Updated: August 10, 2017
Do want to give a VR headset as a gift to someone with an iPhone — or buy one for yourself?
You won’t get the best possible mobile experience, however, since the two best headsets — the Samsung Gear VR and the Daydream View — don’t work with iPhones. Plus, there are no remote controllers that work with iPhones, so you are limited to choosing from headsets that have built-in buttons, or open-sided headsets where you can easily touch the screen, instead.
Here are your best options (affiliate codes included where available):
Mattel View-Master VR
The Mattel View-Master may be a toy, but it is a fully-functional Google Cardboard headset. You can pick up the latest version, which has adjustable focus, in person for around $40 at Target, Walmart or Toys R Us. Or you can get last year’s version, where the focus does not adjust, for around $17. There are no straps, but it is very easy to use and is great for kids. I bring mine with me when I do VR headset demos and people love it. Read my review here.
This headset doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other viewers, like adjustable lenses, or built-in headphones, but it is very easy to use — just open the outside flap and drop your phone in. The only control is the button right there at the top of the headset, and it is extremely lightweight. You can read my full review here. The price is a little high right now, but you can expect it to come down quickly.
Built-in control button on the underside of the headset, built-in headphones, adjustable lenses, a super-wide 120-degree field of view, and an easy drop-in phone holder makes this one of my favorite headsets. And if the headphones get in the way, it’s also sold in a mini version without them.
This is an older Xiaomi VR viewer, low-priced, with a a decent field of view, a built-in button, straps, openings on the front cover for virtual reality applications, and it fits over glasses. Read my full review here. The lenses are not adjustable, however, and the zipper can be a little annoying to use, but it costs a lot less than the newer Xiaomi Play2.
Goggle Tech C1-Glass
You don’t need a control or button for this headset since you can just touch the screen to interact with apps — without having to remove the phone from the headset. This is particularly convenient when switching apps or videos. However, the open design means that the headset doesn’t block out outside light, so it’s less immersive, and the lack of straps means you’ll have to hold the viewer up to your face. It folds flat, and comes with a nice carrying case. Read my review here.
Phone size: any size. Field of view: 90 degrees. Weight: 1 ounce.
Purchase details: Buy it for $25 from Amazon.
Another open-sided headset, the VR Fold has adjustable lenses, and folds flat and then in half, so it makes a great stocking stuffer. It also comes in several different colors, and costs just $6. Read my review here. Check out more options for open-sided headsets here.
Phone size: any size. Field of view: 95 degrees. Weight: 2.7 ounces.
Purchase details: Buy it for $8 from Amazon.
This is a brightly-colored, easy-to use headset. But the lenses are not adjustable, and there’s no straps to hold it in place — and, despite the lack of functionality, it is one of the pricier headsets on this list. Read my review here.
Phone size: 4 to 6 inches. Field of view: 96 degrees. Weight: 9 ounces.
Purchase details: Buy it for $25 from Amazon or for $25 directly from the manufacturer, I Am Cardboard.
People love this headset when I bring it to conferences, and it’s extremely easy to use. But the basic material it’s made of is cardboard, so it might not be the most durable headset, the lenses are not adjustable, and it is one of the most expensive headsets on this list. Read my review here.
These come in four colors, are extremely light-weight, and are very easy to use and comes recommended by one of my readers as a light, comfortable inexpensive headset.
This is the most expensive headset on this list, but it is not my favorite. It’s on the heavy side, doesn’t have the best field of view, and it’s hard to get the phone into the viewer — especially if you have a case on your phone. The company does do a nice job helping people find new VR apps with its VR Start website.
Ritech Riem 3
A light-weight, low-cost headset made in China, with adjustable focus and comfortable straps. There’s also an updated version, the Ritech Riem 3 plus, which has an even smaller field of view. Read our review of the Ritech Riem 3 plus here.
Google Cardboard V2
This is the official Google Cardboard viewer, made of actual cardboard. It’s as minimal as you can get. Make sure you get the one with a button on top, not the magnet on the side. The ones with the magnets are cheaper, but the only work half the time, and fall off almost immediately. There are no straps, and the lenses are not adjustable, and it falls apart when you sit on it or get it wet.
Given the choice, pick the headset with adjustable lenses, the widest field of view, and the lowest weight.