The Ultimate Guide to Smartphone Virtual Reality

The Ultimate Guide to Smartphone Virtual Reality Interested in VR, but not sure you can afford it? Think again. Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t just an emerging technologyit’s something you can experience today. Unfortunately, the high cost of once-required equipment like high-tech computers and headsets can be a roadblock for many potential users. But fear not! Today, most smartphones are capable of displaying the necessary 3D information, making VR technology accessible to more people than ever before. Combined with a Google Cardboard viewer, the smartphone transforms into a mobile, pocket-sized VR machine for less than $20. New Technology, Newer Tricks Using smartphone VR is like riding a bike. Once you learn the tricks, you’ll never forget them.  The process can be boiled down to three steps

  1. Get a Phone

Good News!  You’ve likely already made this decision. However, the fast processors and large screens of newer phones (i.e. those less than two years old) are generally a better fit. Today, the best smartphones for VR are the iPhone7, iPhone6/6s, Google Pixel (and XL), and Samsung Galaxy S7/Edge. With older phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6, Note 4, or Note 5, the performance begins to slow down. You’ll still be able to experience the complex models, but the low frame rate will become a distraction. You can check to see how your phone stacks up here.

  1. Select a Headset

There are plenty of smartphone VR headsets available, with costs range from $10 to $100. The easiest place to secure your headset is online, but Wal-Mart, Target, Five Below, Barnes & Noble, and other traditional stores carry them as well.  If the headset is Google Cardboard-compatible, it will work with the  vCAD app. We’ve provided a few of our favorites below:







Google Cardboard V2


Homido Mini


Hasbro Viewmaster V2


Merge VR
Cost: $15


Cost: $15


Cost: $30


Cost: $60
The tried and true headset that started it all. Note: The cardboard will degrade over time.  It’s a great place to start, but expect to upgrade if you get serious about smartphone VR.


This little guy is the only VR viewer on the list that will also fit into your pocket!  It has a surprising field of view and fits every phone.  There is no button, you just touch the screen to move.  If you demand portability, then this is the viewer for you.


Viewmaster was doing stereoscopic viewing before smartphones even existed.  It’s a durable plastic holder with high quality, adjustable lenses. Users that wear glasses may find a nice focal point that allows you to remove your lenses and still see clearly. This headset is held like binoculars.


This headset has it all: good lenses, lightweight, and it can be strapped to your head.  Additionally, it has the space to allow you to wear glasses inside the headset.

No matter which headset you pick. Make sure you pair it with your phone in order to change the phone’s stereoscopic view to match the lenses of the headset.  To do this, open the app, click the gear icon at the bottom of the screen, grant the app access to use your camera, and take a photo of the QR code that is on the headset.

  1. Experience the 3D Designs.

Now you’re ready to start viewing models in virtual reality! But first things first, before you put your phone into the headset or viewer, clean your screen. Fingerprints and dust particles are magnified in the headset. The next steps are straightforward:

  • To get started, simply click on the vCAD app and place the phone in the headset. Use your head to aim the pointer and then use the headset’s button to select  
  • After the model has loaded, use the same button to navigate by pressing and holding it down. You’ll move the direction you’re looking. That’s it!
  • If you want to change the speed or lighting, aim the headset toward the ground and click on the gear Icon.
  • If you want to select a different model, then click the home button.
  • Once you’ve explored the demos, register free account then enter the VR gallery where hundreds of models are waiting for you to explore.


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