The best virtual reality apps for iPhone, compatible with Google Cardboard

in iPhone edited September 2015
Before virtual reality headsets become mass-market products, iPhone owners can sample the futuristic technology in a cheap and easy way, thanks to Google Cardboard. AppleInsider offers a rundown of the best VR experiences available to download right now on the App Store.

tl;dr: Buy a Google Cardboard v2 unit and download Vrse on the App Store.

Before you get started

Google Cardboard is compatible with Apple's iPhone lineup, but is best used with the larger screens of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. For the jumbo-sized iPhone 6 Plus, you'll need to own a version 2 of Google Cardboard, which is not as widely available as the original model.

Your best bet is the I Am Cardboard Kit, available from Amazon for $24.99. It's the most widely known brand based on Google Cardboard, and it has version 2 models available in stock with Prime shipping at Amazon.

For a slightly more affordable option, there's the Virtual Reality Viewer V2, also based on Google Cardboard version 2. Unlike I Am Cardboard, this comes with adhesive foam to make the unit more comfortable, as well as a head strap to hold the assembly on your head.

It should be noted that Google Cardboard is not intended to be used with a head strap, because the combination of inadequate screen resolution for VR as well as lag can cause dizziness and nausea. Google recommends that users use Cardboard by simply holding the unit up to their head with one hand.

Google Cardboard version 2 models come with a dedicated button that taps the screen on your iPhone. Apps that take advantage of this can have simple input methods.

For the more crafty among you, instructions to build your own Google Cardboard accessory are available for free from the search giant. There's also an official Google Cardboard app for iOS that will get you started with some basic demos.

Finally, we will again note that while this simple VR kit can be a lot of fun, it will also probably make you nauseous. You've been warned.

The best overall experience: Vrse

Google Cardboard is meant to allow developers and users sample virtual reality in an affordable way, so most of the first apps aren't quite as polished as a top-tier App Store download.

The exception, however, is Vrse.

This free download features a handful of videos within it that users can download and watch on their iPhone with a VR headset. The videos are interesting, funny, and even stunning.

In one 360-degree film from The New York Times, users can watch as an artist paints a massive image in front of New York City's Flatiron Building. Then take to the skies --?hanging off the edge of a helicopter --?and look down at his creation from astonishing heights.

There's also a 360-degree recording of Jerry Seinfeld's monologue from Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary special. As the comedian talks, you can see celebrity audience members who are part of the opening bit, sitting and waiting for their turn in the scene.

Vrse also spotlights the limitations of Google Cardboard paired with an iPhone --?the screen resolution is too low, and the responsiveness isn't quite enough.

But if you want to be wowed by VR on your iPhone, this is the place to start.

Scare yourself with the quick experiences of Insidious VR and Sisters

These non-interactive demos seat you in creepy rooms where things get very dark, very quickly. Both experiences are best had with headphones.

In Insidious VR, you're in a room with a woman who's talking directly at you before the haunted house-style surprises begin.

Another creepy title is Sisters: A Virtual Reality Ghost Story, a similar experience where creepy imagery combined with jump scares makes for an entertaining experience.

Both of these apps are essentially quick tech demos, but the price is right at free. Definitely worth a download and a try.

Get in the cockpit of a "Pacific Rim" jaeger with Legendary VR

More of a sign of things to come in VR than anything else, the free Legendary Pictures VR app is highlighted by a scene ripped straight from the blockbuster Guillermo Del Toro film "Pacific Rim."

A virtual reality game based on the movie is currently in the works. Until then, you can tide yourself over with this non-interactive cinematic experience, featuring an attack on a jaeger robot from a giant kaiju monster.

The app also features experiences from the upcoming films "Crimson Peak" and "Warcraft."

Entertain your kids with DinoTrek VR Experience

In DinoTrek VR Experience, you can look around you in 360 degrees and see dinosaurs roaming the earth. The graphics of running reptiles are decent enough for a free app that shows some of the possibilities enabled with virtual reality in virtual worlds.

In your trip to the age of dinosaurs, you'll see different species doing a variety of activities, from simply grazing to fighting and chasing one another. The opening scene tags along with smaller dinosaurs fleeing a chasing tyrannosaurus rex.

