The Essential Accessory

What every Gear VR owner needs. And you've probably already got it.


8/14/20233 min read

Xbox One Bluetooth gamepad
Xbox One Bluetooth gamepad

Although every Gear VR has built in controls courtesy of the touchpad on the side, this is far from ideal for active experiences. Nobody wants to be holding their arm up for the entirety of their gaming session.

Sure, the Samsung Gear VR Motion Controller is a great solution to this problem but it didn't even exist when the Gear VR was first released (November 2015). It wasn't until 2017 that Samsung released the controller bundled in with a headset, and at least at first, it was difficult if not impossible to buy one separately.

The "laser pointer" style controller is easily available now on services like eBay and Facebook Marketplace, and you'll likely be able to get one with shipping for less than AU$40 but do you really need one?

For many titles the Controller simply mirrors the same controls on the side of the headset, and while many games do require it, there is another device I would consider more essential.

That essential device is the humble gamepad. Better yet if you own a later model Xbox (One S, Series S or Series X) then you've already got one.

While the original models of Xbox One controllers (1537, 1697 and Elite 1698) didn't communicate via Bluetooth, every model since has this option so you can double it's usage with your Gear VR (or any other Android app that has gamepad support). Even better, the Bluetooth compatible models can be paired to two devices, so you don't even need to resync with your Samsung Galaxy and your Xbox between sessions. Just double tap the sync button and it will switch between paired devices.

Don't have a Bluetooth compatible Xbox controller? No problems. Again, places like eBay, AliExpress and Temu have you covered with Bluetooth gamepads available for less than AU$30 including shipping.

But why is it an "essential accessory"? As mentioned before holding you hand up to the side of your head for every click interaction gets old fast, so having a gamepad allows you to click with your arms and hands in a much more comfortable position.

More important than simple comfort though, is the wider range of games owning a gamepad will open up to you. Some games (notably Minecraft) require a gamepad to play at all, while others will allow you to use the sticks for movement (Example: Archer E Bowman, one of my personal favourites) or for adjusting your horizonal view while seated (Example: Apnea). It's worth nothing that artificial yaw (moving your viewpoint side to side using a gamepad or other controller type) is one of the prime reasons many experience Simulator Sickness so take it easy and remember to STOP playing if you start to feel ill (or even sweaty) and give it a good half hour before trying again.

As we work through our list of APKs that still work, we will be noting when a title supports (or requires) a gamepad, so refer to the APK List for more information.

Missed Opportunity?

According to a Reddit post by VR_Nima back in 2017, John Carmack spoke about the gamepad issue. The following is a copy/paste:

"At first, he was pushing a shipped controller with every Gear. He was very adamant about not fragmenting the market.

Then he got the results of a bunch of user research, and the general public automatically assumed that if it came with a gamepad, then it was a toy, or exclusively for gaming.

So they just shipped it. With new data, it turns out, almost 50% of the usage of Gear VR across the board is passive content (ie software you don't interact with), so it seems as though (those) interested in games had no qualms buying a gamepad, while the rest didn't need an extra accessory they wouldn't use anyway."

Personally I can't help feel that more gamepads in the wild may have resulted in more gems like the brilliant Herobound series, but despite Carmack's enthusiasm, it seems (again, in my opinion) that Oculus' focus quickly switched to standard-alone devices (the Oculus Go) and of course once the Quest arrived, the writing was on the wall for the Gear VR/Go devices.

Editor's Note: If anybody is aware of where/when this talk by Carmack was given, we would love to know the details.