Community Download: Is Oculus Go A Phone?

by Ian Hamilton • April 25th, 2018

At Facebook’s developer conference next week we are expecting launch details for the Oculus Go standalone VR headset, starting at just $200. With Facebook’s global footprint, the system could be the first all-in-one VR system many people in Europe and the Americas will hear about and have the opportunity to buy. There is still a lot Facebook hasn’t revealed about Oculus Go, but as the first affordable self-contained VR headset available to most people, it might represent the next step in a paradigm shift for personal computing and communication.

But we have one big question: Should Oculus Go be categorized as a phone, or as a personal computer?

Below is an edited transcript of a discussion between Games Editor, David Jagneaux, and me (Senior Editor, Ian Hamilton,) trying to come to grips with just how to think about the Oculus Go standalone VR headset. We’re presenting this to you to encourage discussion and debate down in the comments, so please let us know what you think!

Ian Hamilton: Is Oculus Go a communications device? Is it a phone?

David Jagneaux: From what we know I’d basically consider it a Gear VR, but without a smartphone plugged in. According to that reasoning, no, it’s not a phone.

Ian: It’s not a phone, but I assume you can meet up with and talk to other people with it.

David: What does that have to do with being a phone or not? It’s a Wifi-enabled device, but it’s still not a “phone”.

Ian: A self-contained headset that connects to Facebook Messenger would be the equivalent of a “VR phone”.

David: Maybe, but even though the Go is a VR headset that lets you talk to other people in VR, I think using the word “phone” undersells everything that makes it unique and not like a traditional phone.

Ian: I’ll have to send you the clip of Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone. He pitches it as a phone, iPod, and “Internet communications device” but all wrapped into one.

David: I think I see where you’re going with this, but the Go isn’t even an iteration of a phone in any way though is my point, I don’t see why it helps to compare it to an inferior technology that it has no real connection to.

Ian: It is a VR headset that’s less expensive than Rift, less immersive too, but also way more convenient. I think that oversimplifies what Go might be capable of by its second or third software update.

David: This isn’t a phone right now in the near term though, and frankly I don’t think that word is accurate to begin with.

Ian: I’d argue our iPhones and Androids are actually our most used “personal computer” — and that they are an evolution of PCs that couldn’t take off until Apple introduced the App Store. There are lots of people who think VR headsets are the next evolution after phones. Have you ever read this by Tony Parisi talking about an “iPod Touch” for VR?

David: No, I haven’t — seems like a good read. All of what you’re saying may be true, but that doesn’t make a VR headset a phone. It might replace the phone one day, but it’s not a phone.

Ian: My definition of phone is a device which connects you over at least voice to people who are far away in real-time.

David: Then we disagree there.

Ian: Is a Pixel 2 a “phone” or a “smartphone”?

David: Both.

Ian: If a VR headset has a phone app, is it a phone? If a VR headset has cellular service, is it a phone?

David: No. I can use Skype to call people but my computer isn’t a phone. I have voice chat on my PS4, but it’s not a phone. Overall, I feel like we agree on the impact of the technology but I just don’t see what there is to gain by classifying a VR headset as a phone. My opinion is that this classification can lead to further misinformation and confusion.

Ian: I have a hard time imagining the terms “phone” and “PC” will go away as VR emerges as its own platform.

David: I agree. I think there can be overlap while they all still exist separately.

Ian: Yeah, they probably will.

What do you think? Do you like this discussion format? Comment down below!

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What's your reaction?
  • impurekind

    It’s not a phone. It’s an all-in-one VR headset. It’s not complicated to grasp.

  • VR Geek

    The real question is a smart phone a phone? Sure it has a phone function, but most of us use our devices for other functions more often than not. We need a new name but doubt that will happen with the smart phone. Perhaps once we all ove over to VRAR we will just call it an immersive device or portal.

    • Duane Locsin

      Yes, they are still phones because that it’s core primary purpose and design.
      It can be argued that it is a general purpose communications device ~ phone, video conference, email, sms/mms or social app.

