Windows 10 Phone

The first VR-ready Windows 10 phone is incredibly basic

Google is leading the mobile VR race with its Daydream platform and headset, but Microsoft is getting ready to join in too. Alcatel has made a $470 Windows 10-powered version of its Idol 4S phone, and it’s the first mobile device running this OS to have virtual reality capabilities. Like its Android brother, the new Idol also comes with its own headset. I played around with it to see if this first stab at VR on Windows 10 Mobile is any good. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

First off, the Idol 4S Windows 10 doesn’t simply have a different operating system than its Android sibling, which I reviewed earlier this year. It also packs a more powerful Snapdragon processor, sharper camera, more RAM and storage, but uses weaker speakers and a lower-res full HD display.

That lower resolution was evident when I hunted down the walking dead in Zombie VR, where things like poles and seats in an abandoned subway car were clearly pixelated. The Android Idol didn’t have super smooth graphics either, but artifacts are more obvious on the Windows version.

The virtual reality experience was developed in-house by Alcatel, but Microsoft collaborated with the Chinese firm on testing for quality and compatibility. Microsoft didn’t seem to really play a part in implementing the VR, here. When asked what the company’s plans were for supporting such mobile virtual reality platforms, a Microsoft spokesperson said it looks forward to sharing more in the future. Meanwhile, what you have is a VR content store that Alcatel created, as well as an app called Tube 360, for discovering media.

The VR app store here is incredibly basic. It has two categories – Games and 360-degree Media. The former contains just seven titles right now, while the latter offers two immersive pictures and one video. That’s it. These are pulled from the Windows app store, and Alcatel said that it will add more content as it is created for the OS. Tube 360 is a preloaded third-party app that aggregates 360-degree content from YouTube and offers dozens more clips than the store does.

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