Mobile VR Headsets for Android and iPhone

September 07, 2017 - DOM BARNARD

With nearly a hundred million VR headsets sold, VR has very much arrived in the consumer market. Mobile VR has becoming a popular way of enjoying VR, with studies suggesting that 98% of these headsets are for Android and iPhone devices. From the early release of the Google Cardboard, VR headsets have evolved as manufacturers create their own version of the low cost headset.

Mobile VR headsets act as a viewer for your mobile phone. With the exception of the Samsung Gear VR, none of the VR headsets reviewed have any of their own onboard sensors. These headsets rely on the screen, processors and motion sensors of the smartphones themselves. The better the screen resolution and sensors in your smartphone, the better the virtual reality experience.

Wonderglade VR app for Daydream

Wonderglade VR app for the Daydream headset.

It’s worth noting that VR hardware is still in its infancy, with new mobile headsets coming out monthly, ranging from $5 to around $100. The number and quality of apps for these headsets has increased dramatically - you can now explore the human body, practice your public speaking, walk with dinosaurs, travel the world and more.

While there are more apps developed for Android devices, there are still plenty of iPhone apps on the App store. Two of the higher end mobile headsets, the Gear VR and Daydream View, both run on Android devices so some developers stick to just developing for Android.

Not all mobiles are compatible with VR experiences. There are minimum requirements for most VR apps, highlighted on the Google VR developer site (Android) (iPhone).

Minimum mobile requirements:

  • Android - Android 4.3 and later, with both a Gyroscope and Accelerometer. Not all lower end Android mobiles have a gyroscope so watch out for this.
  • iPhone - iPhone 5 and later, running iOS 8 or higher

Mobile VR has already reach of millions of people. You’ll need a (fairly) modern phone, a VR headset and you’re ready to explore virtual worlds.

Headsets we’ll cover:

  • Google Daydream
  • Google Cardboard v2
  • Samsung Gear VR
  • Merge VR
  • BlitzWolf
  • Homido v2


Google Daydream View

Price: $73 (includes hand controller)

Daydream View VR headset

Daydream View is a comfortable, lightweight and well designed mobile VR headset. It comes with a hand-controller to navigate and interact with the virtual world, meaning you don’t have to hold the headset up constantly or buy a 3rd party controller. The Daydream controller is responsive and works well with Daydream compatible apps.

The headset currently comes in three different colours, Slate, Snow and Crimson, with the availability of these varying. The comfortable design allows you to wear the Daydream for 30+ minutes, however there is a small amount of external light that gets in.

There are currently only a handful of mobiles which are compatible with the Daydream View. However more high end mobiles are being added constantly.

Daydream App Store

Daydream app store

Daydream has its own app store which you can access within the headset using the Daydream app. Regular Google Cardboard apps are not compatible with it, they’ll need to have been specifically developed for Daydream. You can also find Daydream apps in the Google Play Store amongst the regular VR apps.

Specifications:

  • Field of view: ~90°
  • Weight: 220g
  • Sensors: None
  • Compatibility: Pixel, Pixel XL, Galaxy S8, Galaxy S8+, Moto Z, Moto Z Force, Mate 9 Pro, Porsche Design Mate 9, Axon 7

Where to buy: Amazon, website.



Google Cardboard v2

Price: $5-15

Google Cardboard v2 VR headset

The Google Cardboard was one of the first VR headsets available, and while it doesn’t offer the same comfort or functionality of some of the more expensive headsets, it is a fraction of the price. Google Cardboard brings immersive experiences to everyone in a simple and affordable way.

Unlike the original Cardboard v1, Cardboard v2 comes mostly pre-assembled. You’ll just need to fold some of the cardboard into shape and shouldn't take longer than 5 minutes.

Like the name suggests, it’s made out of cardboard and is best suited to short 5-10 minute sessions, as it’s not the most comfortable headset over long periods of time. Some versions come with padding around the nose which helps.

It’s a good starting point for mobile VR users, and if you find yourself still wanting to use VR after the initial novelty has worn off, it may be worth investing in a slightly more expensive (but more comfortable) option.

If you're buying one from Amazon, we recommend the MINKANAK or Blisstime versions which both come with extra padding for comfort.

Google Cardboard App Store

Google Cardboard VR apps

Any apps which mention Google Cardboard in their description on the Google Play or Apple App stores. If your mobile isn’t compatible with a particular VR app, the app isn’t usually shown to you while you browse the stores.

Specifications:

  • Field of view: Varies
  • Weight: Varies
  • Sensors: None
  • Compatibility: Android and iPhone

Where to buy: Cardboard viewers.



