I’m the kind of guy that like’s to tears down everything so I can better understand how stuff works. I build computers, open all my gaming consoles and repair my dryer. I’m not always successful at it, I make mistakes and break things but at least I learn in the process.
My friend gave me his GearVR because it was barely usable. The lenses were scratched really bad, the whole unit was also covered in smoke residue. It smelled so bad that the nausea wasn’t even caused by VR sickness. I tried washing the whole thing over and over again, but there was nothing I could do about it. My friend liked his GearVR, but obviously not enough to take good care of it. So I challenged myself to extracting the electronic components to turn my BoboVR into a Gear VR.
GearVR Teardown: The easy part
First it’s good to know that there are no special screws here, only tiny Phillips type screws. But they are screwed really tight so make sure you have a good screwdriver or you’ll hurt your hands and you might also chip the screws making them impossible to remove.
When you look at your Gear VR from the inside, it should look something like this. The only difference is that I removed the 4 rubber caps on each corner to reveal the first 4 screws. So far so good, now let’s take them out.
The cover pops out almost right away, but I have to use a little force to get it out. Additionally you want to be extra careful because connections and cables in electronics are often really thin and easy to break. See that dongle on the left? that is the USB and volume cable that connects to the circuit board that’s still attached to the Gear VR. It’s well secured on both sides so you can’t disconnect it for now. You have to make sure not to tear it apart by manipulating any of the parts now. There are four other screws maintaining the USB connector and volume connector in place. Carefully take them out.
Good. Now you can get rid of the big plastic layer but you still have that USB and volume attached to the board. Yet they are smaller and will follow the headset if you move it around with less risk into breaking the cable. You will notice that there’s some oily residu all around the moving parts, but also a couple of screws need to be removed on this second layer. We don’t have to remove it all for now, we will secure that cable first by removing the 3 screws on the plastic over the circuit board.
With that plastic cover removed, the circuit is exposed but cannot be taken out so far. What we can do here is gently disconnect our USB/Volume cable. You can take your screwdriver and carefully slide it under the golden par of the connector It’s easy to spot, it’s the one in the middle. Just flip it carefully to make it pop out. The remaining components cannot be removed yet so you can keep the other 3 connectors in place. Beside the USB plug, there is two screws you want to take out. This will allow you to remove it from the big plastic clip.
There you go. Now take out all of the screws left inside the headset. There are about 10 to be removed. Some are easily visible, but don’t forget those in the bottom of all the holes you see. I managed to remove them all except one. I had to break it out (you will see the screw on the bottom left of the next picture). When you will remove the layer, the back button will most likely fall of and you’ll be able to remove the circuit there. Just disconnect it and put it aside with the USB/Volume module for now.
Disconnect the other two connector. The components can’t be removed yet, but you want to free that circuit board. If you turn this part around, you’ll notice the charging USB connector is soldered right on it. So if you look at an unopened GearVR, you know the circuit is right above that port on the bottom of the GearVR.
The interior of the headset is now fully exposed. The remaining two components will be the hardest parts to remove. They are secured by a thin layer of plastic that is glued tight. The proximity (or lumens sensor) is also glued there, but first you must remove the outer black layer of the cable. Peel a corner and pull hard but slowly not to damage anything.
Now both the cable and the sensor are glued in place so be careful. First gently pull the cable to set it free. I needed to use my screwdriver to take out the sensor. It is tightly secured in place. Make sure to pull it from one of the two sides where they seemed to be clipped to the white plastic (it isn’t). The last thing left to take out is the touchpad circuit, that also includes the gyroscopic sensor. It is also glued on tight and you don’t have much space to remove it. If you have the tool, I suggest cutting around it to be able to keep the track-pad. I didn’t so I ended up pulling and probable breaking the circuit, but what mattered to me was the head tracking chip.
To make sure nothing was broken, I just re-hooked everything to the board before reinstalling it to the BoboVR.
Fitting it on the BoboVR : The hard part!!
It may seem like an easy deal, but really the hard part is to to refit everything in place in it’s proper position on a headset that is not designed for it. I did not want to tear down the BoboVR to fit the circuits inside and there is no real place to fit it outside. You have to have all 4 components hooked up for the Oculus app to launch and you have to keep the circuit and the head tracking chip the same orientation it was. I wasn’t prepared for that I must say so I had to use good old’ duct tape. But it worked!
I must admit the aesthetics is plain ugly. It feels bulky and any wrong move could have my hand send the whole thing flying away. The other problem I had is that in the GearVR, the board is located behind the phone, the USB connector cable is made in a way that it was hard to have it hooked into the phone when inside the BoboVR. If you can find something to extend it, I strongly suggest it as it may also offer you the possibility to replace the circuit in a more convenient way. It did work for me and I must admit that the experience was improved over the GearVR headset. Larger field of view, adjustable lenses, the images was clearer and my experience better! Unfortunately the track-pad was unusable behind the duct tape but a Bluetooth controller has been my input method for a few months now.
While trying to find a better way to assemble the components, I broke the cable of the USB connector. Unfortunately, this means my BobearVR isn’t working anymore, until I find another ( less stinking) one of course.