With Samsung’s mobile Gear VR headset hitting stores in time for the holidays, a deluge of new VR users is on the way. If you’re among them, here’s three quick warnings you should heed.

1. Never Leave Your Gear VR Face Down or Outside

As a mobile VR headset, Gear VR is easily portable and may find itself resting on the coffee table of a living room, taken to a friend’s house, or even used outside on the patio. In any case, never leave your Gear VR headset face down (lenses up) or outside. If the sun catches the lenses at the wrong angle it can focus the rays onto your phone screen like a magnifying glass, possibly ruining the screen of your precious (and expensive!) phone.

This issue affects other headsets as well. At least one Oculus Rift user accidentally fried their device and shared the warning:

There is now a burn mark in the center of my left part of the screen from where the sunlight was focused into a small fire. I hope this save’s someone else from making the same mistake.

The face down position is especially prominent when using the Gear VR without any straps attached (like a View-Master), so be extra careful when passing it around that someone doesn’t inadvertently rest it face down, putting it in a vulnerable position as the sun sweeps across the sky and its rays across the room.

2. Never Use Gear VR Without a Phone Docked in the Headset

gear vr photo set (20)Gear VR is compatible with a number of different phones (depending upon which headset you have). Without a phone locked into the headset, the lenses, which normally focus light from the display into your eye, are exposed. If you are wearing the headset with no phone and accidentally look at a powerful light you can risk damaging your vision as the rays from that light will be focused into your eye. NEVER look at the sun through the bare headset.

3. Gear VR Should Not Be Used by Anyone Younger than 13

Samsung and Oculus’ official stance is that Gear VR should not be used by anyone less than 13 years old. The Gear VR manual reads:

The Gear VR should not be used by children under the age of 13. Watching videos or playing games with the Gear VR may affect the visual development of children.

Although Gear VR is fun and accessible, it may be best to play it safe even if the youngsters are begging for a try. For those older than 13, Samsung still urges caution for extended use:

When children, age 13 or older, use the Gear VR, adults should limit their usage time and ensure they take frequent breaks. Adults should monitor children closely after using the Gear VR if children feel discomfort.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Sven Viking

    The age limit is based on caution rather than any specific evidence that there’s a problem, by the way, and the main thing thought to be a possible problem (vergence/accommodation mismatch) is the same as watching 3D movies. I think it’d be unwise to have kids using VR frequently for long periods, though (or watching 3D movies constantly), since their eyesight is still developing.

    • Nikos

      Wearing spectacles below the age of 13 is known to affect the development of the eyes, which is why they are prescribed. You wouldn’t let your child wear a random pair of glasses, as they could harm its eyesight. There’s evidence for the latter. The VR headset uses lenses and it could cause damage in a similar way.

      • Sven

        You make a good point, though spectacles are generally something worn frequently for long periods, and even as an adult, wearing a wrong pair of glasses generally causes noticeable discomfort within a matter of seconds. I’d let my child use a pair of binoculars or a magnifying glass, but not for hours at a time.

    • Erhan Zeynel

      Age limit is all about two things.

      First is distance between two eyes. Vr lenses are positioned for adutls use (60 to 63 mm) and distance between lenses must be exect same as distance between your eyes. if not, this will be harmfull for eyes.

      Second is a same question as a movie about some other kind of day dream.
      Di Caprio’s “Begining” if you didn’t watch it.

  • MCB

    My Galaxy S7 Edge is only a month old an in perfect, pristine condition. I did the promotion where, with getting the phone, you receive a free Gear VR and it just arrived yesterday. I plugged my phone into this new device and the VR experience was amazing. BUT when I unplugged my phone, I immediately noticed that my phone had color distortions — streaks of green and red throughout the screen (maybe like something you would see if a magnet were touching an electronic device). I did a reset to no avail because the colors were still messed up. Then, I turned off the phone, left it off for ten minutes or so, turned it back on and the issue still persisted. Later, I plugged it into the charger and turned it off for a while. When I turned it back on, the screen was completely black (as if the phone were off). I know the phone was on because the indicator light at the top left flashed and I have still been able to hear the notifications coming through on my phone. I can answer phone calls by swiping left to right in the general area where you would answer a call — I just can’t see who’s calling because the screen is completely black. My husband also has the Galaxy S7 edge and his own VR (both arrived yesterday) and he has experienced no issues at all. I’m not sure if my phone is defective or if the VR is but this is a Samsung hardware issue. My phone has never been exposed to water (because I just don’t believe anything is water proof lol), never been dropped, I used the VR headset indoors (when researching things online about this issue I saw info about the lenses being messed up if exposed to sunlight but that wasn’t the case for me), and I used the Gear VR for all of five minutes. MY phone is being replaced by my service provider but I just think this is the craziest issue. I have had Samsung devices for years (had the S3, Note 4, Note 5, and now S7 Edge, and I’ve had others before that I can’t remember to call by name) and this issue is unprecedented. Maybe I’ll be the only person ever who had this issue but it has been incredibly inconvenient and I’ll be phoneless for a few days.

    • Sven Viking

      I haven’t heard of this problem before, and most people have used their Gear VRs many times over weeks or months rather than just once (not quite as long with the S7 specifically, admittedly, but still many times with that too).

      If you hadn’t been playing a lot of resource-intensive games on your phone, it’s quite possible using the Gear VR triggered the problem just by making full use of the processor and GPU, but it’s not very likely that it could cause it itself. It’s more probably a phone hardware fault.

    • Heather

      My Galaxy S7 was in pristine condition. When I took my phone out if the VR Gear, my ZAGG screen protextor was ruined, there was a deep scratch on the home button and a line of nothing but scuffs all across the back of the whole phone. I’m highly pissed. My phone looks like crap now and being physical damage, there’s nothing I can do.

      • Sven Viking

        I have head some things similar to that. It is possible there’s a general problem with Gear VR and S7’s physical compatibility.

        • Heather

          I’m not sure, but I’ve called Samsung and they won’t do anything about it. It has me furious!

    • Rich

      hey man this just happened to me today used indoors and my screen went black once i took it out of the vr it completely died it wont turn on really big disappointment on samsungs behalf why make it if its not going to be compatible with the S7

      • dbaby

        same happened to me today. The only reason I can even tell my phone is on at all is because when I try calling it, it doesn’t go straight to voicemail.

    • Steve Jonathan

      my dear friend sorry to tell you, that one of your display IC’s has blown off, to check. if its really blown. Just take touch and light it to your display, you will see your display slightly. The reason behind is because of a short circuit. Please contact to your service center or the place you bought it as soon as possible.

  • Skeptic

    VR fad will go the way of the 3D TV fad