Of all the devices that we have encountered at this year’s IFA show here in Berlin, the Samsung Galaxy will almost definitely be the one device that I can honesty say ‘blew my mind’. We were fortunate enough to get an early demo of the device behind closed doors, and while admittedly I an no VR expert, the experience totally impressed me in a way that is actually difficult to articulate.
It’s also great to see Samsung taking a risk with a device of this kind, investing considerable R&D resources to create a device for which there is no consumer track record, no guarantee of revenue streams and even the possibility of it becoming a complete flop, relegated to the scrapbook of history as an experiment that failed. Samsung deserve credit for their efforts, as do partners Oculus Rift of course.
If you haven’t seen it, check out our hands on video of the Galaxy VR, shot at the Samsung booth during IFA 2014:
We recently heard that the official retail price for the Galaxy VR would sit around the $200 mark, a reasonable price of entry, you might think. But of course there is one major draw back to the product that will hinder its success with consumers and that is that it relies on the integration a Samsung Galaxy Note 4 device to work. We can envisage a point of sales effort where the two are sold as a package, and doubtless many Note 4 users will be tempted, but I cannot help feeling that this approach somewhat hinders the possible success of the Galaxy VR, not just as a product, but as concept.
There is a a gaping disparity between the two user bases that have seemingly been lumped together. The Samsung Galaxy Note series has long been a product that targets users who want a large smartphone/phablet that allows for a degree of productivity. It’s larger screen makes it great for actually doing stuff like replying to emails or even looking at excel sheets or presentations. I know plenty of people professionally who no longer feel the need to bring a notebook PC to an event or meeting because devices like the Note 4 make it easy to live without a ‘proper’ computer. Business users and professionals must surely make up the lions share of the Galaxy Note target market. Do these people need a VR headset?
The Galaxy VR is really well suited as a family device, one that kids and older family members will really enjoy. It is geared towards entertainment and content consumption like no other device you have ever tried. There is even an education angle with forthcoming planetarium content and other more academic subject matter taking advantage of the VR’s incredible 3D experience.
I understand that the raw technology that drives the Galaxy VR is inherently going to be high-end. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 packs a QHD display and one of the world’s most powerful processors with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 (let’s not forget the Adreno 449 GPU too…), which may be totally necessary to deliver the Galaxy VR’s incredible 3D environment. The big hope I have, is that the Samsung come up with a similar VR headset device that forgoes the need to integrate your Note 4 smartphone, or indeed any smartphone.
The Galaxy VR is a good enough product to warrant its existence as a stand-alone virtual reality headset, so why not make it so? While today it remains an expensive accessory to a flagship phablet, it feels doomed to remain no more than a novelty toy, when in fact it has the potential to be so much more.