This week Samsung announced the newest (and perhaps the last) of its Note devices – and it follows the usual formula of flagship upgrades: bigger, better, faster. You know the drill.
One thing that stood out to a number of mainstream tech commentators, however, is the confirmation that the Note 10 won’t work with the Gear VR – Samsung’s standalone VR headset system, launched nearly five years ago.
While it’s not all that surprising, Samsung has been very quiet about the Gear VR for quite some time, it’s a nail in the coffin of mobile VR more broadly.
With the VR ecosystem now dominated by the popularity of more capable standalone headsets like the Oculus GO and Oculus Quest – and retail prices generally trending downwards from the early days of dedicated VR headsets, like the Rift or Vive – the reasons to even consider taking the mobile VR route diminished further.
Where this death knell for mobile VR is perhaps premature is in more price-sensitive markets – for example, in India alone there are nearly 340 million adult smartphone users. Whatever percentage of those users may be interested in VR, it’s not a huge leap of imagination to think the first interaction with it might still be through a low-cost smartphone VR viewer, rather than through an Oculus GO, which currently costs the equivalent of just over $400 from Amazon India, whereas it costs just $249 in the US.
This cycle of people’s first VR experiences taking place on a mobile headset, before they then buy a more capable device (or lose interest entirely) will likely remain true in more mature markets too, at least for the foreseeable future.
Whether that first experience is delving into a virtual world, playing games, or exploring the masses of VR porn available today, ironically, most people would probably enjoy it more if it was taking place on a dedicated standalone headset.