Updated Nov. 15, 2014: Click here to go to the bottom of the article, where I’ve added seven more sites!
I’ve written about Google Cardboard before — it’s a virtual reality headset made from cardboard designed to work as a frame for an Android smartphone.
What distinguishes Google Cardboard from other smartphone cases is that it has an NFC chip to register when a smartphone is being used in VR mode, and a little magnet that’s used to signal the smartphone — a replacement for clicking a mouse since, of course, smartphones don’t have mice and tapping on a screen isn’t an option when the smartphone is inside a case.
Google gave the kits away for free at its Google I/O conference in June, and released plans that anyone could use to make their own Google Cardboard our of any available materials — including pizza boxes.
Folks who don’t have pizza boxes lying around — or don’t want to mess around with trying to cut out the right shapes — and don’t have the magnets and lenses necessary can order kits online from a number of different vendors.
Here’s a quick round-up of the options.
For $24.95, the San Francisco-based DodoCase will get a kit to you in about two to three weeks. The kit includes everything you need, including the lenses and the magnet and the NFC chip, and the company says that assembly takes just five minutes.
Without the NFC tag, the price is $19.95. So get the NFC.
This company has the best-looking site, the best support forums, and more than 38,000 “Likes” on Facebook. If I had an Android phone, this is the case I would order. And, frankly, I’m now seriously considering switching to Android just because of this.
A great-looking site for all your Google Cardboard needs.
The company offers fully-assembled kits for $21.95, and unassembled ones for $19.95. You can also order just the parts — lenses, magnet, Velcro, and NFC chip for $9.95. The lenses, magnet and NFC tags are also available individually.
The assembled and disassembled kits are each available in two sizes — regular and large. The large one fits bigger phone sizes, and can go over prescription glasses. Three-point straps are coming soon, the company says.
The company says it uses the same German engineered 25mm acrylic, bicovex lenses that Google used at the I/O conference.
It ships in about a week to the U.S. Regular shipping is free, priority shipping is $5 extra.
I Am Cardboard
This was formerly Google Cardboard and I was surprised this site existed since, according to the disclaimer, it is not affiliated with Google, but anyway Google bought their URL and now the site has been renamed to I Am Cardboard.
I’m glad it’s still up, because look at that selection of cases! With NFC chips and without, with straps and without, in two sizes, and in all the basic colors.
Prices range from $12.99 for just the pre-cut keyboard and $14.99 for just the parts, to $24.99 for a plain or colored cardboard kit with an NFC tag.
A larger kit, with a strap, is $29.99 is available in red, yellow, and blue cardboard. It works with larger smartphones such as the Galaxy Note 2 and Galaxy Note 3 from Samsung.
There’s also a $34.99 “Eva Version”
Plus, all shipping — worldwide — is free, and the company says that all the products ship within 24 hours.
Get Google Cardboard
Another vendor with “Google” in its name, Silicon Valley-based Get Google Cardboard offers a standard cardboard kit without NFC for $18 and with NFC for $22. Shipping is a flat $3 within the US, and delivery is estimated within a week. International delivery is around $14 for most countries. Colored versions are in the works.
KnoxLabs offers a cardboard version of Google Cardboard for $18.95 plus shipping and an aluminum one for pre-order for $38.95 plus shipping.
The company says it uses glass lenses.
Place the order here. The company says it takes three to four days to process the order, due to high demand.
Ceocase has a separate Google Cardboard section on its site, which mostly sells cellphone and tablet sleeves and purses.
It also offers an adjustable plastic and rubber case — pictured above — for $39.99. Free shipping is available in the U.S.
This site offers several versions of the Google Cardboard kit.
For $10.91, you can get the kit illustrated above, which comes with resin lenses and an NFC chip. It’s made by a company called NEJE, and delivery is estimated at less than two weeks. Order it here. It’s also available from the same manufacturer for $10.34 without the NFC chip. Or, if you want to have an attached strap, order the $12.68 version here.
The same company also makes a black plastic case for $36.96, but it’s not clear whether it includes the magnet and the NFC chip. Order it here.
Do you mind ordering from China? If you don’t, AliExpress — owned by Alibaba, China’s biggest online shopping platform — is the way to go. AliExpress guarantees a full refund if the order isn’t delivered or you’re not satisfied.
Search for “Google Cardboard NFC” on the site and more than two dozen offers come up.
The highest rated is the $8.99 kit from HiFun. You get a complete kit, with magnet, lenses and NFC chip, and free shipping via China Post or ePacket. Delivery takes two weeks with ePacket and up to four weeks with China Post. Order it here.
Looking through the other offers on AliExpress, you can also get the kit with different kinds of straps, with a more durable cardboard, and in bulk for as little as $6 each.
The eBay listings are a little bit more diverse than those on AliExpress, but many of the same products popped up — though generally at a higher price.
I couldn’t figure out a way to sort sellers by reputation, but CN*Sell had 99.6 percent positive feedback, and the lowest price for their kit, at $9.90, as well as free shipping to the U.S. Order the kit here.
If you already have everything else, you can also order a pre-programmed NFC tag separately for $2.95 here and the magnets also for $2.95 here or just the lenses for $6.95 here.
I almost forgot the biggest seller of them all.
Amazon offers a moderate selection of Google Cardboard cases — a little over 20 by my count — some from the manufacturers listed above.
More sites where you can buy Google Cardboard
Since I first wrote this article last summer, a bunch more manufacturers have jumped into this space. Many offer significant bulk discounts — at this price, companies can give away virtual reality kits as promotional items.
US $18.59 for the DodoCase kit plus a guide for newcomers to virtual reality.
Includes the NFC tag and works with both iOS and Android devices.
US $11.99, ships in 2 to 7 days. A Christmas-themed kit that includes an anti-slip strap, magnets and the NFC chip. Compatible with smartphones between 4 and 5.5 inch screens.
US $6.92 with free shipping to the U.S. No headstrap included. Cardboard can get uncomfortable with repeated use, according to the reviews. Comes with a magnet and an NFC chip.
From DH Gate:
US $34.31 with free shipping to the U.S. Includes a strap and a nice comfortable plastic case. Magnet is not included, so you would use this for watching 3D videos but would not be able to control games designed to be used with the Google Cardboard magnet.
US $6.99 with free shipping to the U.S. Ships in two to three days. No headstrap included. Does come with the magnets and velcro and a rubber band, but the NFC chip is not included.
US $24.95 for a kit that includes magnets and the NCF tag. For $5 extra, you can order it in black.
Promises a delivery time of less than a week.
US $7 with worldwide free shipping for a camouflage-colored set. No headband, no NFC chip, but does include a magnet. Compatible with both iOS and Android phones with screens between 4 and 5.5 inches — though the magnet works only with the Android apps.
$33.09 + $2.98 shipping.
I know, I mentioned Amazon above, but I wanted to single this particular one out because it isn’t the usual cardboard. Both the distance between the lenses and the distance from the lenses to the phone can be adjusted, it comes in a durable plastic, has a headstrap, There’s no magnet — this is for watching 3D videos. It works with both Android phones and iPhones. The same headset also seems to be sold under other brand names on Amazon, including ColorCross, Ourspop, and Ciyoyo for slightly different prices.