The introduction of the Samsung Note 4 in New York by Samsung was unusual for several reasons. From a half-baked Galaxy Note Edge presentation to Adam Levine and James Valentine scurrying clumsily on and off the ill-fated Milk Music stage, the presentation was just plain bizarre. At the end of the presentation, everyone was invited to test the unique partnership with Oculus. The Samsung Gear VR has been announced as an accessory that will eventually be available for the Note 4 and will aim to bring the highest quality VR experience to the world.
Let’s move on to this week. Samsung has shipped tens of thousands of Gear VR headsets worldwide, as well as a new matte black version with a removable USB-C port, and a number of other significant changes to the headset that greatly enhance the experience. To really get a feel for how Gear VR has improved over time, we’re going to take a look at all three headsets side by side and appreciate the differences.
At their core, all Gears VR are designed to function in the same way. You stick your phone in your back, look through the lenses, and interact with the touchpad on the side. The core design is a step up from Google Cardboard for three reasons. First, the headset has additional tracking sensors that work with the phone for smoother movement. Second, the headset’s touch sensor opens the door to different types of interaction, like swiping back and forth for in-game action. Finally, each headset has a USB port to supply power from an external headset to the phone. It was less impressive on the Note 4 with overheating issues, but with the Note 7 it not only works well for charging, but Samsung also wants some accessories to someday use this port for data.
Connecting a phone is a small part of the experience, but the change over time is significant. The Note 4’s patented microUSB port meant nothing, but the Note 4 will ever use the original Gear VR. This has been fixed with the release of the Galaxy S6 and an updated Gear VR that now supports all Samsung phones up to and including the Note 7.
Samsung Gear VR is the epitome of high quality VR in the world.
With the upgrade to USB-C on the Note 7, the Gear VR with a changeable port was needed and appreciated. What’s more, Samsung stopped using spring-loaded switches on the latest Gear VR phone jack. This greatly simplifies the removal and addition of phones, and makes port replacement much easier.
Gear VR’s most significant upgrade over time has been size. The physical space you put your eyes into has grown with each generation, and for good reason. The larger the hole, the more users have prescription lenses, which is very important in a headset where you can only slightly adjust the distance between the lenses and the eyes. That adjustment wheel, found at the top of every Gear VR, has also been improved somewhat.
With each release, the wheel becomes smoother and more comfortable to use, without losing its position over time if you move around a bit.