Samsung today announced that the new Gear VR for the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will go on sale May 8th and become available for pre-order on the 24th. The new mobile VR headset from Samsung (made in collaboration with Oculus) is still sold under the ‘Innovator Edition’ tagline.
Officially, Samsung is calling this new version “Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6,” which we hope they’ll stick with consistently so people don’t get mixed up about phone compatibility. Let’s be clear about that now: the original Gear VR is only compatible with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. The new Gear VR is compatible with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.
For the sake of brevity, and in acknowledgement of the headset’s improvements, we’ll stick with the Gear VR 1.5.
Gear VR 1.5 will be available for pre-order from Best Buy starting tomorrow (Friday, April 24th), and go on sale an Best Buy and Samsung websites on May 8th. The headset will hit Best Buy store shelves on May 15th. Samsung further says that “Gear VR demonstrations and availability [will expand] to hundreds more Best Buy stores throughout the summer.”
There’s no word on pricing, but we expect it to match the $199 starting price of the original (or $249 bundle with bluetooth controller).
Update (4/23/15, 2:50PM EST): Samsung has confirmed that the Gear VR 1.5 will start at $199, same as the original, though there’s no word on whether the $249 bundle with Bluetooth controller will be offered. Original article continues below.
Gear VR 1.5 features several design improvements over its predecessor. The first of which is a more slim design which cuts down the headset’s size and weight, reportedly by some 15%. We’ve reached out to Samsung for the exact weight.
Samsung says that the straps have been redesigned, and the headset has been modified for improved airflow, including a small fan to improve ventilation and reduce lens fogging. The trackpad on the side of the headset has been modified to make it easier to find while wearing the headset, now deeper and with a center nib that can be felt.
The company has also done away with the dubious faceplate of the original Gear VR, which snapped onto the front of the unit after inserting the phone. The faceplate was only for aesthetic purposes as far as we know, and most users simply left it at home. Gear VR 1.5 now includes a more functional faceplate which completely seals one side of the lenses, when a phone is not inserted into the headset, to protect them from dust or scratches.
Gear VR 1.5 also includes a micro-USB port for pass-through charging while the phone is in use. On the original headset the phone could not be charged while in use.
While the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have smaller displays than the Galaxy Note 4, the Gear VR 1.5’s official spec sheet says the device’s field of view is 96 degrees, same as the original Gear VR.
“The Galaxy S6 Edge’s curved display has no effect on the FOV or image when viewed through Gear VR,” Samsung told Road to VR.
The original Gear VR for Galaxy Note 4 set the bar for a mobile VR experience. Although the headset seems similar to VR smartphone adapters like Google Cardboard, a built-in high performance accelerometer and special optimizations made to the phone’s software put the device in a league all its own when it comes to performance.
We’ll be looking forward to seeing how Gear VR 1.5 improves on an already impressive mobile VR experience, and whether or not the higher density displays of the S6 and S6 Edge improve visual fidelity.