It’s been known since early 2016 that HTC planned to integrate bluetooth into the Vive headset to allow your phone to talk to the headset while you’re in VR, but we didn’t know what platforms or specific functionality would be supported. Now with the launch of the HTC Vive app on iOS, the answer is becoming clearer.
Given HTC’s history as a major manufacturer of Android phones, it was obvious that Android devices would be compatible with the Vive’s bluetooth functionality. Whether or not iOS users would see the same was unclear. Today however, HTC has launched an official Vive iOS app to bring important info from your iPhone to you while you’re in VR.
There’s not yet an official Vive app for Android, but it may be that the more open nature of Android’s bluetooth functionality means Android phones can work natively in conjunction with the Vive without an app.
As for the iPhone, the description of the HTC Vive app doesn’t paint a particularly robust picture of what sort of information you’ll be able to receive from your phone while in VR:
Don’t miss what’s important IRL while you’re in VR. To get essential notifications in the world of virtual reality, just connect your iPhone with your HTC Vive. Notifications about phone calls, text messages and calendar events pop up without interrupting play and appear in the Vive tab on your System Dashboard so you can view them later too.
From the Vive tab on your System Dashboard, you can:
– Respond to a missed call
– Read text messages or call the sender back
– Get notified about calendar events and view the details
[Bold emphasis mine]
As an iPhone user myself, I know all too well that the platform’s restrictive nature sometimes means limited functionality where bluetooth communication is involved (*cough*Google Glass*cough*). The carefully worded description doesn’t build much confidence in an all-encompassing communication channel between the phone and the headset.
For one, ‘read text messages’ rather than ‘send‘, sounds like iOS users won’t be able to send texts from the Vive. This was the same situation with Google Glass on iOS, while Android users were able to dictate to reply or send texts anew.
As for the calendar events, I can only guess this will be limited to the native iOS Calendar app meaning that anyone using a third-party calendar app will be out of luck.
It also sounds as if native app notifications will not come through to the headset, meaning anyone who frequently communicates with third party apps like Messenger, Google Hangouts, or WeChat will not only not be able to send any messages through those apps, but not even be able to see messages received from them while in the Vive.
We’ll be giving the app a thorough test soon to find out exactly where it’s capabilities lie, and whether or not iOS adds additional limitations over Android.