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Does Warby Parker’s new virtual eye test app mean you can skip in-person tests?

A woman uses the new Warby Parker Virtual Vision Test app to take an eye test at home
(Image credit: Warby Parker)

Eyewear retailer Warby Parker has released a Virtual Vision Test iOS app that promises to give users an accurate eye test from home. While there’s no substitute for a visit to your optometrist, there’s no denying that leaving the house to get your eyes tested can be a pain, not to mention pricey. 

The Virtual Vision Test aims to cut the fuss (and cost) with a five-minute test, the results of which are then verified by an eye doctor. Warby Parker, which sells some of the best contact lenses online as well as online eyeglasses, reckons it takes just a few minutes to run through the basic questions on the Virtual Vision Test app to check your eligibility. 

If you are good to go (and there are quite a few hurdles to jump through) you’ll be guided through the at-home eye test and will receive your verified results within two days. All you need is an iPhone and the $15 test fee, but should you be testing your eyes this way? And are at-home vision tests really that accurate? Let’s take a closer look… 

Warby Parker Virtual Vision Test: What is it and how do you use it?

The first thing you’ll need to use Warby Parker’s new Virtual Vision Test app is an iPhone 6s or above. You can then download the app from the App Store. The app itself is free, but be prepared to part with $15 for each successful eye test. 

To use the Virtual Vision Test, you need to be aged between 18 and 65, have no major eye concerns and have a single-vision distance prescription. Plus, Warby Parker states that you need to be able to see well with your current glasses or lenses. You’ll also need your prescription details.

An image showing the Warby Parker Virtual Vision Test app homescreen on a black iPhone

(Image credit: Warby Parker)

Make sure you have enough space at home - 10 feet in fact, so that you can stand back far enough to accurately carry out the test. The room will also need to be quiet and well-lit.

Once you have answered – and passed – some basic eligibility questions, you’re ready to take the eye test. While wearing your existing glasses or lenses, you will be led through an eye chart, similar to the one you’d find at an optometrist. There's an explainer video on the Warby Parker website.

The results will then be sent to be verified by an eye doctor, at which point you pay that $15 fee. If the test isn’t successful and it is recommended that you need to visit an eye doctor in person, you won’t be charged. If it is successful, your Warby Parker prescription will be updated and renewed.

Here’s where it gets interesting: Warby Parker is quick to state that the Virtual Vision Test app is not a comprehensive eye exam and isn’t meant to replace in-person appointments with your eye doctor. So you will need to get an in-person check at some point (every two years is recommended).

What it does offer though is a convenient way to check your prescription and keep it current, but not everyone is convinced by the accuracy and purpose of at-home eye tests...

Are at-home virtual eye tests safe and accurate?

The American Academy of Optometry says it’s essential that anybody who wears glasses or contacts should have a proper in-person eye test every two years. These in-depth eye tests are crucial for picking up any significant eyesight changes or issues, as well as discussing any questions you may have with an eye doctor.

While online or virtual eye tests may be convenient (and cheaper), one of the main pitfalls is that they can be less accurate. And if you have anything worse than moderately bad eyesight, it is much better to have an in-person test.

A woman with blonde hair looks at an eye test chart on a white wall

(Image credit: Getty)

If, however, you are healthy, aged between 18 and 39, and only have a mild to moderate prescription, then a virtual test will give you a good idea if you need to upgrade your prescription.

If you suspect you need glasses or are needing a prescription for the first time, an in-person appointment is your best option. Although using an app can often bring less than perfect eyesight to your attention, we wouldn’t recommend ordering glasses or contacts based on this type of initial assessment - get an expert opinion first.

While virtual eye tests can pick up on prescription changes, they won’t detect underlying medical conditions either. Things that online tests can miss include astigmatism, glaucoma and other eye conditions.

Dr Michael X. Repka, medical director of government affairs for the American Academy of Ophthalmology says, “The public should understand that these online tests can measure the power of your eyeglass prescription, but they can’t detect eye diseases that often have hidden symptoms.”

Prescription eyewear can get expensive, so take a look at our guide to the best vision insurance to see how coverage could benefit you.

Davina Franks

Freelancer writer and sub-editor Davina has over 20 years’ experience under her belt, and is one of our go-to writers for wellness content. From handheld massagers to mattresses, Davina has a keen interest in all things relaxation and rejuvenation, and spends a lot of her time covering these areas for Top Ten Reviews. So if you’re wondering which essential oil to use for easing stress, or whether a percussive massager really can banish your knotty muscles, Davina is the one to ask. When not working, she loves reading, practicing yoga and writing fiction.