Samsung Gear VR

Price: $80 (includes hand controller)

Samsung Gear VR Headset

The Gear VR is a high end mobile VR headset, with inbuilt sensors and a comfortable fit, it’s one of the very best out there. The Gear VR only works with Samsung smartphones, taking advantage of their 2560x1440 resolution for great image quality and stereoscopic viewing.

The Gear VR hand-controller lets you navigate your virtual reality with ease or use it as a gamepad complete with trigger to win battles. The controller is designed to be used naturally with one hand.

You can alter the focal distance to get the clearest image, and the wide FOV immerses you in the virtual world like no other mobile VR headset. There is room for glasses wearers, and includes vents to get rid of the screen fog.

The on-board circuitry help to improve the immersive feeling by reducing latency and increasing the overall responsiveness of the headset. The downside is that it can reduce your battery charge considerably. While the extra weight taken up by the additional hardware does compromise the Gear VR’s comfortability, especially on longer sessions.

Gear VR App Store

Gear VR app store

The Gear VR has its own app store which you can access within the headset. As with the Daydream, regular Google Cardboard apps are not compatible with it. Through the Oculus powered Gear VR store, you can browse a thriving ecosystem of games and experiences, connect with friends and more.

Specifications:

  • Field of view: ~101°
  • Weight: 345g
  • Sensors: Gyro sensor, proximity sensor
  • Compatibility: Galaxy Note8, S8, S8+, S7, S7 edge, Note5, S6 edge+, S6, S6 edge

Where to buy: Amazon, website.



Merge VR

Price: $59

Merge VR Headset

The Merge VR goggles have great build quality, are well produced and nicely packaged. The comfort is similar to the Daydream View and Gear VR. They are made from lightweight, marshmallow-soft foam and are available in about 10 colours, expanding from their original singular purple colour. Some of the other colours, such as pink, can be hard to get before the stock runs out.

Merge goggles will accommodate any phone made in the past 2 years, however the larger phones, such as the iPhone Plus, can be a tight fit.

User controls and the dual-lens focus is managed by 2 sliding buttons at the top of the Merge VR goggles. Pushing down on them acts as trigger buttons and allows you to interact with the virtual world. Moving the button-levers left and right also brings the lenses into focus.

There's a pop-out window in the front if you want to use it for AR apps. Merge are developing an AR Cube and related AR apps, which make great use of this window.

Merge VR App Store

Merge VR Miniverse app store

Merge Labs have their own app store website for the goggles and AR cube. The Miniverse is a collection of VR and AR apps from both the Google Play and Apple App stores. Each app on Miniverse has a short description, motion level and recommended age for the app.

Specifications:

  • Field of view: 96°
  • Weight: 340g
  • Sensors: None
  • Compatibility: iOS and Android (Fits phones from 4.8in - 6.2in)

Where to buy: Amazon, website.



BlitzWolf

Price: $24

BlitzWolf VR Headset

The latest version of BlitzWolf's VR headset is a great mid-priced headset. The soft leather padding makes it very comfortable and fits both regular and larger Android and iPhone mobiles. The lenses are upgraded from the previous version to be larger, with 42mm Mitsubishi aspherical lenses, giving a wider FOV.

The headset comes with adjustable pupil and focus distances, so that you can adjust how far or close the lens is to each individual eye (between 55-65mm).

BlitzWolf App Store

Any apps which mention Google Cardboard in their description on the Google Play or Apple App stores. If your mobile isn’t compatible with a particular VR app, the app isn’t usually shown to you while you browse the stores.

Specifications:

  • Field of view: 108°
  • Weight: 390g
  • Sensors: None
  • Compatibility: iOS and Android (Fits phones from 3.5in - 6.3in)

Where to buy: Amazon, website.



Homido v2

Price: $80

Homido v2 VR Headset

The latest version of BlitzWolf's VR headset is a great mid-priced headset. The soft leather padding makes it very comfortable and fits both regular and larger Android and iPhone mobiles. The lenses are upgraded from the previous version to be larger, with 42mm Mitsubishi aspherical lenses, giving a wider FOV.

The headset comes with adjustable pupil and focus distances, so that you can adjust how far or close the lens is to each individual eye (between 55-65mm).

Homido App Store

Homido app store

Homido Center is a catalogue of all the best apps available for Homido virtual reality headset. You can sort by category, filter, bookmark and view 360 photos and videos.

Specifications:

  • Field of view: 100°
  • Weight: 340g
  • Sensors: None
  • Compatibility: iOS and Android

Where to buy: Amazon, website.