The launch of the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 followed the debut of the latest addition to the technology vendor’s flagship smartphone series sooner than most would have expected. Keen to position the device as a pioneer in the mobile virtual reality (VR) space, Samsung and Oculus have already proven Gear VR offers a comfortable experience with the Note 4, and here with the newer handset that has not changed.
The most immediate differences between the Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 and its Note 4 sibling come in the form of weight and physical design. This newer model is slightly slimmer on the front end (where the phone is mounted) and significantly lighter than the original Gear VR. Coupled with the fact that the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge are also lighter than the Note 4 handset, it’s a surprisingly more comfortable experience. The branding featuring the ‘Powered by Oculus’ slogan has been made more prominent and a micro-USB port allows for the Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 to be powered directly as opposed to through the mobile handset, potentially reducing the heat and battery life issues that plague the original version.
As the Galaxy S6 does not feature an external memory port, the option to install the Oculus Home app – required for downloading VR software for the Gear VR – is now an automated process. Instead of being bundled with an SD Card, the Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 automatically initiates a download process the first time a Galaxy S6 or Galaxy S6 Edge is connected to the device. It’s a simple and fluid exchange for what could have otherwise been a problematic hurdle for adopters who are not particularly familiar with the Android operating system.
A few further renovations within the Gear VR Innovator Edition package have also taken place. The Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 does not offer a hardcase like its Note 4 sister, but instead comes bundled with a soft pull-string case. This is arguably a poor decision, as while it does make the device easier to throw into a backpack or suitcase containing other items, it does suggest more risk of damage to the lenses. Even more so is this the case when considering that the two parts of the headstrap (which are the same as those supplied with the original Gear VR Innovator Edition) are disconnected for transport and not movement restricted.
There are currently only a couple of applications available for the Gear VR Innovator Edition for S6 which are not present on the Oculus Home app for the original Gear VR, however this is differentiation is expected to be resolved soon. There is a potential divide in optimisation, but given that the Gear VR audience remains incredibly small at present it’s unlikely that any developers will opt to deliver their content to one version of the head-mounted display (HMD) and ignore the other. Of course, developing for either version (or both) of the Gear VR at present is essentially a primer for the expected ‘full consumer’ launch of the device later this year. That ‘Innovator Edition’ tag is appropriate then, but doesn’t change the fact that at present the Gear VR has earned that title of pioneer whichever version you choose.