“As we move forward into the future with Quest, it is time for me to probably give a bit of a eulogy for Gear VR,” said Oculus CTO John Carmack at Oculus’s Connect 6 Conference today. Gear VR is not dead yet, but it won’t be available on future Samsung phones.
That’s the latest from Oculus, the Facebook-owned company behind Gear VR’s software experience.
This announcement mimics what tech analyst Anshel Sag heard from Samsung out of the gate last month when it announced the Galaxy Note 10 and Galaxy Note 10+: “No version of the #Note10 is compatible with GearVR,” Sag wrote on social media.
Since Samsung hasn’t updated the headset since 2017, the lack of compatibility with the new Galaxy Note 10 series is the handwriting on the wall for Samsung’s phone-based VR headset.
Gear VR problems
It seems as though Gear VR was an experiment for Samsung that had a lot of promise but was also backed by a lot of problems. Phone resolutions for the device, such as Quad HD (1440p) didn’t provide the gaming graphics that many users want in their VR gaming experience. Quad HD resolutions resulted in pixelated graphics that made playing Gear VR a chore.
Then, there’s the battery life. Take a 3,000mAh battery to Gear VR, and all you’ll get out of the juice is four to five hours of VR gameplay (maybe six if you’re lucky).
Overheating, screen freezes, and game freezes were all too common in Gear VR. Users could play a game for thirty minutes, only to see a warning from Gear VR to shut down the headset and wait until the phone cooled to start playing again. At that point, it’s not worth playing a game with levels because, unless you’re fast enough, you’ll never escape one level to play another; you’ll just find yourself playing the same thing over again.
Assembly was also a problem. Taking the phone out to put it into Gear VR was a chore too, as the phone had to “lock” into place. One wonders if the USB port was at risk in Gear VR headsets due to the port’s role in connecting the phone to the headset itself. Gear VR’s assembly with the Samsung Galaxy phone(s) is not a problem with Facebook’s Oculus Quest, a standalone VR headset. The convenience of standalone VR (and thus, standalone VR headsets) makes Gear VR look antiquated by comparison.
Last but never least, there was little moving around in the room with Gear VR. The VR headset said from the beginning to sit down and not move around the room. In contrast, Oculus Quest allows for around-the-room movements, with kicks and punches in the air as motions that are replicated in VR games. The ability to explore the environment, rather than just sit-down gameplay, makes Oculus Quest a much better option for VR gamers than Gear VR.
Gear VR isn’t the only phone-based VR going away: so is Google’s Daydream
Gear VR started a revolution in the smartphone market, as it provided a first look into virtual reality as a whole. The best way to encourage standalone VR was to provide phone-based VR, to give consumers a foretaste of what standalone VR would provide.
Some smartphone customers would’ve never come to appreciate VR had it not been for Samsung giving away free Gear VR headsets to some and selling them at affordable prices for others. It was Samsung’s partnership with Facebook and Oculus in Gear VR that finally influenced Google to announce its Daydream VR platform two years later.
And yet, Samsung is staying atop of trends, so much so that Carmack’s announcement over Gear VR isn’t alone; in fact, Google’s Daydream VR is going away as well, as Google has said that its recent Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL do not come with Daydream VR support. Samsung’s Gear VR had more consumer support than Daydream VR, unfortunately. There’ve been no new apps added to Daydream since last year, a sign that developers are no longer interested — and neither is Google.
So, after four years, Samsung’s Gear VR is going the way of the dinosaur. It’s slowly dying, not dead yet, but headed to the grave. And now, let’s have a moment of silence for what many would say was the virtual reality gateway to everyday consumers.