Is Samsung VR compatible with iPhone? The short answer is no. The slightly longer answer is sort of, but not really. The main reason for this comes down to the functionality of the headset.
What’s in a headset?
The journey into VR headset technology has been more of a stumble than a rush, and initially Apple lead the expedition with the “this is a joke, right?” simplicity of the Google Cardboard. Who knew the future would be pulp-based?
But with a whole industry now springing up around smartphone VR headsets, it’s clear that Samsung’s Gear VR is leading the pack.
The basic principle of smartphone VR headsets is that they tap into your smartphone’s in-the-box technology to create an immersive 3D experience.
Users download an app, in this case the Oculus app, which effectively turns your device into a split screen designed to be viewed through lenses imbedded in a wearable headset.
Your phone’s accelerometer then enables you to look around a 360-degree 3D environment. As you tilt your head left and right, up and down, you are effectively scrolling through a 3D environment. Pretty simple, pretty neat.
What these headsets do is effectively create an optical illusion exploiting the way your eyes perceive separate visual inputs though each eyeball to create a sense of depth and immersiveness. It’s the tech of the future using the tech of the present.
Navigating the VR environment
All that’s left now is a way to access your phone’s navigation buttons; chiefly, the home button which is used to select menu options without removing the headset.
Now, the iPhone features a magnetic sensor that can be activated using magnets remotely. Headsets like the Google Cardboard and Mattel View Master VR feature a simple switch which moves a magnet in front your iPhone’s sensor, thus activating it.
Crucially, this magnetic switch is not available on the Gear VR headset. Although an iPhone 6 or 7 will fit in to the VR’s casing, and the lenses work just as well with your screen, you are unable to use any menu features whilst wearing the headset.
This is not to say that you can’t use the Gear VR with your iPhone, but you will only get limited functionality that could be a quite frustrating user experience.
So, what are my options?
Although it’s true that the Samsung VR is the best designed and most comfortable headset on the market -featuring ergonomic foam padding, a sleek look, and an intuitively designed trackpad, Home key and Undo key on the side- you’d be much better opting for a headset that features a magnetic switch. The best thing to do here is to look for a headset with the “works with Cardboard” badge.
But if the inexorable call of the beauty that is the Samsung Gear VR is proving too much to resist, your better option might be to jump ship for a Samsung phone. Just sayin’. If going for this option, bear in mind that the Gear VR is not compatible with the Galaxy Note 7. Who said the future would be straightforward?