There was a point in time when virtual reality or VR in mobile phones was looking to become the next big thing in mobile technology.
However, at this point, we hardly even hear about virtual reality headsets being used for mobile phones as they are now synonymous with PC and console gaming.
Even Google has effectively discontinued its mobile VR market due to how it hasn’t seen the kind of traction it was expected to have.
So, if that is the case, are phone VR headsets worth it?
The Verdict: No, phone VR headsets are not worth it- even though they may be a fun experience at first.
Over time, the novelty of mobile phone VR headsets will be overshadowed by battery drainage issues, difficult setup procedures, and the inability to use your phone normally while you are in VR.
It might sound like phone VR headsets are great for the experience, but really that’s where the good times end.
It’s undoubtedly fun to experience using smartphone VR if you haven’t done so before, but you will soon notice that the novelty dies out rather quickly.
This is because phone VR really isn’t true virtual reality, and also because how mobile devices tend to be limited in what they can do as far as VR tech is concerned.
As such, it might be best for you to skip out on phone VR headsets entirely, which is actually what the big-name companies have been doing of late.
What Can You Do With A Phone VR Headset?
As technology improves, there are those who believe that true virtual reality is inching closer and closer to becoming an actual reality in today’s consumer world.
We have seen VR in action in different movies and shows, but we have never really experienced actual VR in real life.
There are standalone VR headsets- such as the Oculus Quest 2 or HTC Vive Pro 2– that have done well enough in providing a good VR experience, but even they still pale in comparison to the true VR that we have seen in movies and shows.
So, while our tech is still improving, there was a point in time when it was becoming apparent that virtual reality was the next point in the entertainment aspect of the smartphone’s life.
It was during the earlier half of the 2010s when several companies such as Google and Samsung began releasing versions of VR headsets that were compatible with their phones.
This made all of us think that VR tech in mobile phones was only going to keep improving- soon to become the next big thing in mobile technology.
And, it was easy to think that way because there were some interesting experiences that phone VR headsets were able to provide to us as consumers.
But what exactly can you do with a phone VR headset?
When it comes to the capabilities of a phone VR headset, it largely depended on the capability of the hardware itself.
What that means is that what you can do with a VR headset depends entirely on what the VR headset itself is capable of.
There were certain VR headsets that allowed you to download apps that worked in conjunction with the hardware and software of the entire system.
For example, Within VR is an app that allows users to explore an extensive roster of different content that were specifically designed for mobile virtual reality on either Apple or Android phones.
It has different videos such as animal documentaries, news stories, and comedy bits that simultaneously provide users with a more immersive experience while watching these videos.
YouTube also offers VR videos that allow you to have a 360-degree experience while you are watching these videos using the Google Cardboard app or a headset such as the Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR.
Again, the key point of this experience is the immersive feeling that you have such that the experience itself makes you feel like you are there experiencing firsthand what is happening.
There are also apps that essentially allow you to explore different sceneries in a more immersive way.
Some of these apps allow you to explore space, while others use a simpler route by taking you on an experience akin to touring a museum.
Of course, there are also VR games that allow you to have a more enveloping experience by putting you in the spot of the protagonist itself.
Horror games put you right in the middle of the horrifying experience.
Meanwhile, certain action games essentially turn you into the hero of the story as you take the role of the protagonist, all while experiencing the events of the story through the first-person point of view.
So, basically, there are plenty of things that you can do with VR headsets for mobile phones.
And the fact that they were mobile made them pretty good options for certain people. The Google Cardboard, for one, was not only light enough to carry around but also so inexpensive to the point that basically anyone could afford it!
But, Are Phone VR Headsets Worth It?
As you can see, phone VR headsets do offer a good experience for you when you want a more immersive experience in terms of entertainment.
After all, you can watch movies and videos as if you are actually there in the middle of the action. That’s pretty cool!
Even the cheaper Google Cardboard VR headsets were able to offer a pretty good immersive experience as well.
However, the one thing you might be wondering right now is whether or not it is worth the money and the time and effort to try to invest in a mobile phone VR headset.
Simply put, are phone VR headsets worth it?
There was a point in time when we could say that phone VR headsets were actually worth it.
That was the time around five or ten years ago when these devices were still novelties that would have made you stand out as far as the entertainment experience is concerned.
There is also the fact that the consensus five or so years ago was that the VR headset technology for smartphones was only going to improve.
However, things didn’t really turn out that way.
Mobile phone VR headsets didn’t exactly become commonplace in the mobile industry as the lack of support and paltry improvements in tech made a large portion of the population lose interest in it.
In that sense, what we can say for sure is that phone VR headsets are no longer worth it at this point.
Of course, there were also plenty of issues that plagued mobile phone VR headsets throughout the glory days of the technology.
