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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