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Telecommunications has seen significant innovative improvements in the past decade. Today, people can access virtual reality content directly from their cellular telephone. When looking for a virtual reality compatible phone, it is important to understand the features and design elements that make for the top VR phones.
Virtual reality is quickly becoming an industry forerunner, thanks to technological innovations made by the IT and telecommunications world. We have all seen not too long ago, those masses of people running about with their cell phones in hand, searching for an elusive Pokemon. Pokemon Go was perhaps our culture’s first taste of the emerging virtual reality revolution. The advent of mobile viewing technologies has opened up the floodgates to a wide variety of digital interface possibilities, such as virtual and augmented reality capabilities.
How It Works
Virtual reality technology is a computer-based interface program that immerses the user in an all-encompassing, real-time, interactive digital landscape. Though VR technology has been dabbled with for years with the promise of a market-ready, commercial breakthrough just around the corner, only in recent years has the technological capabilities been available for the virtual reality experience to begin coming into its own. In order to understand how smartphone technology has influenced VR, first, we will delineate what makes virtual reality and the alternatives.
Look outside. That is normal reality. Using one’s eyes to see that what is readily apparent through nature’s gift of our five senses.
Here is where reality gets a little crazy. With augmented reality, the natural world will remain apparent; however, will contain added elements and features which are created digitally. AR combines the power of a digital interface with the infrastructure of the real world. Pokemon Go was the first mainstream example of this technology. Using a phone, players could interact with game elements which were not in physical existence but were viewable from their mobile device.
Augmented reality uses a smart device camera to continually observe one’s surrounding while augmenting the image that is viewed on the screen, according to the program’s function. In Pokemon Go, users would interact with game elements which seemingly interlaced with the real world. Pokemon could be hiding behind trees and footprints could be seen on the street and more. Augmented reality allows a user to interact with a digital interface which uses the real world as a foundational platform; however, a user’s immersion is limited to the size of their smart device’s screen.
When a user places their viewing device onto their face, it has become virtual reality. Virtual reality technology is defined roughly by complete interactive immersion into a piece of media content. VR for smartphones uses a headset which holds a VR phone just in front of the user’s eyes. The headset acts to obstruct any visual stimulation from without the VR program from entering into the viewing range. When using a VR headset and phone, a user often has a 360-degree viewing radius, which creates the effect of free-roam capability within the VR program. Users interact with the world of the VR program in as close to a natural manner as possible.
Virtual Reality Phone Features
Smartphones are equipped with a magnetic gyroscope. This is how a smartphone can tell which direction you are pointed in when using a program like Google Maps. It is also one of the pieces of hardware that makes smartphones an ideal foundation for a virtual reality counsel. They are small, portable, and, above all, powerful. Anyone knows who has gone through multiple generations of smartphones, that the processing power, graphic ability and memory storage capacity of cutting-edge mobile devices are being improved exponentially.
Virtual Reality inherently requires a large amount of processing power and needs a strong computer-based system to function at its best. Increasingly, mobile smart devices have capabilities that approach that of a full PC and several phones have come to market, which have been designed specifically to be compatible with virtual reality software. This requires a device to have a strong processor, a high-functioning graphics card, and sufficient memory to run VR programs without overloading. Last, but not least, a VR phone isn’t much use without a VR headset. The alternative to a VR headset is to duct tape your phone to your face and put a blanket over your head.
VR Phone Processor
The speed in which a smart device has the ability to run a VR program is dependent on the processor with which the device was designed. Most of the cutting-edge smartphone processors are a One Chip System design or SoC. Often these processors include numerous essential components, including the central processor, a graphic processor, an LTE modem, multimedia processor, and a security and signal processor. The wide range of functions that a smartphone’s processor performs can make it difficult to determine which unit is the best for virtual reality compatible phones. However, Samsung has come out as a leader in creating processors which are specifically geared towards virtual reality compatibility.
VR Phone Graphics
Virtual reality requires the user to be visually and audibly immersed inside of the specified content. This has been a struggle historically for prospective commercial VR applications as holding a screen close to one’s eyes for long periods of time often causes headaches, dizziness, and, in the long run, can degrade the user’s eyesight. Today, the advent of VR for smartphones relies on the incorporation of a VR headset, in which the user places their smartphone.
Some of the older Samsung Galaxy smartphones, such as the Galaxy 4, 5 and 6 lines, were not designed specifically for use with VR applications and thus the graphic quality is not specifically catered to users viewing the screen from a distance of a few centimeters. The Samsung Galaxy phones that are best for VR are, by far, the S8 and S8+. The Google Pixel smartphone is equally appropriate for VR use; however, the graphic quality is also contingent upon the VR headset with which the VR phone is paired.
VR Phone Headset
There are many VR headsets on the market from a wide variety of merchants and vendors, which come with a wide variety of quality enhancements and offered features. Some VR headsets are designed to work better with specific VR smartphones while some are completely universally compatible. The more specified the gear, the better the VR experience often is for a user. However, these specifications have only come to fruition with some of the most recent smartphone models.
Top Virtual Reality Compatible Phones
As of yet, Apple has not released any VR headset that is designed specifically for iOS. That being the case, Google, Samsung, and Sony have taken the opportunity to release several models that are compatible with the iPhone. That being said, if you want the very best modern VR experience, it is best to go with a symbiotic smartphone and headset combination.
The HTC U11 comes in as one of the most affordable virtual reality compatible phones on the market. It features one of the best front-facing cameras of any phone on the market, as well as a liquid glass surface over a 4K high-definition screen. The HTC U11 is designed for a smooth, crystal clear image, which benefits VR users by keeping one’s eyes from straining to focus on the image.
