5 Reasons You Should Avoid Samsung Gear VR

Samsung blew its chance with the Gear VR.

For the longest time, the Gear VR was the flagship mobile virtual reality solution. Right now, it's still the best combination in terms of virtual reality between having compelling content and being accessible to consumers. But that's about to change with the additional availability of consumer virtual reality on console and desktop, along with new mobile VR solutions. With the Galaxy Note 7 having gone through 2 recalls, and possibly being removed from store shelves forever, there's an interesting side effect: the impact it could have on mobile virtual reality. These are turbulent early days for virtual reality, with new headsets being announced and early creators discussing their experiences on the stores. Here are the five big reasons why the Gear VR won't be the future of mobile VR that you need to know:

1
Samsung's reputation is sure to take a hit

Samsung Gear VR Users
Chesnot / Contributor / Getty Images

The thing with the Gear VR has been that while it is a platform created in partnership with Oculus, one of the first major names in virtual reality, the drawback has been that it's required a flagship Samsung Galaxy device to use it. And so, premium mobile VR has lived or died on Samsung's fortunes and how they specifically could market their phones and Gear VR. Now, Samsung running into issues with their phones is a severe concern for the future of Gear VR. If people don't want to buy Samsung phones, they won't be able to get into Gear VR.

Samsung has already cut revenue predictions on the backs of the Note 7 scandal. And consumer confidence is sure to be eroded thanks to this. Oculus and Samsung may have to make some big changes to how they handle Gear VR in the future. Quite possibly, it may be in both of their interests to open Gear VR to non-Samsung users, though that obviously takes away a Samsung lock-in feature. Regardless, this hurts the Gear VR to a great degree in the short term.

2
Daydream VR will cut into the Gear VR's market share

Google Daydream View headset
The first headset to support the Daydream virtual reality system by Google. Google

Google has already flirted with mass-market virtual reality with Cardboard, but Daydream View is a massive step up, and it is going to be another problem for Samsung and Gear VR. Samsung makes some of the most popular Android phones, but Gear VR being tied to Samsung means that if you're buying an Android phone, if you don't buy Samsung – and not one of their premium Galaxy line phones – you've been locked out of their premium VR experiences. Daydream will require some time to catch on, but the promise is that in a year or two, many new phones could support this. There wouldn't be a need for a separate market, but instead VR apps could propagate on Google Play. Possibly, games could support Daydream and Gear in a single binary, the way that Steam VR games can support multiple headsets. It has the potential to be the most consumer-friendly of all virtual reality options.

Not only is the worrying thing for Samsung and Oculus that people interested in VR on their phones wouldn't need to buy Samsung, but that the idea of not being locked in to one platform for future games has to be appealing to users. Combine that with anyone interested in mobile or otherwise entry-level virtual reality being dissuaded from Gear VR, Daydream has a real attack vector to take away market share from Gear VR.

This doesn't mean that Cardboard won't still be important.

3
Oculus may have a rocky relationship with developers

Palmer Luckey
Palmer Luckey, Oculus founder. Ramin Talaie / Getty Images

One concern that VR developer Joshua Farkas expresses is that there are issues with how the Oculus store on Gear VR is being run in the first place – Oculus may be privileging partners and featuring some apps while ignoring others. Granted, this describes many if not all stores at this point,where featuring plays a massive role in if developers do well or not. But the difference is that the App Store, Google Play, Steam, and console marketplaces: those are all established marketplaces. Users go there, and developers have to adjust to the stores more than anything else.

But virtual reality is so young right now that if developers don't want to work on a particular store or platform, then they have options because no virtual reality solution has become standardized. I've talked to VR developers who are keeping an open mind on different platforms. Nobody wants to get locked into a losing solution. As well, Palmer Luckey's political donations led to several socially progressive developers claiming to abandon Oculus. And again, we are still in the formative days of virtual reality. Anything that dissuades content creators is not good. And if they don't want to make content for the platform, you should consider if you want to buy it.

4
Users need to buy virtual reality content

Wands
Screenshot of Wands for Gear VR. NUX Studios

Another concern that Farkas has is that right now, mobile users aren't necessarily spending money on virtual reality. This directly parallels mobile gaming as a whole, where free-to-play games have significantly outperformed paid games. The fear is that perhaps mobile virtual reality is subject to the same divide. Part of that concern may be because these devices are people's phones, and they don't want to use them for non-phone purposes for too long. Software could alleviate those concerns, of course – making it easier to respond to messages and notifications while in virtual reality would be helpful for this. But considering that aspects such as customizations would not work as well in virtual reality, and there may be more friction to make secure payments for in-app purchases, this represents a signficant concern if people won't pay for mobile virtual reality up front.

If you do buy a Gear VR or Daydream headset, it will be worth supporting apps and games you enjoy, because developers are often taking risks by focusing on mobile virtual reality.

5
Mobile virtual reality may be a few years away from being ideal

Adventure Time: Magic Man's Head Games for Gear VR. Cartoon Network

Here's the flipside of the equation with virtual reality and developers. While developers are open to other platforms with virtual reality, mobile is not part of the popular conversation around virtual reality. Oculus announcing new controllers seems to catch more attention than the announcement of a new platform with the potential to bring virtual reality to potentially countless millions of Android users in the coming years with Daydream, on the back of Google's existing work with Cardboard.

But it's not all just financial considerations. There are also hardware considerations, and while a cell phone can power a decent Gear VR, Daydream, or Cardboard experience, Oculus Rift's PC specifications are very high. PlayStation VR uses an off-the-shelf PlayStation 4, but a new, more powerful system is also in the works, especially for VR. The reality is that phones have a long way to go forward to catch up to modern systems in terms of VR power.

It could take a few years for mobile to be at the power levels that developers would desire for their virtual reality applications. And in the meantime, if opportunities for both revenue and functionality are greater on console and desktop platforms, then developers might make a killer mistake in ignoring mobile virtual reality. Virtual reality is no guarantee to succeed at all – or will require early adopters to weather out the storm.

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