For starters, people were already complaining about the poor battery life that smartphones had.
You could barely go through half a day on a smartphone’s battery while playing games and using it for social media and other purposes.
Just imagine how much a VR headset would drain a smartphone’s already mediocre battery life!
Another issue is that setting up a mobile VR headset was more of a pain for a lot of people who didn’t have time to waste.
It was never always as easy as simply putting the phone in the VR headset and then running the app. There were setup issues that you still needed to bear just so you could experience mobile VR.
Then there is also the fact that mobile phones- by definition- are supposed to be always ready when you need to use them.
The very identity of a smartphone rests on how you can basically take it out from your pocket and then use it in case you need to check something on the internet or make an emergency call.
However, the fact that you cannot use the phone normally while it is hooked up with a VR headset wholly defeats the convenience of being able to use the smartphone anytime.
That means that the phone VR headset could only be used if you knew for certain ahead of time that you wouldn’t be using your phone for any other purpose.
Some people needed to have two phones just so they could still make use of a smartphone’s normal functions while the other phone is hooked up with the VR headset. Talk about redundant!
Of course, speeding along the inevitable death of phone VR headsets was also the emergence of standalone VR headsets that worked in conjunction with computers and video game consoles.
While these VR headsets are much more expensive than their mobile counterparts, there is no denying the fact that the experience they offer is much more in line with what VR is supposed to be.
This is perhaps due to the fact that you could make use of motion controllers that gave a more true-to-intention virtual reality experience.
Mobile VR headsets soon had to compete with the Oculus Quest and the PlayStation VR in terms of capabilities.
So, by spending a premium on these standalone VR headsets, consumers could enjoy an experience that was far beyond what mobile VR headsets could offer.
(Not to mention that these headsets are well-supported by developers and come with the performance that a simple smartphone just cannot hope to match!)
With all these different reasons, it is needless to say that you shouldn’t bother looking for a VR headset for your mobile phone for now (and probably in the future, too.)
In fact, the major companies that once thought that VR was going to be commonplace in the smartphone industry have actually given up on it.
Both Google and Samsung have pulled the plug on their VR support as this technology in the smartphone industry is all but over.
However, this doesn’t mean that we are discouraging you from trying out mobile phone VR for yourself.
It is plagued with a lot of issues and problems, but it can still be a good experience due to its novelty.
You shouldn’t expect yourself to be completely wowed with what phone VR headsets can do, but it still can be a good experience to have- especially if you managed to find a cheap yet good-quality phone VR headset.
So, if you are looking for the more expensive VR headsets for your phone, you might want to seriously rethink that plan of action just because of how it really just isn’t worth the money.
However, something as cheap as the Google Cardboard should still give you a pretty good immersive experience without hurting your budget just because of how dirt-cheap it is.
Can I Use My Phone As A VR Headset?
As already mentioned above, one of the many reasons why the mobile phone VR headset industry is all but dead is the rise of the standalone VR headset that you can use for your PC or gaming console.
But while the phone VR industry is dead, what you should know is that you can actually use your phone itself as a “VR headset”.
It does sound odd to think that a mobile phone can be a VR headset, but it is possible to use it as a substitute as long as you have the right app for your phone.
Of course, this is one of the solutions you can use in case you don’t have a standalone VR headset. Let’s face the facts that not everyone can afford the headsets that Oculus or PlayStation puts on the marketplace.
As such, while using your phone as a substitute for those headsets isn’t the ideal solution, it can be the best one if you don’t have the budget for a standalone VR headset.
To get started, what you need to do is to download VRidge by Riftcat– which will essentially allow your smartphone to mirror the screen of your PC while you are playing games.
While that isn’t actual VR in itself, what you can then do is to hook your phone up with a cheap mobile VR headset like the Google Cardboard so that you can mimic the actual experience of a standalone VR headset without having to pay a premium price.
While you get to avoid paying for the actual standalone VR headset using this method, take note that VRidge isn’t exactly free if you want the full experience.
It comes with a free version that has a 10-minute cap per session. If you are a gamer, you would know that 10 minutes won’t do you any good unless you’re just passing the time waiting for the next bus.
The good news is that the paid version doesn’t have a time limit and doesn’t cost a lot of money.
Buying the paid version will only cost you around 14.99 EUR or around 17.40 USD. Paired with a Google Cardboard that costs somewhere between 5 to 30 USD, you aren’t really going to spend more than fifty dollars for a DIY virtual reality experience.
Whichever way you approach it, that’s a pretty good price to pay compared to the hundreds of dollars you would have to spend for a standalone VR headset.
Keep in mind that it’ll be a far cry from the actual experience you would get from using a real standalone VR headset, but it will at minimum do a passable job of simulating a virtual environment.
At the very least, it can be a good temporary solution to use while you save up for that Oculus headset!