Samsung today became the first company to market with a consumer oriented virtual reality headset in decades as its Samsung Galaxy mobile phone powered Gear VR launched in the US today.
It’s unlikely that many people, even post Oculus Rift Kickstarter, would have predicted that at the close of 2015, we’d be expecting the first consumer targeted VR headset to be powered by a mobile phone. I admit to being more than a touch sceptical on learning last year that mobile phone giant Samsung were collaborating with Oculus to bring a fully-fledged virtual reality to the mass market, powered by mobile technology. But, as with many things VR related, once I’d seen it, I was sold.
Oculus believes that mobile virtual reality is ultimately the future and, their first collaboration is a deliberate attempt to begin charting a roadmap away from cumbersome PCs and troublesome wires, to a device that will transport your mind and once you’re done pass it around to your friends wherever you might be.
Today’s release is actually the third iteration of the Gear VR. Released initially last year, powered exclusively by the Note 4 phablet, the first iteration was labelled ‘Innovator Edition’ – ostensibly a cleverly marketed beta product. It was beautifully designed, incorporating a side-mounted touchpad for control, and the option to use a Bluetooth gamepad. This first release was quickly followed a little later with a refresh, this time designed to work with Samsung’s new S6 line of mobile phones. The S6 Gear VR tweaked the design a little, adding a sculpted touchpad and a USB slot, to power your phone whilst in use as a headset.
Today, the consumer Gear VR is barely different from the earlier models. It’s slightly lighter at 3xx grams, and it’s certainly cheaper, on sale today for $99 – obviously sans obligatory mobile phone. The new headset is designed to work with all 2015 model Samsung mobile phones.
As we write this, online availability is limited to the below outlets in the US at present – with Amazon already reported stocks sold out.
If you’re after bricks and mortar stores, Gear VR should be available at ‘select’ Best Buy, T-Mobile and AT&T stores ‘soon’.
Of course, this is all in the United States. Outside the US, things are (as is almost always the case) a little more unclear. Oculus states the device will be available for pre-order ‘soon’ and the headset has appeared at various official European Samsung sub-sites already. Price in the EU looks to be set at 99EUR.