Virtual reality for smartphones was one of the technologies that introduced VR to the public. It allowed users to access VR apps on their phones from affordable headsets to get a taste of what the world of virtual reality is like. There was once a time when VR developers were sure that VR with a cell phone would become the new normal and that phones would spread VR to make it part of everyday life.
When virtual reality technology was first developed by companies like Google, the vision was that users could access their phone and all of its features in an immersive, on-the-go experience. The Google Cardboard headset and its follow-up, Daydream, were innovative at the time of release and introduced millions of people to VR experiences with affordable and novel hardware. Oculus also created a VR headset for cellphone use, the Gear VR, to be used with Samsung phones. Products like Cardboard in particular emphasized that anyone could set up a VR headset, and they didn’t have to wound their wallets to do it.
While it’s still possible to use a smartphone with virtual reality, it’s not as popular as people predicted this technology would be. Despite the accessibility of products like Cardboard and Gear VR, there were a lot of limitations to phone VR use. These products were only really intended for short-term use; this is especially obvious with a headset literally made out of cardboard.
The smartphone VR headsets did what they were meant to do; they gave consumers a taste for virtual reality. But these headsets aren’t as convenient as the developers originally dreamed they would be. For example, most people protect their smartphones with a sturdy case to prevent cracks during a fall, but since the smartphone has to be placed into a headset for use, the case has to be removed first. This isn’t a habit people are likely to get into for frequent VR phone use. Because these headsets didn’t attract as many long-term users as predicted and more advanced VR headset options have been released with way more capabilities than smartphone VR software, Google decided to discontinue their Daydream platform.
For some people, the idea of using VR apps on their smartphone still holds appeal, and there are a few headset options compatible with phones, including:
It’s also worth noting that the Oculus Quest 2 connects with a smartphone app that allows you to access some features of your phone in VR, though this isn’t the same as the functionality of the headsets listed above, which require you to set your phone inside the headset and view its screen to use VR.