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Gear VR (2016)

by Samsung

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The Samsung Gear VR (2016) Hints the Future of Samsung Phones Moving to USB Type-C

While Samsung and Apple are locked in an epic battle for market share in the premium smart phone space, one area that Samsung has a clear advantage is its support of virtual reality apps (an area that Apple has avoided).  Like Apple, Samsung puts a lot of focus on developing its own accessories including the Samsung Gear VR (2016) Virtual Reality Headset which is designed to be used with its own phones.

Samsung has also partnered with Facebook's Oculus to get more VR content and branding with one of the early pioneers in popularizing VR.  Facebook also benefits by getting a much larger audience with the hard core gamers that purchase its Oculus Rift VR Headset.

The Samsung Gear VR (2016) comes in both the US version and much cheaper International version with the main difference being that the manual for the international version is written in Chinese.  Given the large price difference, we simply purchased the international version from Amazon.

Here is what is inside the international version of the Samsung Gear VR (2016) and how to use it.

The international version packaging also has Chinese on the outside.  Surprisingly, the inside and outside packaging of the Samsung Gear VR (2016) international version feels cheap for a premium brand especially given how much Samsung has spent on advertising for this product.

On the packaging, we can see that the Samsung Gear VR (2016) supports both USB Type-C and Micro-B based phones.

The main accessories that come with the Samsung Gear VR (2016) include Velcro head straps, a USB Type-C to Micro-B adapter, a USB Micro-B adapter, and user manual.

Unlike other virtual reality headsets which use Bluetooth to connect to a controller accessory, the Samsung Gear VR (2016) uses USB to connect to the controls on the side of the headset.  This means that as Samsung transitions its phones from a USB micro-B to and Type-C connector, you need the USB Micro-B adapter if you use phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and Galaxy S7.  

If you remove the front cover of the Samsung Gear VR (2016), you can see that the USB Type-C connector comes already pre-installed.  In some ways, this is very surprising since all current Samsung users will need to replace the USB Type-C connector with the micro-B version in order to use it with the current Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 selling now.  Only the ill-fated Samsung Galaxy Note7 had a USB Type-C connector.  The fact that the USB Type-C connector came standard perhaps suggests that Samsung intends to move its upcoming phones to USB Type-C.

One of the benefits of using USB in the headset is that the control functions are always available on the headset, rather than having to find the remote.  Because the headset controls are powered through USB from the phone, you don't need to buy separate batteries either.  The USB connector also provides another locking mechanism to keep the phone in place while in the headset.  Rather than using a proximity sensor which might not be exact, the Samsung Gear VR (2016) uses USB to determine if the phone needs to go into VR mode when the headset enumerates over USB with the phone.

However, the main disadvantage of a wired connection like USB especially in a VR headset is that the placement of the USB connector will be dependent on what phone you are using.  To address the different phone sizes, the Samsung Galaxy Note7 also has an 'A' and 'B' slot position which can be adjusted to fit the phone size.

USB enables the Samsung Galaxy Note7's side control functions which include a touch pad, home/back buttons, and volume up/down buttons.

The Samsung Gear VR (2016) is comfortable to wear although the soft lining isn't of particularly high quality.  The soft lining attaches to the headset using Velcro so you can replace it when it gets dirty. 

The Samsung Gear VR (2016) is large enough to use by those with glasses.  On the top, you can also adjust the focal length to bring the screen further or closer to your eyes.

There is also a USB Type-C port on the bottom of the Samsung Gear VR (2016) which is used for additional charging.  You may need to use this additional charger if you don't want to use the phone's battery to charge the Samsung Gear VR (2016) or if you need to charge the phone.  However, most USB charging cables are too short to be able to freely move around with a cable connected between the headset on your head and the charger.  Also charging increases the heat produced in the phone which also reduces how long you can use the phone before virtual reality before it needs to take a break and cool down.

The side Velcro head straps fit easily into both sides of the Samsung Gear VR (2016).

However, the top strap is harder to put on, and you need to hook the latch near the headset's top focus dial. 

Once hooked, you can then Velcro the top and side straps together in the back.

Let's look next at how to use the Samsung Gear VR (2016) with the USB Micro-B based phone like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge.

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