The virtual reality headset is a growing technology, but unfortunately, it can be very expensive. In fact, only 6.3 million VR headsets have been shipped throughout 2016. However, the majority of those shipped are mobile VR headsets, like the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream VR.
That's because smartphone VR headsets are far more affordable compared to the likes of the Oculus Rift, PlayStation VR, and HTC Vive (that front-facing camera!). In fact, smartphone VR headsets can run you anywhere between $15 and $150.
So you may want to leap into the immersive experience that is mobile virtual reality, but there are so many headsets available in the wild. Which headset is best? What offers the most immersive and stunning features? How comfortable is the headset?
Well, we're going to cover all of that with our review of the best phone VR headsets. You find in our review not only the top five headsets available for your mobile device, but also the key considerations and methodology.
In This Guide
The Best Phone VR Headsets: Our Top Picks
As I've mentioned, VR headsets bring to you an immersive experience that will surely cause you to utter the word, "Wow." With a headset for iPhone and Android devices, you'll be able to play some amazing VR games on the Google Play and App Stores.
Here are the top five headsets that your hard-earned dollar can buy.
Google Daydream View Review
- Breathable fabric
- Phone can overheat after usage
- Phone support is limited
This affordable headset is worth every dollar. Not only is the headset comfortable, as it is made from soft, lightweight materials, but it also includes a controller that functions similar to a Wiimote. In other words, it's not positionally tracked, but it will track the pitch, yaw, and roll.
Unfortunately, the only disadvantage is that the Google Daydream doesn't support a lot of phones. At the time of this writing, the Google Daydream supports the Google Pixel, the Google Pixel XL, Moto Z, Moto Z Force, Mate 9 Pro, Porsche Design Mate 9, and Axon 7, although support is coming soon for the Samsung Galaxy S8, Samsung Galaxy S8+, and ZenFone AR.
This headset is more of an entry-level type of headset (well, more so compared to other mobile VR headsets, anyway), and furthermore, it's comfortable for those who wear spectacles. Overall, you'll have access to not only VR games on the Play Store but also apps such as Hulu and YouTube.
Unfortunately, the VR headset can cause the phone to heat up (but unfortunately, most, if not all, VR headsets will cause your phone - depending on the phone, anyway - to overheat). Overall, this is a fantastic entry headset, especially when comfort is involved.
Samsung Gear VR Review
- Features an impressive and easy-to-use tracking controller
- Sleek design
- Support is limited to Samsung phones
- Software is locked to Oculus mobile library
- Older models tend to cause overheating
The Samsung Gear VR has been a hit among users globally. Not only is the headset quite comfortable, although it can feel a little heavy, it is also affordable. However, there are now three types of Gear VR headsets available. The first released in 2015, the second in 2016, and the third in 2017. The 2015 and 2016 models lacked a controller, but the 2017 model includes a tracking controller that is rather comfortable to hold.
Not only that, but Samsung's new Gear VR updates work with older phones and Gear VR headsets too. Furthermore, the new software runs far cooler on Samsung phones.
Unfortunately, you are stuck using Oculus' mobile Gear VR library. Not only that, but the phone selection for the Samsung Gear VR is extremely limited. How so? Well, the Samsung Gear VR requires a Samsung phone. Not only that, but the headset cannot track movement in a room.
Overall, the 2017 version of the Gear VR feels closer to Google's Daydream View VR compared to the 2016 and 2015 versions. Not only is the 2017 version a tad more comfortable compared to previous models, but the phone inside the VR headset will be less likely to overheat.
VisionCast VR Review
- Highly affordable
- Fantastic focal adjustments
- Remote control lacks in quality
- Can be finicky with certain phones
Need an extremely affordable reality headset? Why not try VisionCast VR? Not only will the headset bring you an immersive experience that you'll expect out of virtual reality, but it will bring you said experience at less than half the price of the Google Daydream.
Not only will you be able to take advantage of super low distortion high-definition optical resin lens but also adjustable focal length, adjustable distance between lens and phone, excellent ventilation that will keep your phone from overheating, lightweight construction, 90-100 degree field of view, and a bonus Bluetooth remote control that's compatible with both Android and iOS.
Overall, you'll receive comfort via a nice face cushion and lovely focal adjustments. However, as far as disadvantages go, people have complained that the remote control is rather lacking in quality. Not only that but depending on the phone you use the headset with, the headset's phone holder may press various buttons on the sides of the phone.
Google Cardboard Review
- Incredibly affordable for those skeptical over VR
- Compatible with a lot of Android devices
- Supports many Apple iPhones
- No fancy features
- No head strap
Don't want to blow a lot of money on any VR headset, but curious about VR? Why not try the official Google Cardboard?
And yes, it's exactly as it sounds. And it's extremely cheap. We're talking less-than-a-fast-food-meal cheap. Google Cardboard brings you an immersive experience straight from the... well, cardboard. Not only is it compatible with smartphones, but it's super simple. I remember thinking not too long ago that the Google Cardboard was a joke product when it was first announced. However, it wasn't. It works, even if it isn't all that fancy.
