This Is The Must-Have Phone Accessory Of 2016

Photo: Courtesy Fab.com.
Of the many major announcements Google made at its annual developer conference last week, from the debut of a connected jacket, to a smart home device to rival Amazon's Echo, one overshadowed them all: Daydream.

Daydream, which will launch this fall as part of the newest version of Android, is Google's first high-quality virtual reality platform for mobile phones. It lumps all your phone's VR content into one app. You'll still need to wear a headset, and use a small remote control to navigate your virtual world, but Daydream should make interacting with apps in a virtual space feel as easy and natural as sending a text. YouTube, Google Photos, Street View, and other, non-Google apps, such as Netflix and Hulu, are being rebuilt for the platform — this isn't just something niche or exclusive to gamers.

But that's the (near) future. There's already a lot of cool VR content you can enjoy today — even Coachella got in on the action. To do that, though, you still need a headset. Luckily, there are a few super affordable options you can grab to get accustomed to VR before Daydream lands this fall.
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Photo: Courtesy Fab.com.


I recently tested out three that work with your iPhone or Android phone: I Am Cardboard's EVA Virtual Reality Viewer (left, $25), the DSCVR Virtual Reality Viewer (above, $30), and Speck's recently released Pocket VR Viewer (below, $70). EVA, DSCVR, and the Pocket VR Viewer are all riffs on Google Cardboard, a novelty cardboard device that Google released in 2014. It lets anyone enter a virtual world for a mere $15.

While all three variations that I tried serve their purpose — giving you the chance to experience virtual reality — I liked the $30 DSCVR viewer best. The headset is made of sturdy plastic, with a button in the upper-right corner that's useful for responding to commands on the accompanying Google Cardboard app. To get started using it, all you have to do is scan its QR code with your phone to connect the device with your phone, secure your phone in a slot in the front, and then look through the lens to start exploring Paris (or elsewhere).

EVA is also easy to set up. It has a small, sliding controller on the left-hand side, as opposed to a button on top. The one downside here is that the viewer is made of foam. Yes, that made it more comfortable than the other options, but definitely not as sturdy. It kept falling apart in my hands after I placed my phone in front of the lens.
Photo: Courtesy Speck.
Last was Speck's Pocket VR Viewer. The headset is an innovative way to bring your VR on the go — the viewer folds up so that it's flat. But when you insert your phone into the device, you don't just see the screen; you see the white edges around it. That's not a deal breaker, but it does detract from what's supposed to be a totally immersive viewing experience.
Testing all three made it clear how essential a streamlined VR platform like Daydream is, and how major the technology could be if it delivers on its promise. While Daydream will only work with Android phones when it launches in the fall (prepare to have your iPhone loyalty tested), there's still a growing amount of VR content you can enjoy — on any smartphone — today. Just grab a cheap viewer and go for a (virtual) roller coaster ride.
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