Choosing the best VR Headset for your Mobile Phone
By David Curry
If you don't already have a 3D VR (Virtual Reality) headset for your mobile phone, then you have the opportunity to choose the one which best meets your needs. That is, a headset to suit your phone, OS, application and budget.
Android or iOS?
Out of the two primary operating systems, Android has the more active VR community. Google and Samsung each have platforms with applications, experiences, and SDKs for developers. There is also a larger number of third party games and apps to choose from for this platform.
That’s not to say all is lost for iOS (Apple iPhone) users. Whilst Apple's attention presently seems to be on AR (Augmented Reality) - and it seems likely Apple will release their own AR headset or glasses - there are still plenty of third party VR headsets to accommodate iPhone models. Whilst most major games and apps are compatible with Apple iOS, they may take a little longer to be released on this platform. Some apps, however, will always be Android only.
The BoboVR Z4 is a great value for money VR Headset for users whose cell phones are not compatible with Google Daydream or Samsung Gear VR headsets. This includes Apple iPhones, as well as Android smartphones from a large number of manufacturers (ZTE, Sony, Huawei etc). Featuring built-in hi-fidelity sound, a high degree of adjustability (IPD - Interpupillary distance, focal distance, head strap & phone size), and an attractive 'piano white' (gloss) finish, it is consistently reviewed as one of the best third-party VR headsets. It also comes in a version without the built-in speakers (Z4 Mini) for those who would prefer to use their own headphones or earbuds.
The BoboVR Z4 claims a 120-degree field of view, (FOV), which is wider than that of the Samsung Gear VR. A wider field of view is said to make the VR experience more immersive.
Building upon the success of the BoboVR Z4, the Z5 headset has similar features but looks markedly different. With a fabric exterior and light foam cushion inside, its appearance is more reminiscent of Google's Daydream View headset. This similarity is not purely coincidental since this headset comes in a version compatible with Google Daydream. Like its predecessor the Z4, the Z5 has an IPD (interpupillary distance) adjustment wheel, for people with eyes further apart from one another, and a focus wheel to help see things clearly regardless of the make or model of cell phone installed.
Added to the Z5 is a motion controller, (to track the movement of your hands), which supports Daydream games. Since it's not an official Daydream headset however, the phone does not automatically respond to the headset. Interestingly, the Chinese mainland (non-Daydream) version of this headset touts 'tactile modules' to enhance gameplay. This version can be purchased in New Zealand from certain retailers.
FiiT VR 2S
The FiiT VR 2S is perhaps the best value 3D VR headset available in New Zealand. Although not compatible with Google Daydream and, lacking built-in sound, the FiiT VR does accommodate a wide range of Android and iOS cell phones. It is lightweight, has a good field of view (102-degrees) and an open design that is great for AR (Augmented Reality) applications. This open, rather than enclosed design, also makes it easier to accommodate your own headphones. Despite its low price, a quick Google search reveals that many owners rate this as the best Google Cardboard compatible headset they've used. Period.
Carl Zeiss VR One Plus
For those who'd like an extremely well-built headset, the One Plus may be a good choice. It is built by Carl Zeiss, the company behind some of the highest quality lenses in the world. Knowing this, it is little surprise that the glass lenses in this headset outperform the plastic lenses found on other options in this price range.
A foam cushion provides users with a comfortable viewing experience for extended periods, and the adjustable headband should fit most head sizes. The tray lets users charge and connect headphones while playing with minimal distraction.
The build quality does cost extra; the VR One Plus is twice the price of similar, albeit less well built, Cardboard compatible VR headsets. Carl Zeiss doesn’t do much on the software side to address this differential, with only a handful of experiences built specifically for the headset.
The headset has no control buttons, meaning Android and iOS customers will need to buy a supported controller to play games. The headset is compatible with devices from 4.7 to 5.5-inches, which includes the Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone 7 Plus.
Samsung Gear VR
Samsung knocks it out the park with the Gear VR, built in partnership with Oculus. The headset is comfortable, lightweight, and the touchpad and buttons on the side are all the controls needed to play Oculus games.
Samsung designed the headset top-to-bottom for Samsung smartphones, so with the Galaxy S8 and S8+, it works wonderfully. For any other mobile phones, it is not really an option, and Samsung does not appear to be willing to open up the Gear VR to other smartphone brands.
Gear VR users have a lot of content to choose from, thanks to the partnership with Oculus. Customers can purchase games, movies, and experiences on the Oculus Store, which offers a greater amount of quality content than any of the third-party app stores mentioned previously.
For Samsung customers, it is a no-brainer, the Gear VR is the best option.
Google Daydream View
The Daydream View is another headset to come alongside a smartphone launch, though Google has endeavoured to support more devices. At the time of writing, the headset is compatible with the Pixel and XL, Galaxy S8 and S8+, Moto Z, Huawei Mate 9 Pro, and ZTE Axon 7.
This headset does a lot of things right, it is comfortable for extended periods of time, the flap design allows easy access for charger and headphone cables, and the motion controller is by far the best mobile VR interface for games and experiences.
Daydream has an extensive marketplace of games and experiences, and Google has added all of its software to the device to make it an even richer experience. YouTube and Google Earth really enhance the content offering, placing Daydream level with Oculus for most VR users.
The lack of focus and IPD wheel may be an issue for some. Those worried about that should perhaps consider the BoboVR Z5. Otherwise, this is the best headset currently on the market.
Merge VR Goggles
A less fashionable choice, but one of the favourites among the VR community. The Merge VR is an all-foam headset, coming in a variety of bright colours, with an easily adjustable headband.
The all-foam design does make the headset quite hefty. At 12 ounces, it is heavier than the Google Daydream View and the Samsung Gear VR. On the front, an irregular octagon cut out for the smartphone camera lets the user try out augmented reality experiences.
Merge has its own app store, called the Miniverse, which has a fine selection of VR games and experiences. Users can also connect the headset to Cardboard VR and other third-party stores.
The Merge VR has buttons on the side of the headset, so users will not need to fork out for a controller, although additional buttons may be needed for some games.
Like the Carl Zeiss VR One Plus, the Merge VR accepts any phone brand, as long as it fits inside the foam slot. Everything from the iPhone 5 to iPhone 7 Plus works, although pixelation on a device as small as the iPhone 5 might quickly give you a headache.
Homido V2Homido is a great option for VR gamers that want full control over the experience. It has an IPD and focal adjustment wheel, just like the BoboVR Z5, but the tighter design means people that wear glasses may not be able to use the headset.
Like Merge, Homido has its own app store for VR games and experiences, though it is a lot less popular than the Daydream, Cardboard, or Oculus. Other third-party stores are available, and the Homido V2 supports a wide range of smartphones.