If you want to try out virtual reality without spending a lot of money these days, then you need to find a VR headset that works with your smartphone. They’re affordable, equipped with a slot to fit your phone, and support a bunch of VR apps and games. This is pretty easy for people who own, say, a Samsung phone, since Samsung makes its own Gear VR headset. However, it’s a little harder for iPhone owners to find VR headsets that work with their smartphones. That’s why we’ve found the best VR headset for the iPhone and several runners-up for you to consider.
Note: Always pay attention to compatibility. Some models may be compatible with certain iPhone sizes, but not others, depending on the way that the phone is locked in.
Top Pick: Merge VR ($48)
Merge VR is our top choice for iPhone VR experiences because it’s incredibly easy to use and has clever features that can support a number of different VR experiences, especially for families and kids. Let’s start with the materials, which are actually made from a flexible-but-durable foam substance that is both lightweight and resistant to bumps and drops. There are a number of bright colors that you or your kids can pick from, too. This friendly design approach also influences the Merge’s compatibility, with a generous phone slot that can hold pretty much any iOS or Android smartphone that you may have (when in doubt try out VR Test Ninja).
When it comes to operation, you can adjust the lens-eye distance to make sure it’s comfortable for anyone using Merge. Instead of relying on hand controls, Merge uses two spring-based input buttons on the top of the goggles: This allows you to hold the goggles like binoculars and gives you an easy way to use the dual controllers that so many phone apps require.
Curious about compatible apps? There is a whole website for that called the Merge Miniverse, and we suggest you take a look. Most apps are free or only a couple of bucks, so taking a risk on a new app is fairly low cost, and you can see the ratings that others have given older apps to decide if they’re worth it or not. It’s a strong system that gets even more involved when you sign up for the Miniverse email newsletter to keep up with newer apps.
On the downside, this model isn’t really meant for young children, and is suggested for kids 10 and up, so some parents may want to consider a cheaper option for their youngsters.
View-Master Deluxe VR ($12)
The View-Master Deluxe is a cheaper option if you don’t feel like investing $50-plus into your VR headset. It includes a few useful features that make it particularly adaptable for a wide range of users, such as a large family or a small schoolroom. There is a wheel that allows you to switch between different levels of focus. The design also includes wider lens options and an adapter for older iPhone 5 models. The headset works with Google Cardboard and also has its own set of free View-Master apps to try out. However, the side button controls are a little awkward to use and may take some getting used to.
I Am Cardboard VR V2 ($8)
There are several Google Cardboard creations running around the VR market, but we’re partial to V2 of I Am Cardboard. It’s a bit sturdier than other cardboard headset creations out there, and it won’t set you back much at all, which is deal if you don’t want to spend much on a headset — or want to give your kids a trial headset to see how it goes before investing in something better. The headset features an upgrade button that used to be a magnetic switch, but is now a softer foam button, as well as Velcro strips to help hold the headset together and … that’s about it. It’s a simple concept for newbies that does exactly what it sets out to. However, keep in mind it was only designed to work with the Google Cardboard SDK, so your app choice will be limited.
BlitzWolf VR Headset ($24)
The BlitzWolf headset has two things going for it: First, it’s a particularly sturdy, fitted headset for the price, which is nice if you’ve had trouble with VR headsets staying on in the past. Second, it’s designed to accommodate particularly large phones, with displays up to 6 inches, which means you should be able to use a wider range of iPhones, including the Plus models. It also comes with both adjustable pupil and focus features. For apps, you can use any source of compatible VR apps from iTunes. There is one potential issue: The durable design can make this headset too heavy for younger kids.
Zeiss VR One Plus ($52)
The Zeiss is more of a niche product that is particularly notable for its “eye box.” This space essentially allows people to see the smartphone screen without adjusting for pupil distance, etc. It also allows anyone with glasses to easily use the headset, making it one of the most accessible models on our list. Ventilation ports on the side are supposed to keep both screens and glasses from fogging up. Google Cardboard apps work here, so finding compatible experiences shouldn’t be a problem — just make sure they work for iOS. On the negative side, the Zeiss can only fit smartphones with display sizes between 4.7 and 5.5 inches, so anything larger, like the iPhone X, won’t work here.
Homido V2 VR ($60)
The Homido is an all-purpose VR headset that does everything pretty well, albeit without much flare. This model comes with adjustable pupil and object distance to help everyone focus on the screen, and spongy eye rests for extra comfort, which you can take out and wash as needed. There’s also a T-shaped strap for your head, making it a bit more durable than some of the other headsets on our list. If you can’t decide what to get and like the look of this Homido headset, it’s worth considering, as is the Homido mini-glasses model. On the downside, you have to get your apps through the Homido Center store, which could limit your choices.