VR headsets are becoming more popular as their range of technology becomes more compatible with many of today’s standard devices.
While not every phone can be equipped to work with a VR headset, the majority of the smartphones available for purchase in 2021 can be linked up to a VR headset, although much of this still runs on proprietary software.
This article looks deeper into which VR headsets are getting good reviews, and which ones you can use with an iPhone or Android device.
Can VR headset be used with any phone?
In short, the answer is no, you cannot just use any smartphone and connect it to virtual reality (VR) headsets. That said, since many phones being produced in the last few years now take into account the growing demand for this technology, more phones are being offered for sale that are compatible with VR technology including the headsets that can work alongside your mobile device.
Only two main smartphone manufacturers have been seen to be producing devices that are compatible to work with VR headsets not just as a basic function, but as something extra to offer to users and to improve the user experience.
These are Samsung and Google, through their own flagship phone ranges.
Related: Do VR Headsets Need A Computer?
If you have an iPhone, it is possible to hook this up to VR headsets assuming you have an iPhone 5 or later, but it does not use Apple software and instead you will have to connect it through Google or another brand.
To figure out if your own smartphone will be compatible, or the one you are considering purchasing, each VR headset should have a list of the phones it will be able to work with, so you can immediately find out if what you want to purchase will work straight away.
Google Cardboard, the low-budget design for most smartphones, tends to work with all Android phones running Android OS 4.1 or later, and iPhones from the model 6 or later, so this does cover a lot of devices.
However, at present, the app is not downloadable for Windows phones, so this series of devices is left off the list.
There are still VR brands which produce headsets to work with Windows phones, such as the Kinoconsole.
With the amount of games and other interactions now possible to complete with VR headsets, it should be expected that this list of compatible devices will grow in the coming years.
How to know if your phone is VR compatible?
Since not every phone is compatible with VR, you should check with the manufacturer of the VR headset you want to use to see which devices they are able to connect to.
Some brands will make specific headsets to work with specific devices such as Samsung, which will typically only let you hook up to a small range of newer Samsung devices.
While Google Cardboard has the aim of working with as many smartphones as possible.
Not every list is likely to be fully complete as some smaller VR headset manufacturers may not make the list.
Indeed some smartphones may not be listed if they are not from the bigger companies, but you can still find guides to tell you which phones are VR compatible and with which technologies.
Which phones are compatible with VR?
The list of phones that are compatible with VR is pretty long, so writing a full list here does not make sense, but we will cover the most popular brands.
Samsung is way out ahead of most smartphone manufacturers in that it also has its own VR headset range which many others have not yet reached in terms of product design and release, but the South Korean company likes to be known as innovative in many areas.
You will find that the Samsung Gear series and the latest Note devices among others will tend to work with their own proprietary software. However, you cannot link a different phone brand to a Samsung headset.
Google Cardboard mobile VR headsets are the basic offering and work with most Android devices that can run 4.1 OS or later.
For iPhones, these also work with Google, which is unusual given the propensity of Apple to only let their phones work with Apple products.
You should note that you will likely need an iPhone 6 or later for this to connect.
Which phones are NOT compatible with VR?
At the moment, the most well-known brand of phones that works poorly or not at all with VR headsets is the flagship Windows phone range.
A quick look through product reviews will tell you of some unhappy customers who realize they cannot equip their Windows smartphones to be used with VR headsets.
However, some brands have taken to building a way around it, and there will be smaller manufacturers making VR headsets compatible with a small selection of Windows phones, although it can take some research to find the right ones since there is not a clear list available.
It is also possible that some smaller phone brands who are up and coming or operate a bit off the radar may not have VR compatibility set up, including phones using different operating systems designed for different purposes.
Is Mobile VR worth it?
It depends on what you want to get out of having a VR headset. It is true that technology is improving rapidly and these futuristic ideas of gaming are not so far away, but this may not be ready for every smartphone.
As an example, if you have a phone with limited processing power, it may technically be capable of connecting to a VR headset, but this does not guarantee a good experience.
The same goes for if you have poor battery life or a phone that crashes often.
Aside from these issues which anyway cause problems for running day-to-day programs on your phone, the advancement of VR headsets tends to mean that mobile VR is getting a better reputation for what it can offer to users right now.
More games and experiences are being designed to work with this technology, so the amount of use you can get out of it is theoretically increasing.
The best VR headset for iPhone
At the moment the best VR headsets for iPhones will not be ones made by Apple, so there can be some linking issues going between devices set up primarily for Android that need to cross over to be used for an iPhone.
However, there are of course brands that will focus on meeting the needs of Apple users.
Merge AR/VR Headset
The Merge Goggles have received solid reviews for their ability to provide a VR headset experience for iPhone since they can also fit the most recent devices into the headset, although the bigger devices are set to have a tight fit.
The Homido VR headsets are known to be good to work with iPhone, and they also work with Android too.
Their range also has a series that does not require you to put the phone in the headset, although not all of the Homido offering fits in the biggest iPhones so be sure to check for compatibility.
For a VR headset, you can be sure will work with the biggest iPhones such as the Max. You can opt for the Destek VR Headset which picks up strong reviews on Amazon and has a wide frame to accommodate the bigger models.
The best VR headset for Android devices
Samsung Gear VR
The Samsung Gear VR has to come on the list since its ability to offer a strong VR experience is clear, even if it only works with a few Samsung phones.
It is connected to the Oculus app so you can scan for games you want to play, and is rated highly for comfort and usability.
For a standalone experience, the Oculus GO is the brand name that really managed to make a name for itself with VR headsets, and the user reviews suggest it is a well-made product able to really enhance the user experience with VR.
Check more standalone VR headsets.
It has its own proprietary platform of games and interactive experiences and can be compatible with many smartphones so this is a solid all-round choice.
Does Apple have a VR headset?
Apple does not have its own VR headset, but there are plenty of headsets you can connect it to. Since many VR headsets are set up with a method to use the smartphone as the screen, you can use any compatible phone to work as a VR headset.
For those that work as standalone products, make sure to check the compatibility with the website of the manufacturer before you make a purchase.
How to connect your phone to a VR headset?
You can connect most phones to your VR headset directly into the device itself, since it uses your phone as the screen and simply adds the 3D element to it alongside running a program designed to work with this format.
You need to download the app of the manufacturer making the VR headset.
Others are standalone devices, such as through Oculus, which do not always require a phone to work with.
VR headsets have come a long way in the last few years, from clunky pieces of technology not fully equipped to offer a serious experience to something that people talk about as a must-have accessory for those into gaming and new technology.
While some brands such as Oculus have made the name for themselves and offer a high-price, high-end experience, budget VR headsets for mobiles are on the market which can let you get to grips with what virtual reality can offer to us already.