Kill zombies, blow up tanks, save a brain and more

If you're looking for a little more interaction with your Google Cardboard setup, try out Zombie Shooter VR. It's an on-rails shooter where you simply look at your enemies and the game will automatically shoot at them.

The gameplay is similar, but the setting is very different, in the $1.99 title VR Tank Training. Here again, it's a controller-free interface, where you simply need to look to shoot.

Another on-rails automated shooter with some style is InMind VR. In this free title, you're microscopic and helping to repair a brain with neurons causing mental disorder.

Finally, if you have an iOS gaming controller, download the free "apocalyptic action game" OccupationVR. The open-world title is basic, but it gives an idea of how the combination of a VR helmet and a physical controller could lead to more immersive titles with physical input.

Bring your own 3D movies with these apps

Finally, if you want to watch your own 3D or virtual reality style movies, there are a pair of apps you can try.

Mobile VR Station will take standard moves and display them on a screen, or allow you to watch more immersive titles 3D titles with a larger field of view.

There's also the Homido 360 VR Player app, which offers similar capabilities. Both are free downloads.

Zeiss also makes a virtual cinema app called VR ONE Cinema that will take any video from your Camera Roll or your Videos app, and project it onto a virtual movie theater screen. This basic 3D demo features stadium seating and virtual moviegoers, giving you a sense of actually going to the movies for a matinee.


  • Reply 1 of 23
    "Finally, we will again note that while this simple VR kit can be a lot of fun, it will also probably make you nauseous. You've been warned."

    A lot of things about Google make me nauseous!
  • Reply 2 of 23
    xixoxixo Posts: 414member
    VR: because people dont already have their noses stuck in their phones all the time ...

    I hear this is making a comeback:
  • Reply 3 of 23
    I really want one of these but I don't think the ppi on my Note 3 will offer the best quality.
  • Reply 4 of 23
    inklinginkling Posts: 731member
    $25 for what's little more than a cardboard box? No thanks!
  • Reply 5 of 23
    Great article. Thanks.
  • Reply 6 of 23
    It's no doubt in the early stages, but it all looks pretty cheap and tacky.

    Will pass. Thanks.
  • Reply 7 of 23
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 2,961member
    Major filmmakers and studios are reportedly getting heavily involved in VR. This is likely the entertainment of the future.
  • Reply 8 of 23
    vl-tonevl-tone Posts: 337member

    This is a great "toy", but I hate how some people seem to think it's more or less the same as a full VR headset like Oculus Rift, only much cheaper, implying that the Oculus is a ripoff.


    People at Oculus have worked for years on reducing latency, improving the refresh rate and head tracking precision, using state of the art technology. This can't be reproduced with a smartphone strapped to your head.  With VR, even a slight latency or discrepancy with head movement will likely make anyone nauseous after prolonged use.


    So Google Cardboard might be fun for a few minutes and to show your friends but not much more than that. Fortunately it's only a small investment.

  • Reply 9 of 23
    mac_128 wrote: »
    Major filmmakers and studios are reportedly getting heavily involved in VR. This is likely the entertainment of the future.

    Just like 3D was.
  • Reply 10 of 23
    I can smell "over promise, under deliver" all over this cardboard VR solution. It has the novelty of a DIY Viewmaster. At least it's highly recyclable.
  • Reply 11 of 23
    geekmeegeekmee Posts: 246member
    Until VR gets applied outside the entertainment industry, it's no more than an extension of 3D TV... It keeps us distracted from the real issues in life.
  • Reply 12 of 23

    Originally Posted by Geekmee View Post

    Until VR gets applied outside the entertainment industry, it's no more than an extension of 3D TV... It keeps us distracted from the real issues in life.

    By that logic there should be no non-fiction books where you lose yourself, or video games, or music, or working on hobbies that simply make us happy and give us joy. Or for that matter no more reading articles like this on the internet, and commenting on a random forum here and there, which is definitely something that keeps us distracted from the "real issues in life".


    Sometimes having to deal with "real issues in life" is why people like a bit of distraction. Its all a balance.


