At CES 2015, Road to VR spoke with Oculus’ Head of Mobile, Max Cohen, who confirmed that Samsung’s Gear VR mobile headset would begin its international rollout by the end of January. The company is also working toward developer monetization and the upgrade path for Android 5.0 Lollipop.
Samsung’s Gear VR headset, which was created in collaboration with Oculus, was announced in early September, followed by a U.S. launch in December. Those outside of the country were left without an official way to acquire the unit, meaning those hoping to get the unit right away would be looking at import tariffs, lack of localization, and concerns about carrier-specific phone compatibility with Gear VR.
To ensure compatibility, Oculus has recommended that hungry Gear VR users wait for a proper launch in their region. The company now says that the international rollout is about to start.
“We’re expanding to international markets this month, it’s going to be a rollout, but we’re starting that this month… International markets are our first priority, but commerce right after that,” said Max Cohen, Head of Mobile at Oculus. When asked to clarify if this meant that by the end of the month we’d see Gear VR available for purchase in an international region, Cohen said “Possibly even before that.” It wasn’t clear which regions will be the first to see Gear VR release.
As Cohen also noted, commerce—the ability for developers to charge for Gear VR apps and experiences—will follow shortly after Gear VR starts shipping internationally.
Gear VR, which is priced at $199 and powered by Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, may have had a better than expected launch.
“It sold out pretty quickly… in terms of Samsung’s projections, I think they moved a lot faster than Samsung was planning, it wasn’t intended to not have them available for three weeks for anyone to buy,” Cohen said. “Our internal review was based on ‘what are the reactions from people?’ [Listening to feedback] through the various social media channels… we’ve been very pleased.”
Cohen also confirmed that for the forthcoming Android 5.0 ‘Lollipop’ update, every developer will need to provide an update to their Gear VR apps for compatibility. “Apps will crash if they haven’t been updated [after upgrading to Lollipop],” he said. “Lollipop is rolling out, I think, very soon in some regions, so we will be quickly working with our developers to try to get everything ready.”
Cohen mentioned that the company would like to architect the platform to avoid global developer compatibility updates in the future.
“There were a bunch of things that we could have done a little bit differently, we’ve learned some lessons and we should be better off next time,” Cohen said. “Android OSes are only released once every year or year and a half anyhow, so I don’t think this is a big thing… it’s more that there’s gonna be future devices coming up and we want to make sure the apps work across all those devices.”
We’ve reached out to Samsung to see if we can find out which international regions will be first to get Gear VR by the end of the month.