Cell phone headsets are great for seated experiences and are a lot cheaper than full tracking interactable virtual reality experiences. Choosing the right cell phone headset means making an investment into comfort, compatibility and design quality.
The best cell phone headset I’ve ever used is the Samsung Gear VR headset. It’s got the best overall quality and features for it’s mid-range price. It’s designed for comfort and fits quite well on any head size with it’s velcro fitting straps. It’s great for presentations because it’s lightweight, unintimidating and you can get the foam replaced every now and then if necessary. The Samsung Gear VR is compatible with most Samsung Android devices, beginning from the S6 and later releases.
We recommend the Samsung Gear VR for our tutorials and courses because we develop virtual and augmented reality applications for mainly Android platforms. Developing for Apple / Mac is good too, but slightly more tricky to test in beta versions of your apps.
What To Look For in VR Cell Phone Headsets
Nothing is worse than a headset that doesn’t allow the user to move and look around the virtual environment in a natural way because it’s on the verge of falling off or slipping out of perspective. When choosing a mobile headset, comfort is especially important. This is because developers generally use mobile headsets for quick presentations or first-time virtual reality users.
You can tell if a headset is comfortable by evaluating the type of foam or cotton it has (if it has any) and how many other hardware mechanisms it has that allows the user to adjust how tight and how high the headset will fit on their face. The design for Samsung Gear VR is great because it uses velcro – so when I’m presenting to an audience or at an exhibition, it’s an easy ‘strap-on-strap-off’ situation, and I don’t need to help anyone fasten their headset with any complicated strapping systems.
The goal is for your headset to be lightweight. In fact, the majority of the weight coming from the headset should be from the actual smartphone you insert. If a headset is too heavy, it becomes a burden to carry around and travel with. Really heavy headsets are also at a higher risk of dropping or falling out of a user’s hand, which might cause potential damage.
The year of 2020 has brought upon the world a whole new set of rules regarding what is considered hygienic and what is not. Because of the spreading of viruses, few people will be willing to share headsets with strangers. This is why we recommend that you invest in a mobile headset that can have it’s foam replaced and it’s surface well sanitized. You can purchase waterproof, Samsung Gear VR foam to help you present at exhibitions without having any sanitary code breaches.
Here at WeDesignVirtual, we encourage first time virtual reality developers to develop for Android platforms, which makes the Samsung Gear VR perfect for our community. The Samsung Gear VR is compatible with most modern Android devices. Including:
- Galaxy S6,
- Galaxy S6 Edge,
- Galaxy S6 Edge+,
- Samsung Galaxy Note 5,
- Galaxy S7,
- Galaxy S7 Edge,
- Galaxy S8, (which is what we use to test our applications)
- Galaxy S8+,
- Samsung Galaxy Note Fan Edition,
- Samsung Galaxy Note 8,
- Samsung Galaxy A8/A8+ (2018) and
- Samsung Galaxy S9/Galaxy S9+
The Samsung Gear VR is not compatible with:
- Galaxy Note10,
- Note10 5G, and the
- Note10+ 5G
Positional Tracking vs Rotational Tracking
Most cell phone ad standalone headsets only have rotational tracking. Rotational tracking means that in a standing or sitting position, the headset will track your head if you look side to side or up and down. But it will not track if you change the position of your headset. This is also known as 3DoF tracking, which does not include additional tracking of controllers.
Positional tracking, on the other hand, will allow you to move around, step left, right or backwards – as suggested. Cell Phone headsets do not have positional tracking. This means that the user has really limited interaction with the environment. This makes cell phone headsets really good for seated VR experiences, like VR movies. But this makes cell phone headsets really limiting for interactive environments, where the true capability of VR can be showcased.
Are Cell Phone VR Headsets Worth It?
Yes, smartphone headset VR is a limited experience, but sometimes limited experiences are what you’re after. Cell phone VR headsets are worth it if you’re making a VR experience in which you do not need the user to interact, but rather to just sit back and watch. This type of experience might include virtual reality movies, films, trailers or advertisements.
I used this type of virtual reality a lot for architectural presentations – which consisted of only a 360 video or render – and had way more success with these types of presentations when it came to presenting to an older, less tech-able audience.
Seated experiences are great because they are a lot less intimidating – and can introduce someone to what a virtual reality experience without giving them ‘things’ to do.