If you want to sample virtual reality without spending loads of cash, a VR headset built for smartphones is the best option. They’re affordable, equipped with a slot to cradle your phone, and support many VR apps and games. Our current pick for the best VR headset for the iPhone is the family-friendly Merge VR, We also list five additional options that may be a better starting point for your mobile VR journey.
Before you embark, be sure to pay attention to device compatibility. Some models only support specific iPhone sizes, while others may require a sensor not included in your phone. To determine if a specific headset supports your device, try VR Test Ninja.
Finally, many headsets listed below rely on Google Cardboard-based apps, ditching proprietary VR-specific app shops. The good news here is that you won’t spend gobs of money to feed your VR appetite.
Best VR headsets for the iPhone
Merge VR is our top choice for iPhone-based VR experiences. It’s easy to use and offers clever features that support many different VR experiences, especially for families and kids.
The materials consist of a flexible-but-durable foam substance that is both lightweight and resistant to bumps and drops. This friendly design approach influences the Merge’s compatibility, with a generous phone slot that holds most iOS and Android smartphones.
You can adjust the lens-eye distance by sliding two spring-based buttons mounted on top. These same two buttons replace hand controls so you can interact with the experience by pressing down on these buttons. This allows you to hold the headset like binoculars and enjoy dual-controller experiences that so many phone apps require.
Curious about compatible apps? There’s no app-based store. Instead, Merge provides a dedicated website, Merge Miniverse, that lists all compatible apps made available on Apple’s App Store. Categories include classroom-friendly education apps, short games, YouTube 360 videos, and other options. Most are free or only a couple of bucks, so your risks are fairly low-cost. Miniverse is a strong system that becomes even more involved when you sign up for the newsletter.
This headset is essentially a step up from the original Google Cardboard design. It sports a white plastic shell complemented by a semi-transparent lid so you can still use the phone’s camera. You’ll find small holes to connect headphones or a power cable while the headset cradles your phone. Additional holes provide proper ventilation, so your phone doesn’t overheat.
This model doesn’t ship with a separate controller. Instead, it borrows from Google’s Cardboard design to implement a magnetic button. That means your overall experience relies on Cardboard-compatible apps — including 360-degree videos on YouTube — available on the App Store. Your phone needs a magnetometer to support this feature along with a gyroscope and accelerometer for full mobile VR support.
This headset features a 105-degree field-of-view and the ability to adjust each lens in four directions. It supports phones between 4.5 and 6.5 inches, ranging from the iPhone 6 models to the iPhone X. The headset is available in a variety of colors, and some even come with a couple of free decal stickers you can apply.
Bnext’s headset offers a comfortable foam face brace that makes it one of the easiest headsets for kids or adults to wear and adjust as needed. It supports screen resolutions from HD to 4k, including 3D. The headset also lets you quickly adjust focal distance and object distance to help find the right setting that lets you enjoy videos without getting nauseous or confused. It’s known as one of the better iPhone headsets for all types of VR experiences, including 360-degree turns and 180-degree turns for exploration and gaming.
One other thing to carefully note: This headset only supports screen sizes up to 6.3 inches, which is a bit smaller than the largest iPhone models available today. Make sure that your iPhone is small enough to fit in the headset before you buy!
Moving up to a more premium offering, the fifth version of Destek’s VR headset for mobile includes a Joy-Con-like one-handed Bluetooth controller. It ups the field of view from the previous model’s 103 degrees to a wider 110 degrees. It also increases the supported phone size along with a wider pupillary distance. You can now remove the spongy face mask for cleaning too.
Desktek boasts that the lenses have anti-blue light and anti-reflective coatings. They’re also aspheric, meaning they have a non-spherical surface to minimize distortion. Complementing these lenses is a pupil distance button so you can tune the headset to match your eyes. Even more, this headset supports most glasses.
The device includes an adjustable head strap to hold it in place, a plastic chassis, and a cradle for your phone. You’ll find slots on each side supporting headphones and to dissipate heat. It weighs a mere 11.3 ounces and supports 5.5 to 6.5-inch phones. It doesn’t offer a proprietary apps store but instead relies on experiences available on the App Store. Simply scan the QR on the lip to customize the experience.
Several things make this excellent headset stand out. First, it has a 120-degree field of view, which is a bit larger than many of our picks. Second, it comes with built-in headphones for easier sound immersion. There’s also a blue-light filter on both lenses to help cut down on the blue light range produced by iPhones, which eases eye strain and can prevent other problems.
This headset can also accommodate particularly large phones, up to a 6.5-inch screen size and 6.3-inch length, which should be enough to handle even the larger iPhones. For the money, it’s a great model for buyers who want the most immersive experience.
The straightforward and compact nature of the Pansonite headset lends it durability while making adjustment options easy to understand — and the latest model has reduced both weight and pressure to make the fit feel better.
The headset also offers ventilation holes to help keep cool, and lightweight, HD resin aspheric lens. If things still start getting too hot, you can also detach the front and let the phone breathe while it plays VR apps. You can also adjust both the pupil distance and the focal distance to find your own sweet spot. Unfortunately, this model does not support wearing glasses while using.