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Beware of tripping hazards: Apple Vision Pro in Germany

Photo: Matthias Kremp / DER SPIEGEL

The Vision Pro has been here since February 2nd. However, Apple only sells them in the USA for now. The company has not yet revealed when the new hardware will be available for purchase in Germany. Driven by initial reports about the capabilities of the new luxury gadget, people could now think of getting such a device themselves in the USA. But is that a good idea?

If you want to fly to the USA anyway for a vacation or because you are traveling there for work, the expense may still be bearable. Otherwise, such a trip is an expensive affair because of the flight and hotel costs, not to mention the environmental impact. And don't forget if you need an extra piece of luggage on the flight, the Vision Pro's box is quite bulky.

There are also language barriers. The Vision Pro's operating system is set to English, as is Siri. Only if you connect a Bluetooth keyboard to the glasses can you change the language to German. Otherwise, if you buy a Vision Pro in the USA, you have to be prepared to do everything in English. But maybe that's okay with you.

German accounts work – barely

However, you should also be aware that you cannot fully use your German account with Vision Pro. Apple's glasses require a US account. Once you have set up the Vision Pro with one, you can log out of it and log in to the glasses with your German Apple account. In this way, you can use your German iCloud+ subscription, access your German Apple Music library and watch films purchased from Apple in this country. You can also be reached via Facetime via your German account, use your notes synchronized via iCloud and things like that.

But you quickly reach your limits: You can't buy new music or films this way, nor can you access the normal Apple TV+ offering, so you can't watch new series and films. Because the App Store for the Vision Pro does not yet exist in Germany, you cannot load new apps onto the device.

Do you have a US credit card?

So back to the US account? There are problems here too. In principle, you can top up the US account with which you are logged in on the glasses with American Apple credit cards. Such prepaid cards can easily be obtained online from Germany. But you should only get them from trustworthy sources, because there are always reports of fraud with fake credit codes that cannot be redeemed at Apple.

Simply redeeming a real prepaid card earned me a free two-month subscription to Apple TV+. For further purchases, Apple then requires you to enter a US address and suitable US credit card details in the Vision Pro. There are ways to get around this hurdle, but it's not really recommended in the long term. If in doubt, you end up sitting there with expensive Apple glasses without being able to buy any content for them.

Only one at a time

In its current form, the Vision Pro is a one-person gadget because multiple user accounts cannot be created. Unlike an iPhone, an iPad or a MacBook, you can't simply unlock the device and hand it to someone else.

Currently, the only way to allow another person to view is in guest mode. There's a catch: the guest user has to put the glasses on within five minutes of their owner releasing them. As soon as a guest takes off the glasses, guest mode ends automatically and the Vision Pro can only

can be reactivated by the registered owner via an eye scan. Another catch: If you have a different prescription, you have to bring your own Zeiss correction lenses, insert them into your glasses and register them, or wear contact lenses. Since Apple does not yet offer correction lenses for the Vision Pro for sale, the only option left is contact lenses. Or guests who have good eyesight.

Just don't forget customs

Another important counter-argument is the cost of the device, which also has to be taxed twice. The basic version with 256 GB of storage costs $3,499, to which, depending on the state and city, four to 13.5 percent sales tax can be added, i.e. around $140 to almost $500. Because these costs are generally not refundable when you leave the country, it might be worth traveling to Delaware, Montana, or Oregon, as these states do not charge sales tax.

Things look completely different when entering Germany. While goods up to a value of 430 euros can be imported tax-free from the USA, everything more expensive, including the Vision Pro, is subject to 19 percent import sales tax. In the case of Apple glasses, that would currently be 609.64 euros for the basic version. After all, you don't have to pay customs fees.

However, you should definitely not avoid going to customs. Because if you get caught, it not only results in lengthy criminal tax proceedings and possibly a fine. As “heise.de” notes, such a violation also results in the Vision Pro being confiscated by customs and only being released after the process has been completed. This could take a good year. On the first weekend after sales began in the USA, eight of the expensive gadgets were confiscated in this way at Berlin Brandenburg Airport alone.

Last but not least, it is important to remember that in Germany you are on your own if there are problems with the Vision Pro. Apple offers neither support, repairs nor any other help with computer glasses in this country. At least not as long as the Vision Pro is not officially offered in this country. When this will happen is currently unknown.