3 Reasons to Give Up on Desktop VR and Focus on Mobile VR Apps

Adding rational reasoning to a highly debated topic

Chris Tan
Feb 24, 2017 · 5 min read

Time and time again, I’ve seen the VR community get divided on the topic of mobile vs. desktop VR. Being the curious person that I am, I started to form rational reasoning for why one is better than the other.

I’d like to share my research insights and also include reasons you should focus on mobile VR app development:

1) Mobile has the Largest Audience

Source: YouTube — PBS Game/Show

I believe in the mission that Facebook had when it bought into Oculus, of having a billion people in VR. So it’s not going to be a higher and higher bar for performance; it’s going to be a lower and lower bar for adoption. — John Carmack, Oculus CTO (source)

From Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, all of the greats believe that in order for a technology to make a significant impact, the technology has to reach as many people as possible.

In this sense, both the Gear VR and Daydream headsets have nailed how to achieve consumer adoption with HTC developing their own VR mobile device soon.

What makes mobile VR great is that VR becomes an add-on to a device that you already center your life around: your phone.

2) Significant Development Time Reduction

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to fast forward into a future where holodecks enable you to see, hear, taste, smell and feel computer generated environments.

Commander Riker walks onto the (Star Trek) Enterprise Holodeck. Source: Warped Factor.

Unfortunately, the tools we have aren’t ready for rapid development. I’ve seen developers spend several months building room-scale applications then run out of money before launching their product.

On the other hand, mobile VR developer can cut a lot of costs (e.g. no positional tracking), give viewers an immersive experience and reach the widest audience possible.

3) Higher Quality Apps

At first glance it can be counter intuitive that mobile VR can have high quality apps.

Since I was a child, I easily get motion sick. VR is no different for me.

360 Augmented Reality. Source: CNET.

When my mind is moving when my body isn’t (or vice versa), I get massive headaches. Because of this, I prefer sitting in a swivel chair and watching 360 experiences (over games like InCell).

Back on the quality topic, as 360 cameras and VR headsets become better, we’ll gain access to higher quality live streams, videos and images without worrying about optimizing polygon counts and load times.

There are apps that I wanted to play, that I thought looked great, that I stopped playing because they had too long of a load time. I would say 20 seconds should be an absolute limit on load times, and even then I’m pushing people to get it much, much lower. — John Carmack, Oculus CTO (source)

If you don’t believe that the high quality 360 content movement is sneakily growing strong, check out companies like Evox Images. They’ve been creating beautiful 360 imagery that can be coupled with CGI for years!

Argument: 360° Videos/Images are not VR

I know that there are those of you that don’t consider 360 experiences as VR.

Here’s my logic, Oxford defines Virtual Reality to be:

The computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors.

In other words, a helmet with a screen can be considered VR as long as it can be be interacted with in a seemingly real way (e.g. head tracking).

Although you can’t interact with the characters in a 360 video, in some cases, I feel like it’s more authentic than CGI because it is a rendered human with a real face, voice and story (e.g. Clouds Over Sidra).


There are arguably some use cases where Desktop VR performs better than Mobile especially for enterprise VR apps and VR arcades. As the specs on mobile VR devices get better, I can see them continue dominating the VR space.

Be sure to check out the “6 Competitive Advantages VR Gives Top Brands” to see a list of apps the companies pay for.

Summary — 3 Reasons to Give Up on Desktop VR Apps and Focus on Mobile VR

  1. Mobile has the Largest Audience
  2. Significant Development Time Reduction
  3. Higher Quality Apps


As I travel from city to city, I’ve found that mobility for VR devices is incredibly important.

Not only that, I think there are many compelling stories being created for mobile headsets and that the technology will eventually rival desktops.

Also, I believe there will be more apps for mobile VR devices as it is easier to develop for them.

Want to ask an investor?

If you’re interested in asking a VR investor questions or seeing their thoughts, please let me know through the Wufoo form below.


Note: When we get 100 signups, I’ll ask a VR Investor your questions on a public live stream!


I’ve never been more excited about the possibilities for VR. For those of you that need inspiration to switch to Mobile VR, here’s a quote from the great John Carmack himself:

At it’s very core, virtual reality is about being freed from the limitations of actual reality. Carrying your virtual reality with you, and being able to jump into it whenever and wherever you want qualitatively changes the experience for the better.

Experiencing mobile VR is like when you first tried a decent desktop VR experience John Carmack, Oculus CTO (source)

Always be learning,


Chris Tan is the CEO and Co-founder of ConstructVR.io. He is a Y Combinator Alumni from Vancouver, Canada and now lives in San Francisco, CA where he spends his free time meeting other VR enthusiasts.

Chris Tan

Written by

Chris Tan

VR & AR Enthusiast, YC Alumni, CEO of www.ConstructVR.io // @chrismtan

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