• Sunday, November 23, 2014

Samsung reveals Gear VR headset and Galaxy Edge

BBC Online
Television presenter Rachel Riley tries the new Samsung Gear VR device at the Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event ahead of the IFA Electronics show in Berlin, September 3, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Television presenter Rachel Riley tries the new Samsung Gear VR device at the Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event ahead of the IFA Electronics show in Berlin, September 3, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Samsung has unveiled a virtual reality headset and a smartphone whose screen bends around one of its sides.

The new kit was revealed at the Ifa tech show in Berlin.

In addition to the Gear VR and Note Edge, the company also showed off the fourth standard version of its large-screened Note smartphone, and a smartwatch with a curved screen.

The announcements come at a time when Samsung Electronics is perceived to be on its back foot.

In July the division reported a 20 percent year-on-year drop in its net profit and dozens of executive voluntarily agreed to return part of their bonuses.

The company's smartphone market share fell from 32.2 percent in the April-to-June quarter of 2013 to 24.9 percent in the same period this year, according to research firm IDC, despite the fact it has one of the biggest range of handsets. By contrast its Android rivals Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi and Motorola all made gains.

At Ifa, DJ Lee, Samsung Electronic's marketing chief, said his firm was "focused on accelerating the speed of innovation" and promised to "never slow down".

The VR headset is the result of an alliance with Facebook-owned Oculus and acts as an add-on for the Galaxy Note 4.

Photo taken from Facebook/ Samsung Mobile Deutschland
Photo taken from Facebook/ Samsung Mobile Deutschland

It uses the 5.7in (14.5cm) screen and speakers of the handset and adds a focal adjustment lens - allowing it to adjust for near and farsighted eyes - and a variety of sensors to track head movements.

The firm said the machine would offer a 96-degree field of view, giving an experience similar to looking at a giant 175in (4.4m) screen from two metres away.

The Gear VR will be sold with a microSD card containing a small collection of 360-degree videos and virtual reality games.

A visitor holds a new Samsung Galaxy Note Edge smartphone after its presentation at the Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event ahead of the IFA Electronics show in Berlin, September 3, 2014. Photo: Reuters
A visitor holds a new Samsung Galaxy Note Edge smartphone after its presentation at the Unpacked 2014 Episode 2 event ahead of the IFA Electronics show in Berlin, September 3, 2014. Photo: Reuters

Curved edge

Samsung said the point of wrapping the screen of its "phablet" around the handset's side in the Galaxy Note Edge was to offer a new way to access frequently used apps and alerts, which would be useful if an attached cover obscured the view of the full screen.

It acts as a kind of dock or toolbar that can be controlled with a swipe of the thumb,

But one expert suggested the functions offered by the Gear VR and Galaxy Note Edge might take a while to reach their full potential.

"[The headset] is going to be a niche thing, simply because until there are great apps and games to take advantage of it, that kind of experience is not going to be a mainstream one," said Ian Fogg from the consultancy IHS.

"Unlike previous curved screen smartphones, such as the LG Flex, the Galaxy Note Edge screen delivers practical benefits. But to maximise the utility, Samsung will need third-party app developers to support the edge display.

"And because Samsung offers this display on just one handset, few app developers will choose to support it unless Samsung pays app developers to tailor their apps.

Published: 9:42 pm Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Last modified: 10:07 pm Wednesday, September 03, 2014

TAGS: Samsung smartphone Berlin virtual reality headset Gear VR Note Edge Galaxy Note 4

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