      All you need to do is look in the work place and it’s very apparent what they are used primarily for……slacking playing F2P games and watching YouTube.

  • Duane Locsin

    It’s a mobile vr headset with “phone like” features and mobile specs (definitely not shaped and compact like a phone), but virtual reality and Facebook is its primary purpose.

    A lot of technology today share a lot of features and their uses overlap, unless it’s a hybrid or new category, it’s the primary feature and core purpose that is generally recognized.

    iPhones, iPads and MacBooks are distinguishable from one another but over several years apps, telecommunication features, productivity, software and even specs (Apple maybe be building its own processors for all its hardware), compatibility will continue to grow and probably people will desire which ones they want based only on form factor and price.

  • The two dudes in the above conversation are imbeciles.
    Both my MacBook and my iPad can make calls.
    Does that mean they’re phones, too? Dopes ….

  • dk

    no it’s a gear vr with phone hardware that u can’t use as a phone 😛

  • Jason Mitcheson

    One could become quite philosophical about what makes a phone a phone, but surely it would boil down to whether or not it can read a SIM and have a phone number. No SIM = not a phone?

    • Henry Hoverball

      No, you can have a softsim.

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    It’s not a phone or a computer. It’s a grey Tupperware™ that you strapped to your face.

  • daveinpublic

    I don’t think it could be called a phone, because phone doesn’t mean a communications device, a phone means being able to use the phone line/phone system. You could also call it a walkie talkie if it has the same functionality of being able to talk across hundreds of feet.

    You might say it has a phone in it, but it’s not a phone. Kind of like you can say the Apple watch has a phone in it, but it’s not a phone. Also, you could say a square has a rhombus in it, but it’s not a rhombus. It has the ability to surpass a phone, but that doesn’t make it a phone.

  • Michal

    Perhaps after the conference they will finally update their website from current: “Arriving early 2018” to “Arriving early 2019”?

  • Al Riaz

    Maybe it’s a telephone booth because you can hear another person on it

  • FloridaOJ

    Why so much autism?

    • IanTH

      WHY do people continue to use “autism” so loosely? It’s like people lost “retarded” as a generic, acceptable word for stupid (et al.) so they’ve moved on to using “autism” instead. It’s gross.

      • FloridaOJ

        I don’t know. Explain the relevance.

        • IanTH

          Well, I suppose I’ll have to ask a question in order to start answering yours. What was the relevance of bringing up autism in your comment? By context alone, I can only assume you meant it as something like “Why so much stupidity” or perhaps “why so much awkward conversation”, something like that. As to why it’s bad, I’ll point to how we used to use “retarded”. People in comment sections seem to use “autism” in the same basic way people meant when saying “that’s retarded” or “you’re a retard” 10+ years ago. These days we don’t consider that OK to say anymore because, rightfully, it is offensive to use such a serious medical condition to be the jokey shorthand for “stupid” (and the like).

          So assuming you agree with the reasoning of not saying “retarded”, the same should hold true about using “autism”, given it is also a serious medical disorder. It is an actual developmental disorder which hinders learning, communication, and social skills. For whatever reason, as a culture (especially online), we seem to be OK with saying “autism” in the same way we used to say “retarded”. The majority of people don’t seem to use the latter word at all anymore, but online conversation seems OK with using the former in place of “things I don’t like/think are stupid/weird/etc.”. It just doesn’t seem right to me. Does it to you?

  • Justos

    “Lol” is definitely the best way to describe this article.

    Whats there to bicker about? A computer can make voice calls, its not a phone. So can my tablet, which isnt a phone. It may use the cpu and screen of what you would see in a smartphone, but its not used in the same way at all. Way different use case.

  • I agree with David. It is not a phone. I use Skype on my PC and it is not a phone

    • mirak

      What kind of phone ?
      It can do the job as a landline phone.

  • mirak

    Is a landline phone still a phone ?