The great VR headset revolution is well and truly underway and just because you own an iPhone rather than an Android smartphone doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in the virtual reality action in 2017.
An Apple VR headset doesn’t exist (yet), so Google Cardboard has stolen a lot of the limelight when it comes to iPhone virtual reality. But there are a new breed of super-cheap headsets, apart from the Google Daydream View, that are iPhone compatible. They even support most handsets from the old iPhone 5s to the more recent iPhone 7.
While mobile VR headsets obviously have nothing on the likes of the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift or PlayStation VR, Cardboard-style sets have the chance to encourage large numbers of potential users to get on board with virtual reality. Apps-wise, you can access Cardboard apps, YouTube 360, Facebook’s 360 videos and more. So what better place to start than with one of these iPhone-friendly headsets?
A quick and low cost entry into virtual reality doesn’t come much cheaper than an iPhone-compatible Cardboard kit. You can get an unofficial Cardboard headset for under $10 on Amazon, and with some of them you can get a strap and NFC so it powers up the app on command.
There’s also the official Cardboard from Google, which is compact and foldable. It’s not as fiddly to make as the unofficial ones, but it’s still going to fall apart if you don’t look after it because, well, it’s cardboard. However, there’s no easier, or more affordable, way to jump into VR.
$15, store.google.com | Amazon
Merge VR Goggles
While most of these headsets are made out of hard plastic, the Merge VR Goggles opt for a soft, squishy foam. It helps make the headset light and comfortable. Plus, it’s got a customizable strap that fits anyone from 10 upwards. There are adjustable lenses with two buttons to interact with your VR content, and there’s even a pop-out window in the front if you want to use it for AR purposes.
We found the lenses on the Merge to be surprisingly clear, and the device itself fits both regular and Plus iPhone models. However, the Plus model can be a little snug getting in and out.
$59.99, mergevr.com | Amazon
Carl Zeiss VR One Plus
Most mobile VR headsets are simply a plastic case and a couple of lenses – hence the logic behind the super cheap Cardboard style devices. So Carl Zeiss’ experience in making lenses puts it high on our list.
The VR One Plus, which will fit iPhones up to 5.5-inches, lets you experience apps and video with a 100-degree field of view, and those picking up the Magnet Controller accessory can also control the action when strapped in.
$99, zeiss.com | Amazon
The latest version of BlitzWolf’s VR headset marries comfort and function. It’s about what you expect from a VR headset for iPhone, fitting both regular and Plus variants. You can adjust pupil distance in case your eyes are close together or far apart.
But that’s not all. BlitzWolf’s headset also understand that sometimes your eyes aren’t the same, so it includes individual pupil distance, too. So you can adjust how far or close the lens is to your individual eyes and cater up to 300 degrees of nearsightedness. That, coupled with soft leather padding and upgraded lenses makes the BlitzWolf a worth choice.
$29.99, blitzwolf.com | Amazon
View-Master DLX VR
Mattel’s second View-Master mobile VR headset was the first to actually be sold in Apple stores but has since disappeared. You can still pick it up from other places, although it’s getting more difficult to do so in the UK. The DLX VR has a redesigned smartphone mount to work with more sizes of iPhone, as well as Android, headphone support and upgraded lenses from the first attempt.
The best bit? There are now a couple designs, like the iconic View-Master design with a modern twist and Ninja Turtle and Batman skins with bundled-in experiences.
$28.99, view-master.com | Amazon
Xiaomi Mi VR Play
The Mi VR Play is super cheap and if you can spend more, we suggest you do. But if you’re really on a budget and you just want to see what all the fuss about, you could also do worse.
The Mi VR Play comes in a bunch of jazzy styles and your iPhone just slots into the front zipped section – there’s no faffing with connections. It works with any phone from 4.7-inch to 5.7-inch. Xiaomi also has the more comfortable Mi VR Play 2 in China, but it hasn’t yet expanded beyond that country and there’s no word if it ever will.
$15, mi.com | Amazon
Homido Virtual Reality Headset V2
Upping the tech stakes, the second generation Homido VR headset still offers a 100-degree field of view, compatibility with the newest iPhones all the way back to the 5S, all wrapped up in a slimmer design. It’s also suitable for glasses wearers with space for specs inside the faux leather, interchangeable seal.
If headsets aren’t really your thing then Homido also makes a pair of VR glasses, although the effect will be far less pronounced than an HMD. Then there’s the portable Homido Grab, which works with Cardboard and has a 100-degree field of view. It’s also got a series of new accessories (not included), including a 360-degree camera and Bluetooth controllers to cater for your immersive shooting and gaming needs.
$59.99, homido.com | Amazon
Xiaozhai BoboVR Z4
If you need a headset for your iPhone but also want to package in some in-built speakers, BoboVR has your back.
If you want to take advantage of one of the cheaper options on this list and its impressive 120-degree field of view, though, you’ll need to make sure your iPhone is between four and six inches.
And since the speakers will only sync up with traditional headphone ports and not Lightning, those with an iPhone 7 will have to explore the BoboVR Z4 Mini, which is the essentially the headset without speakers.
If your device does fit the bill, you’ll also be able to make use of the focus controls and adjustable strap to help tailor the headset for your trip to the virtual realm.
$36.99, bobovr.com | Amazon