Samsung’s Gear VR is in a bit of an awkward place. It sites between the simpler offerings of Google Daydream and Google Cardboard, but not quite the super ridiculous experience of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Still, it’s an excellent device for beginners to the VR experience. Most apps are available in the Oculus Store rather than Google Play. In addition, all of these apps work in virtual reality to some extent so you get the experience with all of these apps. The only bad news is that most experiences are fairly basic, and mostly include streaming video content, educational experiences, and some basic tools like web browsing. It’s a growing medium, but there are some good things available now. Here are the best Samsung Gear VR apps!
Facebook 360 is kind of an obvious choice. It’s almost the entire Facebook experience in virtual reality. The app primarily focuses on photo and video content. However, you can view your news feed, like status updates, and the usual Facebook stuff. This is actually a pretty decent app for the Facebook video platform. It boasts support for game streamers, both 360-degree and 2D video content, and 360-degree photo content as well. It definitely doesn’t work or feel like your mobile Facebook app or the Facebook website, but that’s okay because this still feels pretty good to use. Facebook 360 is, of course, completely free to use, but you may see some advertising.
Intel True VR
Price: Free / Varies
Intel True VR is a fun app for sports fans. It lets you view NFL highlights and, in some cases, full games in true VR goodness. You need an NFL subscription for the live games. However, most of the highlights are free. The UI is your pretty standard VR fair. You see a massive room with various content and videos as the wallpaper. You simply select what you want to watch and then watch it. It’s otherwise a very simple app and a usually positive experience. We especially recommend it for people who subscribe to the NFL’s streaming service.
Price: Free / Varies
NextVR is another decent app for sports fans. It features a variety of highlights, special events, and on-demand live sporting events. It features mostly NBA, WWE, and soccer with a few others. You also get a limited supply of concerts and comedy. It works like most VR streaming services. You log in, pick what you want to watch, and then watch it. Some of the stuff is free. For instance, the WWE plans on showing 10 minutes of free content with some pay-per view events. However, some content, like the NBA content, may require something like the NBA League Pass to view live games.
The Oculus Rooms app is a bit of a hybrid between an app and and a game. It reminds me a lot of Nintendo’s Miitomo app. You create a bit of a social space and invite people over to hang out. You can watch TV and play mini-games with other people. We consider this a social app more than anything, and a good introduction into the VR space. Plus, it’s free and it’s easy to use. There is also integration with Facebook if that’s something you want to do. We liked it during our testing and it had no major problems.
Paint VR is a drawing app for the Gear VR as you may have guessed. It’s a little goofy to actually use, but it’s functional. You get a paintbrush in the middle of your vision. You can change the color, brush size, change the background color, and some other small settings. Some have complained about the controls and we can see where they’re coming from. However, a little practice and it starts to come together. Paint42 and GoPaint are other indie drawing apps with a lot of promise as well. Paint VR runs for $4.99 on the Oculus Store.
Price: Free / $0.99 / $3.99 per month
Plex is one of the most powerful home server solutions for media streaming. The company is quite good at keeping up with newer tech and that includes VR. You set up the home server, set up the app, and you can watch your locally stored movies and TV shows directly from your Gear VR. It also supports music although admittedly we didn’t test that particular feature. In true VR fashion, you also get support for 180-degree and 360-degree media. Plex also promises even more features in future updates. It’s a definitely yes from us as one of the best Gear VR apps.
Samsung Internet makes sense for a list like this. Samsung probably knows how to develop a browser for its own Gear VR platform. It competes very favorably with the Oculus Browser and its arguably the most competent of the few browsers on the Oculus Store. It supports 180-degree and 360-degree video, the Gear VR controller, and your usual 2D content as well. It’s definitely not perfect and we saw some complaints about the occasional connection bug and keyboard issue. Of course, you can always use PhoneCast VR to use Chrome or Firefox as long as you don’t mind it being 2D only.
