Google cardboard VR Headset

How to Make Your Smartphone VR Ready?

Virtual Reality

Did you know that can turn your regular smartphone into a VR set? If you have a fairly recent smartphone and know how to install apps on your smartphone, you can enter the world of Virtual Reality. Combine your smartphone with a headset and start surfing through 360-degree videos and/or shooting zombies popping up in front of you.

Does My Phone Support VR?

Before you go ahead and buy a VR kit, you should check if your smartphone supports it. Try one of the following:

  • YouTube: Open the app and visit YouTube’s best 360 videos. When a video starts playing, you should move the video angle with your finger, and the screen should follow. You’ll also see double screens and a VR icon at the bottom right side of the screen.
  • Google: Check if your phone has a so-called Gyroscope sensor or not on Google. The gyroscope in your smartphone gives the sense of motion and position.
  • Apps: Search and download any Virtual Reality app and install it. Open them, and you’ll see two screens – now move your smartphone to left/right and forward/back or any direction. If your phone’s screen is moving, your smartphone supports Virtual Reality.

4 step VR-Guide

1. Find a Compatible Kit

Google cardboard VR Headset

Your smartphone controls what kind of virtual reality kit you can use. Amazon has a growing number of kits, so look for one that matches your phone. Google Cardboard is one of the most accessible options at $5-15 and will work with nearly any device supporting Android and iPhone. If you want to splurge, the Samsung Gear VR will cost you about $55-100, but it’s a big step up in quality versus the cardboard. Google has also released a more high-end version for $80 called the Daydream View, made of soft, lightweight materials and should be very comfortable.

2. Attach your Phone to the Headset

Samsung VR
Samsung Gear VR

For most VR headsets, you slot your phone into the specified space to get started. If you’ve bought a more expensive kit, like the Gear VR, it’s really plug-and-play. If you instead got a Google Cardboard Kit, you’ll need some assembly skills. If you want to be really crafty, think IKEA, you can download instructions from Google and make your own. We encourage you to really make sure your phone is secured safely before putting the kit on to avoid a broken phone screen.

3. Let the Fun Begin

It’s time to install some virtual reality software on your phone! Google Cardboard users need to download the app for Android or iOS, while the Gear VR will automatically install the Oculus app when you connect your phone for the first time. When it comes to content, YouTube has built a strong library of 360-VR videos, which is worth checking out. One example is the night roller coaster below. Vrse and Fulldive VR are two dedicated content apps also worth looking into. Check out our list of free VR apps that are compatible with the Google Cardboard.

Finally, Trinus VR has an interesting take on mobile Virtual Reality. Trinus uses the display and sensors of your own phone to transform it into a portal to your PC games. You can basically stream your usual PC games to a cardboard-style headset and convert them into VR-ready experiences.

4. Controlling your Headset

FB Oculus Hand Controller
Facebook Oculus Hand Held Controller

The controls that come with your headset obviously depend on the manufacturer. Many basic headsets just have one single button, while the Gear VR adds a trackpad to the mix. A lot of the action is controlled using movements of your head in these smartphone-powered VR headsets. Physical buttons are mostly used to make selections. If you do splash out on an extra controller, like the one in the picture, make sure to double-check the compatibility with your headset and apps.

Best Phones for Virtual Reality

As we mentioned earlier, if you own a fairly recent smartphone you can make it VR-ready following our guide above. However, if you’re in process of shopping for a new mobile phone and VR is high up on your list of priorities, your next phone needs to have these two things:

  • A QHD or 4K display, since your phone is just inches from your eyes.
  • Quality mobile processor and GPU in order to have a smooth experience.

Recent Android phones tend to fit the bill, along with Samsung’s Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, and the S8 launching this spring. Samsung provides a lot of options like the Samsung Gear VR as well as Google Cardboard. Other phones to consider are HTC 10, LG G5, and Sony Xperia Z5 Premium.

The Virtual Reality experience is still young and with every iteration in the smartphone world, like screen resolution and motion sensing, it will continue to improve. And remember that you already have it in your pocket so have fun with it!