    You can purchase a cardboard on Amazon for less than $10 (which is essentially free) and play around with it and have at least $10 worth of fun in my opinion. Its simply fun for the sake of having fun. 

  • Reply 13 of 23
    geekmee wrote: »
    Until VR gets applied outside the entertainment industry, it's no more than an extension of 3D TV... It keeps us distracted from the real issues in life.

    It's the blue pill.
  • Reply 14 of 23
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 2,961member

    Originally Posted by Geekmee View Post

    Until VR gets applied outside the entertainment industry, it's no more than an extension of 3D TV... It keeps us distracted from the real issues in life.

    It already is ... specifically military trainers for one. Who do you think paid to develop this technology in the first place?

  • Reply 15 of 23
    nagrommenagromme Posts: 2,834member

    When this works, it's awesome! Get a cardboard unit or spend a little more for plastic (any recommendations?) I went the cheapest route myself--hommade. 


    (Be warned--some VR apps are pre-V2 of Cardboard. They will work great with some headsets, not with others. Insidious is very distorted in my headset.)


    Glad to see this taking off. An iPhone is no Oculus Rift... but it's better than you think.


    And it is NOT anything like 3D TV. 3D TV is in front of you. VR is a world ALL around you. And you can move freely in that world (ideally, not in every "demo").

  • Reply 16 of 23
    jfanningjfanning Posts: 3,373member
    inkling wrote: »
    $25 for what's little more than a cardboard box? No thanks!

    Why don't you just download the plans from Google and create you own?
  • Reply 17 of 23
    The best VR smartphone app I've tried so far is Go4d Virtual Reality Space Ship --

    You walk around a space station, looking for some boxes. Not too exciting, right?

    Okay, I'll give you that. But this app is worth it because it gives you a little peak into the future. As you walk around (look down at your feet to walk, look down again to stop, and look in the direction you want to go) the proportions are right. The graphics are great. And the views from the windows are magnificent.

    More levels are supposed to be coming, and I'm looking forward to seeing what else they can do with this.

    I've tried this app on both cardboard headsets, a higher-end Sunnypeak, and the open-sided Goggle Tech, and I liked the latter the best. Nice, wide field of view and a bright picture -- and no heat build up, or weight. Plus, they fold up into a cute little glasses case.

    And for everyone pooh-poohing this technology: please stop. We're just at the first generation. We haven't even STARTED to realize its potential. It's a new, and dramatically different medium, and it will start slow at first, and you'll be going "see, I told you, this stuff isn't going anywhere" and then suddenly it will take off.

    And the reason it will take off is because it allows us to convey experiences to one another, and to share those experiences. It's a very, very powerful tool.

    This Go4D app, for example, gives you a little feel of what it's like to be in a spacestation, looking down on a planet. It is an awesome feeling. You might get it on a giant screen in a movie theater. And now you can get it at home, with a cheap little device.
  • Reply 18 of 23

    Originally Posted by Inkling View Post

    $25 for what's little more than a cardboard box? No thanks!


    "Little more" in this case includes refractive optics. Can you grind your own glass for less than that? You can probably find some surplus lenses for less, but you risk looking like an Android cheapskate according to the AI stereotype cliche.

  • Reply 19 of 23
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    I got nauseous just reading the article.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    I just found this article, thanks so much for this helpful article. I have a iPhone 6 Plus & the Unofficial Cardboard 2.0 Virtual Reality Viewer. This is one of the few viewers that have IPD (InterPupillary Distance) adjustments which really helps with VR sickness. I would have bought a Samsung Gear VR but IPD is fixed at 64-65mm. My IPD is above average so my experiences with Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR & the fixed IPD Cardboard devices were terrible. I experienced blurry images & geometric distortions because the center of my pupils were not at the center of the lens. It's the same as picking up a pair of binoculars that someone with a different IPD was using and you didn't squeeze to adjust to your IPD. Just a millimeter or two off will have ill effects. All these anti VR/3d trolls and haters totally crack me up. I'm off to Mobile VR Station & VR One Cinema. Thanks!!!
Sign In or Register to comment.