Samsung PhoneCast VR
PhoneCast VR is a beta application, but still easily one of the best Gear VR apps. This lets you use almost any app on your phone in the VR space. For instance, you can play Angry Birds, use Google Chrome, check your email, or whatever else you want to do. Of course, the experience is somewhat limited by 2D apps not having great VR controls. However, this app opens up basically the entire Google Play Store (and Samsung Galaxy Apps Store) to the Gear VR. The UI is basically a nice nature scene with a window for your app or game. You can play games in this space, but we recommend only the simplest games because the controls will be much harder otherwise.
Wander is a delightful app with both relaxation and educational value. You basically use the power of Google Street Map to explore the entire planet. You can take a virtual walk up or down the street and even explore some parts of the ocean. The app features Wikipedia integration in case you want to read up on a particular landmark, a voice search function for finding landmarks quickly, and even a historical view mode that we found neat. It runs for $4.99. That may feel a bit high for an app that only does a couple of things, but it does both of those things very well and it’s also great for teaching your kids about stuff.
Within (formerly VRSE)
Within (formerly VRSE) is a VR video platform for both creators and consumers. You can find some highly quality VR content here. The app functions primarily as a video streaming service. However, this is one of our favorite apps to whip out when guests are over to show them what VR is really like. There is some minor educational value here, but most of it is entertainment. There is also an argument that there are some gaming elements in this one as most of the stories are interactive. In any case, this one might not hold your attention for a very long time, but it’s a great way to get into the Gear VR for new owners and a fun time killer for experience fans.
Price: Free / $12.99 per month
This is another obvious choice for a list like this. YouTube is the world’s biggest video streaming service. You can find all sorts of music, entertainment, news, and other random stuff on YouTube. The YouTube VR app supports 180-degree and 360-degree videos as it should. It also works with your regular YouTube account and YouTube Premium if you have it. The UI can be a little frustrating, but it works well enough the majority of the time. That’s about it, really. You know what YouTube does and why people like it. It’s a very obvious choice, especially if you use YouTube Premium.
Netflix, Hulu, Disney, DreamWorks, Showtime, others
Price: Free / Up to $13.99 per month (Netflix) / Up to $39.99 per month (Hulu)
There are a bunch of video streaming Gear VR apps. Actually, there were more than we though. Gear VR has access to the two biggest services with Netflix and Hulu (YouTube notwithstanding). Some other options include Showtime VR, DreamWorks VR, and Disney Movies VR. Disney and Pixar also have Coco VR, a single VR entertainment experience that is also good. These services have varying costs, but they all function pretty well on the Gear VR. This is also an excellent source of videos for both you and the kids if they ever want to use your headset.
Various TV channel Gear VR apps
Price: Free / Varies
There are a variety of individual TV channels with their own Gear VR apps. Some of them include AMC VR, CNN VR, and Discovery VR. Each channel has its own selection of content for a specific type of person. Those who like CNN news should try that app. Those who like Discovery Channel stuff should try that and The Walking Dead fans know where to go from here. Each one has its own costs and subscription options. We didn’t notice any serious hiccups, although we did test these fairly quickly to make sure they all at least functioned. We may very well have missed something, but we played video and it played fine.
Price: Free (usually)
There is a little under a dozen decent little documentaries made especially for VR. Some of the options include The Poeple’s House, Notes on Blindness, Dispatch, Zero Days VR, Nomads, and The Turning Forest. These are educational virtual reality experiences about various topics like the White House, going blind, and nature. There isn’t much to these. They work like regular documentaries except they are in 360-degree video format and contained in a single application. We tried out a couple of them and experienced no major flaws or issues. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Various relaxing Gear VR apps
Price: Free / Varies
There are a shocking number of relaxing Gear VR apps. We’re talking like dozens of them. Some of the better options include Happy Place, Calm Place, Nature Treks VR, and Zen Zone is also pretty decent. These apps include serene environments, calming music, and not action or anything like that. They are basically just virtual reality quiet places you can escape to after a hard day. There are also some yoga and meditation apps, but they vary wildly in quality so we recommend approaching them with caution. The apps range in price, but we don’t think we spotted anything higher than $4.99.
If we missed any great Samsung Gear VR apps, tell us about them in the comments! You can also click here to check out our latest Android app and game lists!