration, deploying apps, and remote erase
  • Messages: Adds support for iMessage Contact Key Verification
  • Accessibility: Closed captions can be anchored to the playback control while viewing Apple Immersive Video
  • Persona and EyeSight: Adds an option to enroll your Persona hands-free improve hair and makeup appearance, neck and mouth representation, and rendering of the eyes for EyeSight
  • Virtual Keyboard: Cusros positioning for text input is now more accurate, resolves some issues with virtual keyboard placement obscuring the text input field, and more.
  • Mac Virtual Display: Improves the reliability of discovering and connecting to a Mac, fixes an issue with universal Control, and addresses a connectivity bug that occurs when a previously paired Bluetooth device cannot be found
  • Captive Network Support: Ability to set up your device while using a captive Wi-Fi network such as those found at hotels, cafes, and airports.

Apple is currently testing visionOS 1.2, but it’s unclear what new features this update brings.

visionOS 2.0 confirmed features before WWDC 2024

visionOS 2 accessibility featuresImage source: Apple Inc.

Before WWDC 2024 takes place, Apple confirmed a few upcoming visionOS 2.0 features, including:

Live Captions to help everyone — including users who are deaf or hard of hearing — follow along with spoken dialogue in live conversations and in audio from apps. With Live Captions for FaceTime in visionOS, more users can easily enjoy the unique experience of connecting and collaborating using their Persona.

Apple Vision Pro will add the capability to move captions using the window bar during Apple Immersive Video, as well as support for additional Made for iPhone hearing devices and cochlear hearing processors.

Updates for vision accessibility will include the addition of Reduce Transparency, Smart Invert, and Dim Flashing Lights for users who have low vision or those who want to avoid bright lights and frequent flashing.

How to download the visionOS beta?

Apple Vision ProImage source: Jonathan S. Geller

On June 21, Apple released the first beta of visionOS. On its developer page, the company offers the SDK of this platform alongside some tips on how to create apps for Vision Pro. As expected, visionOS relies on SwifUI, RealityKit, ARKit, and Accessibility. Developers must use Xcode, Reality Composer Pro, and Unity to make the new apps come to life.

Since a Vision Pro spatial computer isn’t available, registered developers can download the SDK of visionOS and work on its apps using Xcode and create all the designs with Figma. You can download the SDK file here.

Release date

visionOS is available alongside Apple Vision Pro. Although Apple never released a 1.0 version of this system, the company offered 1.0.1 to reviewers of this device. Currently, the most recent operating system update for this product is visionOS 1.1.1.

visionOS compatibility

visionOS is compatible with the Apple Vision Pro, the company’s first spatial computer. BGR will update the list as Apple announces new products over the years.


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