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Unpacked, unrevealed, unreleased: When Will We See the Consumer Gear VR?

There seemed to be a very clear pattern to follow with the Gear VR mobile virtual reality (VR) head-mounted display (HMD). Originally revealed alongside the Galaxy Note 4 smartphone at least year’s Samsung Unpacked event in Berlin, Germany, the first kit released in time for holiday 2014. A second version quickly followed at the next Unpacked event in March 2015, supporting the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge phones. When Samsung announced a new Unpacked event for 13th August, then, everyone assumed that the promised consumer version of the Gear VR would be making its debut here. But, days before the event, word arrived that co-creator Oculus VR wouldn’t be attending.

Gear VR for Samsung Galaxy S6

Sure enough, Gear VR wasn’t even mentioned at yesterday’s event in New York City, New York. Samsung did unveil the Galaxy Note 5, the successor to the first phone to support a Gear VR, along with the larger Galaxy S6 Edge+, but it wasn’t confirmed if either would support any version of Gear VR, let alone a new one. But, with Palmer Luckey adamant that the consumer device will be released this year, and just 4 full months left to do it in, it’s not clear when it will finally be revealed. Let’s take a look at some possibilities.

The first event that comes to mind is IFA, Berlin’s tech-driven show that hosted the reveal of the first Gear VR last year. Towards the end of its show yesterday, Samsung did tease that it would be revealing a brand new smartwatch at the event from 4th – 9th September. Could it also surprise with the new Gear VR on its 1-year anniversary? Annual release cycles are a common setup for the electronics industry, but the relative silence from Samsung about a new Gear VR just weeks before the event is set to take place doesn’t inspire confidence.

Of course, Oculus VR’s own developer conference, Oculus Connect 2, takes place later on 23rd – 25th September. The company has made some big announcements at the show before, including the reveal of its Crescent Bay prototype for the Oculus Rift HMD. VR fans are also hoping that the final release details for the consumer Oculus Rift, including a price and date, will be revealed during the show. Gear VR would have a lot to contend with on the news front, then. On top of that, the kit is sold through Samsung and branded as a Samsung device; surely the electronics giant would want to make the announcement on its own terms.

Samsung Gear VR for Note 4

So where does that leave us? There’s one major Samsung event left for the year that is curiously yet to be dated. The Samsung Developer Conference (SDC) traditionally takes place in San Francisco, California in November, but the company hasn’t confirmed that it will return this year. Even if it does, is a November reveal leaving things a little too close? An opening keynote played host to the reveal of Samsung’s Project Beyond 360 degree camera last year, so big announcements certainly aren’t off the table, and it’s more than possible the Gear VR could be revealed and released just weeks later. In fact, the original device didn’t go on sale until early December 2014.

Of course, Samsung could just as easily host a one-off event for its reveal at any point within the next 4 months. The idea of a VR-dedicated show that isn’t sharing time with a new phone reveal is an exciting one, giving us time to go in-depth with the kit’s new features and software line-up.

We’re heading towards the final quarter of 2015 and, to be frank, we had expected to see something of the consumer Gear VR by now. But there’s no reason to worry; with Luckey’s recent reassurances and the quick turnaround nature of the smartphone industry there’s no doubt the kit is still on track for this year. It’s just a question of when.