The Samsung Gear VR is actually very straightforward to get to grips with even for VR beginners. Slot your phone in. Download the Oculus app. Put the headset on your face. You’re ready to go.
That said, we’ve put together a few handy hints and tips to make your first hour/day/week with your shiny new future helmet run smoothly. We get the feeling a fair few of these devices might shift over the holiday period so have a quick read of this Gear guide before you get going.
Charge your phone before you begin
Or keep a charger nearby – playing while charging isn’t fun, the whole point is this is wireless. You’ll want your Samsung phone’s screen quite bright to make the most of the VR picture so chances are the battery will run down fairly quickly, especially if it’s your first day or so with the headset. Ditto if a bunch of family and friends are trying it.
If you have the 2016 Gear VR, you need to slot in the right module for your phone into the front of the headset – microUSB (the skinnier, smaller one) or USB (the rounder, bigger one). Just check the bottom of your phone and match it up.
Grab some headphones and adjust
Grab your on-ears or some in-ears and stick them in the headphone jack of your smartphone. You’ll still be able to hear friends heckling you but it really does enhance the immersion to get the audio via headphones and not your phone’s speaker.
Tighten the strap around your head and wiggle the headset around in front of your eyes. There’s also a focus dial on the top of the headset which you can then tweak to get the best picture (though you can’t adjust each lens independently).
You can use the Gear VR seated or standing, but we’d recommend a swivel chair (like an office chair) if you have one as it encourages/helps you to turn around and not just look straight forward.
Teens are A-OK, kids maybe not
Samsung and Oculus’ official guidance for the Gear VR and kids is this: “Not for use by children under 13. Watching videos or playing games with the Gear VR may affect the visual development of children… Adults should monitor children closely after using the Gear VR if children feel discomfort.”
It’s up to you how much near-screen time you let your kid have – we’re looking into this very topic of the possible psychological and developmental effects now and will have a feature up over the holiday break.
Start with the right demos
You can’t even download the Oculus app and store until you actually slot the Gear VR into the headset. That’s the first order of business. So if this is a gift (and you know their Google Play store), you can save some faffing by getting it ready first.
Read this: The best Samsung Gear VR apps, games and experiences
We’d recommend demos and short games like Cirque du Soleil, Star Wars, Within, Land’s End and the library of Oculus 360 videos around the world as initial demos so you know what’s up with VR. Then you can move on to other games and experiences. Avoid driving games or experiences that move the user too much so you don’t start off with sim sickness.
Pick up a controller
Lots of Gear VR apps and games use the head controls and trackpad on the side but you can also hook up a controller to your phone for use in VR. All you need is any Android compatible Bluetooth gamepad (Steelseries, Moga etc) but Samsung does also sell its own option if you want to stay on brand.
Again, make sure it’s fully charged before you start playing. Constantly recharging VR controllers is one of the First World Problems we’re dealing with at the moment.
You can also now use your Xbox controller with some Gear VR games thanks to an update. We’re still waiting for sign of these handheld Rink controllers too and future versions of the Gear VR should come with Leap Motion hand tracking.
Watch out for fog, dust & cracks
If you don’t have the 2016 edition of the Gear VR, watch out for lens fog when you first put it on each time. It’ll go away after a while – if the temperature in the room stays the same – so maybe just muck about in menu screens rather than ruin the beginning of an experience.
It’s a pain when you’re passing around from user to user but the new Gear VR (the $99 one for the S7 etc) has pretty much fixed this problem.
You’ll be using your phone day to day so (from experience) try not to crack the display as this will ruin mobile VR. Get a dust cloth for the lenses too for in between Gear VR sessions.
Start here: VR beginners
- The Samsung Gear VR apps & games to try It's on my face – now what?
- A quick guide to kids and VR Should you share your new tech toy with the whole family?
- The best VR headsets for iPhone usersBecause iOS users can join the big VR party too
- Vomit Reality: Why VR makes some feel sick Nausea? Headaches? Eye strain? We find out about VR tech and motion sickness
Give your phone a break if it gets too hot
Watch out for your phone heating up, too. This will particularly affect older Galaxy phones after 20 minutes+ or so of VR. And if you’re one of those people who didn’t return their Note 7 after the explosion recall: don’t, just don’t even. This is your face, guys, don’t eff it up.
It’s lovely getting lost in a solitary VR experience like Rosebud, GONE or The Night Cafe. But if you want to go social in virtual reality, there’s a couple of ways to do it. One way is to try apps like Oculus Social or AltSpace which puts you in avatar filled chat rooms or meeting spaces.
As for your IRL friends or family, Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes is a great party game which involves one person in the headset taking instructions from the rest of the players.