Smartphone powered mobile VR might seem a little gimmicky if you haven’t tried it, when you do, you realize it’s actually pretty damn cool and highly immersive, especially with a quality pair of headphones.
Basically, the better your smartphone’s display, the better the VR experience will be. A smartphone with a 1080p HD screen looks great when you’re holding it one or two feet away from your eyes, but slotting it into a VR headset becomes a different story as the resolution is generally split between two eyes, plus the images become much larger. This results in a pixellated viewing experience that just wouldn’t be good for mobile VR sales figures.
When you hear about the latest 4K screen, you may ask yourself why would I need a smartphone with 4K? Pushing the boundaries of technology such as continuously making screens with higher pixel density is the way of the world, but the emergence of mobile VR is making screens get better faster than they probably would have without VR on the scene.
Here’s the best mobile VR on offer so far in 2016
Samsung Gear VR
The Oculus powered Samsung Gear VR is the best VR headset money can buy at the moment – of course the Oculus Rift, Playstation VR and HTC Vive haven’t been released yet, but they’re not smartphone powered anyway. The Gear VR Back key, volume buttons and touchpad, makes it easy to navigate, the focus wheel can be adjusted for short-sighted or long-sighted vision, an onboard gyrometer and accelerometer precisely tracks your head and allows you to control applications with head movements, proximity sensor detects when the HMD is being worn and there’s no shortage of available games apps.
• Field of View: 101°
• Compatible Smartphones: Samsung Galaxy S7 / S7 edge / S6 edge+ / S6 edge / S6 / Galaxy Note5
Zeiss VR One
Carl Zeiss are a leading optics manufacturer known for their high quality camera, binocular and telescope lenses – so it’s not a great surprise that they’re moving in on the VR scene given their background in the field of vision.
There’s no touchpad like you find on the Gear VR, but unlike the Samsung which is limited to high-end Galaxies, Zeiss VR One works with any iOS ar Android smartphone as long as they’re 4.7 to 5.2 inches.
The headset uses a sliding tray which allows for precise positioning of your smartphone. It has a See-through front shield which enables you to use your smartphone camera for augmented reality apps. 3D pictures and videos are taken care of by a media player and Google Cardboard apps are supported as well as VR apps for iPhones.
• Field of View: 100°
• Compatible Smartphones: iOS and Android (4.7 to 5.2 inches)
FreeFly VR delivers a cool VR experience for a bit less money than the Gear VR – if you don’t have a compatible Samsung phone for the Gear VR, FreeFly is a top option. You can look around in 360 degrees, use head gesture, voice navigation and control games with the included Glide Bluetooth controller. The headset has adjustable phone grips that allow your smartphone’s USB and headphone ports to stay clear of obstruction so you can plug-in with the headset on.
FreeFly VR is compatible with Google Cardboard which means plenty of titles available from Google Play, however, content developed for Cardboard that utilizes the magnetic ring is not compatible. It also works with VR content for iOS.
Freefly comes with a VR app that guides you through the process of setting up your smartphone and has a curated selection of apps picked by the FreeFly team. The major USP of FreeFly VR has to be its impressive 120 degree field of view – even wider than the Samsung Gear VR.
• Field of View: 120°
• Compatible Smartphones: Android and iOS (4.7 to 6.1 inches)
Homido VR combines 3D and 360 degree head tracking which allows you to look in al directions of the virtual world. The headset has interchangeable lenses available in three variations: short-sighted, long-sighted and regular vision. It has a pretty decent build quality, with top vents to prevent fogging, and you can use the headset if you wear prescription specs.
Homido VR works with Google Cardboard apps and VR apps for iOS – so there are quite a few to choose from. There are two apps available for download to you get your teeth into the VR experience: Homido Player, which makes easy work of 360 degree video, and Homido Center which features an app Launcher, category filters, bookmarks and recommended apps.
although the capacitive touch button found on Google Cardboard v2.0 isn’t onboard, so you’ll need to bear that in mind when downloading apps. The alternative is to purchase a Bluetooth controller – Homido have their own gamepad selling for €19.99 (22.00 USD). The Homido Bluetooth gamepad isn’t compatible with iOS – it only works with Android. The controller can also be purchased bundled with the headset, there’s also a Ricoh Theta 360° camera bundle which enables you to take 360 degree photos and video and then view them in the VR headset.
• Field of View: 100°
• Compatible Smartphones: Android and iOS (4 to 5.7 inches)
Google Cardboard comes in a wide variety of viewers for screen sizes from 4 inches to 6 inches. If you’re looking for the most affordable VR solution with over 100 apps and counting, then Cardboard fits the bill. Make sure you look for the “Works with Google Cardboard badge” so you know your viewer works with all the apps.
The search giants started handing out Cardboard kits back in June 2014, then Cardboard V2 came along in May 2015 with a better control button and the announcement that the SDK would be available to iOS developers. Google are establishing themselves as the place to be for VR.
Most Cardboard apps work smartphones running with Android 4.1 + and the latest iPhones. Learn More about Cardboard at the official webpage.
• Compatible Smartphones: Android and iOS (4 to 6 inches).