Unfortunately, while the Cardboard supports many phones, it will only support Android and iOS phones with screen sizes between four and six inches. Not only that, but the product can be assembled in three simple steps.
Google Cardboard is an excellent way to see if you even enjoy the concept of virtual reality. It's super affordable. As far as disadvantages go, and it's pretty obvious, you won't find any fancy features or additional accessories like a controller with the Google Cardboard. Not only that, but the Google Cardboard lacks a strap for your head (I suppose you could always make you own).
Pasonomi VR Glasses Review
- Broad Compatibility
- May not fit really thin phones (i.e. some Apple iPhones)
- You may end up with blurring issues
The Pasonomi 3D VR Glasses appears similar to the 2015 model of the Samsung Gear VR, but it's an extremely cheap product (okay, not as cheap as Google Cardboard, but it's really hard to beat that price).
This VR headset features broad compatibility - in other words, the headset comfortably fits Apple iPhones, Android phones, and Windows phones, as long as the screens are between four and six inches. Not only that, but the headset offers focal distance and object distance.
What covers the face of the headset is an extremely soft and thick foam, which is great for long-term usage. Additionally, the headset is also lightweight.
The VR headset is also compatible with the VR apps in the Google Play store as well as the Apple App store. As far as complaints go, it may not work with phones that are too thin (i.e. some iPhones), but it will work with the iPhone 6 Plus. Not only that, but you may have blurry issues that may require some fine-tuning of your headset. Additionally, there isn't a button that you can rely on the headset.
What to Look for in a Headset
There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing a headset. Here are just some factors to take into account as you're shopping around.
The best headsets will have a design that is unmatched. Not only is comfort key in deciding the right headset, but so isn't factors like the field of vision. Furthermore, the best headsets should be lightweight, feature soft padding, and include a head strap.
The lighter the headset, the better. For example, the Google Daydream VR headset weighs less than eight ounces, while the Samsung Gear VR weighs 12 ounces. Not only that but if you're wearing glasses, many headsets can be a dealbreaker. Fortunately, many mobile VR systems, such as the Samsung Gear VR, fit comfortably over glasses.
In concerns to the field of vision, you should aim for a wider field of view. A wider screen size means a greater immersive experience. For instance, the latest Samsung Gear VR has a field of view of 101 degrees, the Daydream View is 90 degrees, and the Google Cardboard set has a field of view of between 90 degrees and 120 degrees.
The pricing can make all the difference in the world. "You get what you pay for" isn't a common phrase for no reason. Nevertheless, if you're searching for virtual reality goggles for - say, the Galaxy Note 5 - then you should be aware of the pricing.
A cheap set of virtual reality goggles will certainly lead you to immersive virtual reality, but you may not receive the best field of vision. In fact, an extremely cheap cell phone VR headset for Android phone or iPhone should act as a gateway to the immersive world. Only if you enjoy your experience should you consider a higher end cell phone mobile headset.
A headset for iPhone users or Android users may or may not include accessories like a touch controller. A motion controller, while not always included, may be a fantastic peripheral to use when playing games or using apps.
However, some touch controllers included may not be of high quality. Be sure to pore over the reviews if you're interested in an included motion controller. If a motion controller isn't included, you'll find that VR headsets are compatible with either stand-alone motion controllers or controllers suitable for Android or iOS.
Be sure to check either the VR headset's packaging or the VR headset's label information on either the official website or on a marketplace like Amazon for information regarding the headset's compatibility with particular phones. For instance, the immersive virtual reality headset Samsung Gear VR is only compatible with particular Samsung models.
Fortunately, the Samsung Gear VR fits the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. On the other hand, there are VR goggles that will not be able to fit such a large phone as the Samsung Galaxy Note 5. If you're an iPhone user, your options may also be limited. For instance, you cannot take advantage of either the Google Daydream VR or the Samsung Gear VR.
So how did we come to our decision of the best virtual reality headsets? Well...
- First, we conducted research as to what some of the better headsets are available on the internet. We then compiled headsets that were not only affordable but featured a relatively comfortable field of view.
- We then examined the headsets based on a myriad of factors including but not limited to: pricing, comfort, if/any accessories included, compatibility, and more.
- Finally, we dwindled down to the top five headsets after reviewing both critic and user reviews as well as the specifications of the headsets.
Related: The Best Wearable Tech of 2017!
Overall, you cannot go wrong with many virtual reality headsets for Android phones or iOS phones. However, if you opt for a cheap headset, do note that the headset should better serve as a gateway to the fully immersive experience that is virtual reality.
Looking for a new iPhone? Then be sure to compare the best iPhone deals with our comparison tool.For more accessories, you can pair your device with, check out our buyer's guides to portable chargers and wireless earbuds.