In addition to the stellar graphics, HTC has designed the U11 with one of the most powerful processors seen in any smartphone. The octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor features 64 gigs of internal memory, providing more than enough space and power to run a virtual reality application. Lastly, this virtual reality compatible phone does not stop at the visuals as the U11 comes with Dual BoomSound Hi-Fi speakers and high-quality, noise-cancelling headphones.
HTC is a leader in the virtual reality movement and has already become a household name for VR fans with the HTC VIVE. The HTC VIVE is a PC compatible virtual reality headset, which does not require a smartphone to be used. The VIVE runs off a PC and features massive gameplay capabilities, as opposed to any virtual reality compatible phone. We will have to simply wait and see if and when HTC releases a phone made specifically for VR use, but the HTC U11 will give you better VR functionality than the Samsung S7.
Google has come onto the scene not only with its own virtual reality headset but has also designed a smartphone for VR compatibility. Google Pixel has been designed specifically to be paired with Google’s Daydream View VR headset, giving users the ability to watch movies, television shows, and play games in fully immersive virtual reality. The Pixel is designed specifically for virtual reality compatibility, as it features an ultra high-resolution graphic display, seamlessly smooth graphics, and hi-fi sensors. Pixel’s hi-fi gives it the ability to create life-like sound reproductions, as well as life-like graphic content.
If you are looking for the top virtual reality compatible phone, look no further. Google’s Pixel not only offers the best VR experience for mobile platforms, but it also provides the most prepared platform structure for the next stages of virtual reality innovation. Unfortunately, Google has a limited amount of VR content to engage in as of yet. Don’t be deterred yet, though, as the company is a forefront leader in virtual reality research and market implementation. Think of the Pixel as the first-generation iPhone of VR.
No other phone has come to market with as much clear VR potential as the Pixel. The corresponding headset, Google’s Daydream View is the only major competition to Samsung’s Gear VR, which is currently the market leader for smartphone VR experiences. Like Gear VR, the Daydream View comes with an external controller, allowing users to interface with their VR content without touching their Pixel phone. For those with an eye to the future and the next frontrunner virtual reality compatible phone, the Google Pixel is our top choice.
Google Pixel is great for VR, but if you want a virtual reality compatible phone that has a bit more viewing space look no further. The Google Pixel XL is designed with all of the same specifications and features of the Pixel, but with a larger screen. Like the Pixel, the Pixel XL comes with 4 gigs of ram and operates off of the Snapdragon 821 processor. True, the HTC U11 features a more powerful Snapdragon processor, but there is more to VR than a processor. The Pixel XL is designed with 128 gigs of storage space, which is double that of the HTC U11.
In the months and years to come, the market is primed for a boom in virtual reality compatible phones. As of yet, Google and HTC are forging their own way to the top of the mountain, but there is one company who has already established itself as the commercial leader in mobile virtual reality. The Pixel and Pixel XL have vast VR functionality and potential for later models; however, Samsung has been refining their VR compatibility for three generations.
Google Pixel 2
Google Pixel 3
Google Pixel 4
Google Pixel 4 XL
Samsung leads the industry with the first VR compatible phone—the Samsung S7. The newest Samsung model, the S8, is truly an inspired piece of technology. Of course, Samsung has kept all of the phone’s wonderful features and capabilities while improving on and adding new specs that are deliberately implemented for better virtual reality compatibility. It all starts with the Infinity Display.
The Samsung S8 features an Infinity Display, which creates an expanded screen without increasing the overall size of the phone. The screen’s resolution is impeccably clear and graphic content plays without hiccups or delays as it has been designed with a default of Full HD+ resolution. For VR, users can set the Samsung S8 to Quad HD+ for an extra visual boost. This is beneficial in VR as the phone is your viewing device and the S8’s Quad HD+ vastly mitigates the user’s eye strain over time. The S8 features 4 gigs of RAM and 64 gigs of storage with the option to add additional external memory if desired.
Like Google’s Pixel XL, Samsung offers the S8 in a standard size, as well as a large screen size. The Samsung S8+ is the top virtual reality compatible phone overall. The S8 is already the best screen design for mobile VR and the S8+ simply improves the VR experience. Unlike the Pixel, Samsung offers a wide variety of VR content through Gear VR. Gear VR is the best mobile virtual reality headset on the market and has been since the induction of the Samsung S7. The S7 was the first virtual reality compatible phone on the market and Samsung has only improved its functionality in the S8. The best VR feature of the S8 is purely physical as they have designed it without visible buttons on the screen, which is perfect for VR headsets. Nothing to obstruct your view and the highest quality mobile VR platform on the market makes the Samsung S8 and S8+ our top choice.
One likely innovation that the public will see in years to come is the merging of HTC’s VIVE VR capabilities with that of mobile VR. In this respect, don’t rule out Google as a possible heavyweight contender for the near future; however, HTC is a step ahead. For those looking for the next best trend, we recommend the Google Pixel or the HTC U11, but for those who want the best VR phone on the market right now, the Samsung S8+ is the clear winner. No ifs, ands, or buts, the Samsung S7 was the first smartphone that foresaw mobile VR potential and has capitalized on its clairvoyance ever since. Only time will tell whether or not Samsung can hold its ground in the face of technology giants like Google and VR trailblazers like HTC. And with amazing games like Oculus Rift already available, who knows what the future will hold in the VR world?