The best smartphone headsets for VR apps

You needn't wait months for the likes of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Project Morpheus to arrive in order to get your VR on. All you need is a cheap-as-chips headset and that smartphone in your pocket.

Mobile VR apps and games are exploding in the App Store and Google Play at the moment and, with the Google Cardboard movement propelling the genre into mainstream consciousness, manufacturers are clambering over one another to rush basic smartphone VR headsets to market.

These headsets use your smartphone's hardware and display tech to provide the engine and visuals. They are essentially glorified lens cases, often with a few unique features thrown in.

Here's our pick of an ever expanding bunch...

Google Cardboard

The original and most cost efficient, Google unleashed its Cardboard VR platform at I/O 2014 and then, 12 months later, revealed the all-new Cardboard design at I/O 2015. It features a simple three-step assembly procedure, a better control button and support for bigger smartphones - up to 6-inches. Interestingly, Google also opened up the platform to iOS developers as well.

Cardboard is a low-cost, DIY virtual reality headset that anyone can build. The company gave it away to devs at the San Francisco conference, but there are plenty of third party alternatives from the likes of DodoCase. In fact, a quick search online reveals you can get one for as little as $5. Look for the Works with Cardboard badge.

Zeiss One

The Zeiss VR One will play ball with any iOS or Android handset between 4.7 and 5.2 inches. It packs a media player for the likes of pictures and YouTube videos and an AR app for augmented experiences. The open source Unity3D SDK means there's plenty of scope for development.

A new GX version will launch soon - with magnet controls and, with lens mater Zeiss doing the optics, there's plenty of promise.

Archos VR

Essentially Google Cardboard but not made of cardboard, Archos' headset is a sub-$25 device that was announced in October

The Archos VR Headset works with any smartphone with a screen sized 6-inches or less, and the French company claims it will work with iOS, Android and Windows Phone - although good luck finding any developers knocking up VR apps and demos for Microsoft's mobile platform.

Noon VR

Noon VR works with smartphones ranging from 4.7-inches up to 5.5-inches, boasts a 95 degree field of view and weighs 230g.

While its specs and build are nothing to write home about, NextCore Corporation, the company behind Noon VR, has partnered with Koom VR, a virtual reality video distribution service. This allows users to create their own VR content as well as download movies and experiences too.


Homido runs with the Archos idea of a plastic Cardboard experience but adds in a couple of extra vision features. Firstly, the 100 degree field of view is made clearer by an adjustable IPD - the distance between the two lenses, and it has pre-set parameters for standard, near-sighted and far-sighted peepers.

Again, it's smartphone OS agnostic and is suitable for devices up to 6 inches.

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