When Samsung revealed a new version of its Gear VR smartphone-based virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD) back in March 2015, it confirmed that all previous content would support the device. The new iteration of the kit swaps compatibility with the Galaxy Note 4 enlarged handset for the company’s latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S6 and its curved spin-off, S6 Edge. One might assume that Samsung would keep this parity between the two HMDs in place going forward. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however; certain content released for Gear VR in the past week is only compatible with the newer HMD.
Reports of the situation first came in with this week’s reveal of Battle for Avengers Tower, which made specific note of the Gear VR for S6 in its description. Oculus VR’s BaconVR later confirmed the news. As revealed in a regular Gear VR update, some new arrivals to the Oculus VR Store that hosts compatible content can currently only be downloaded on Gear VR for S6. These include Shironeko VR Project, Battle for Avengers Tower, and Omega Agent. But this isn’t down to Samsung favouring the newer product, rather waiting for the content to be optimised so that it can comfortably run on the Note 4.
“This is due to performance reasons and we’re working with the developers to optimize them for the Note 4,” the Oculus VR employee noted. “There will be some device compatibility issues as we move forward and bring VR to more phones, but we’ll always do our best to make sure we target as many device types as possible.”
A timeframe wasn’t given for just when these releases might appear on the original Gear VR. It remains to be seen how this will affect future iterations of the HMD and new phones; Samsung and Oculus VR are expected to reveal a new, ‘full consumer’ version of the kit in the former’s next release cycle, which traditionally takes place around September. Presumably, the new kit would release with the next major smartphone release from Samsung, thus feature software optimised for more powerful hardware. Is it possible that the earlier versions of Gear VR will fall behind as a result?
VRFocus will continue to follow Gear VR closely, reporting back with any further updates on its progress.