Using your iPhone to enjoy VR experiences from the App Store isn't a new trick, though it is a lot of fun. While there are some nice apps to enjoy inside a Google Cardboard headset with your phone, most of the truly great VR experiences live on a computer. More specifically, inside SteamVR on Windows, at least until Apple works its way up to supporting VR. The cool thing about SteamVR is how well it handles using just about anything as a VR headset. While a lot of the experiences are built with the HTC Vive in mind, a little bit of clever software on your phone can take the place of a full VR headset so you can check out all of the fun.
Here's a quick guide for using your iPhone as a Steam VR headset.
To do this, you will need
- iPhone 6s or better, ideally a Plus variant
- A Google Cardboard headset for your iPhone (here are our favorites)
- A PC capable of playing SteamVR apps (check out the specs here)
- A wired or wireless gamepad for your PC, ideally an Xbox One controller
Setting up your PC to handle the iPhone as a VR headset
In order to set up your iPhone as a SteamVR headset, you need some software to talk to your iPhone. The easiest way to do this is to Install iTunes on your PC. This will install some of the iPhone handling software needed to talk to Steam VR.
Next, you need a special driver so SteamVR recognizes your iPhone as a SteamVR headset and treats it accordingly. You can find that driver here, just download the file and run the executable inside. The app will install and then close, after which you won't see it again.
With these two pieces of software installed, don't start Steam just yet. It's time to move on to setting up your phone!
Setting up your iPhone for SteamVR
To get your phone ready for SteamVR, you need to first make sure your iPhone and your PC are on the same wireless network. If you're not interested in or able to do this over Wifi, you can use a long Lightning cable connected to your PC.
Next, install the iVRy app from the App store. When installed, open the app and turn your phone sideways into the landscape position. Tap the gear icon in the middle of the screen, and tap Wired or Wireless depending on your setup. Tap close to return to a bunch of white text on the display.
Put your phone inside your Google Cardboard enclosure, start SteamVR on your PC, and watch as the grey starting environment shows up in the VR headset. You did it!
With everything working, there's a few things you need to know about this setup. The first is iVRy starts as a free app, but lowers the quality of your VR experience after five minutes of use unless you pay for the $7 add-on to get the full experience. You're going to want to do that, especially if you plan to do this more than once.
Over a wireless connection, SteamVR in your iPhone is going to drain your battery very fast. Even on an iPhone 7 plus, don't expect to enjoy this experience for more than 45 minutes before you've burned through quite a bit of your battery. You can charge while your play, or you can run a cable straight to your PC, but in both situations you're adding heat to a phone that will already be getting pretty warm.
With your nice new VR setup, you're going to want some games to play! We've got a nice list of VR apps that will work well with your setup right here. Enjoy!
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