Daily Dose of iQ: Samsung Releases Gear VR, Only Works with Note 4

Dec 09, 2014 — Garett Rogers

Mashable reported yesterday (Dec. 8) that Samsung has released its Gear VR headset, powered by Oculus, but the device only works in conjunction with the Galaxy Note 4 phablet.

This is an interesting play on Samsung's part, testing out the device on the Note 4 market before it tries to go mainstream with VR.

The success of virtual reality will depend on how companies like Samsung, Sony, Google, and Facebook (essentially all the major players in the VR landscape at moment) take the product to market. There is a real risk that any company in this space going mass market too soon will cause the entire industry to flop.

It makes sense for Samsung to limit Gear VR to Note 4 users, to test it out as a developer device for now.

It's a wise move for Samsung to focus on the experience rather than mass market at this early stage -- and labelling it as a developer device is a great way to avoid repeating the disastrous VR attempts of the past.

The price point seems pretty accessible, at $199 on top of the cost of owning a Note 4. When this product is ready for prime time, it will be probably lower cost and have adapters for other mobile devices.  The restriction to the Note 4 is likely a tactic to reduce the number of potential buyers, and limit the collateral damage if something goes terribly wrong. There is no technical reason you should need the Galaxy Note 4, so restricting it to that is probably because it's a developer version.

In a greater sense, Google has been experimenting with VR, with their low-cost cardboard solution, to make the technology more accessible to everday smartphone users. The experience is quite bad compared to what you would find with the Samsung product, but it also goes to show how low-cost a "VR phone accessory" could actually be. Oculus has a solid relationship with Samsung, so the company may not want to risk dealing with other manufacturers until VR is really a consumer mass market thing.

Because VR is still so foreign to the average consumer, Oculus has warned against "rotten apple" experiences that could turn people off the technology.

If another company, like Motorola or LG wanted to go mass market into this space by themselves, it would likely turn out to be a "rotten apple" that ruins the entire industry -- something that Oculus has warned against on numerous occasions.

The current landscape shows that people aren't quite ready for VR, and companies aren't quite ready to sell it either. As long as the technology follows their slow (but impressive) trajectory, and consumers aren't exposed to bad versions of virtual reality before it's ready, the future is bright for VR.

Topics: Wireless Trends, Mobile Industry, Retail Marketing

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