Smart & Connected Life Smart Watches & Wearables Gear VR: A Look at Samsung's Virtual Reality Headset by Jeremy Laukkonen Writer Jeremy Laukkonen is tech writer and the creator of a popular blog and video game startup. He also ghostwrites articles for numerous major trade publications. our editorial process Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Jeremy Laukkonen Updated on February 26, 2020 Smart Watches & Wearables Working From Home Headphones & Ear Buds Smart Home Smart Watches & Wearables Travel Tech Connected Car Tech iPods & MP3 Players Tweet Share Email Gear VR is a virtual reality headset manufactured by Samsung in cooperation with Oculus VR. Unlike the Oculus Rift and other VR headsets, it's designed to use a Samsung phone as a display. The very first version of Gear VR was only compatible with a single phone, but the latest version works with nine different phones. Gear VR is a truly mobile headset in that it only requires a phone and headset to work. Unlike HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Playstation VR, there are no external sensors or cameras, and you don't need an expensive computer to use it. Samsung How Does Samsung's VR Headset Work? Samsung's Gear VR headset is similar to Google Cardboard in that it doesn't work without a phone. The hardware consists of a headset with straps to secure it in place, a touchpad and buttons on the side, and a place to insert a phone in the front. Special lenses are situated between the phone screen and the user's eyes, which help to create an immersive virtual reality experience. Oculus VR, which is the same company that makes Oculus Rift, is responsible for the app that allows Gear VR to turn a phone into a virtual reality headset. This Oculus app has to be installed for Gear VR to work, and it also acts as a storefront and launcher for virtual reality games. Some Gear VR apps are simple experiences that you can sit back and enjoy, while others make use of the trackpad and buttons on the side of the headset. Other games make use of a wireless controller that was introduced alongside the fifth version of Gear VR. These games typically look and play a lot like VR games you might play on HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, or PlayStation VR. Since Gear VR relies on a phone to do all the heavy lifting, the graphical quality and scope of games are limited. There are ways to play PC games on Gear VR and to use Gear VR as a PC display, but they are complicated and not officially supported. Who Can Use Gear VR? Gear VR only works with Samsung phones, so people who own iPhones and Android phones made by manufacturers other than Samsung can't use it. There are other options, like Google Cardboard, but Gear VR is only compatible with specific Samsung devices. Samsung typically releases a new version of the hardware each time they release a new phone, but the newer versions typically retain compatibility with most, if not all of the phones supported by previous versions. The main exceptions are the Galaxy Note 4, which was only supported by the first version of Gear VR, and the Galaxy Note 7, which is no longer supported by any version of the hardware. Where is Gear VR Going? Gear VR isn't going anywhere, at least not any time soon. You can still use it if you have a compatible phone and headset, but Samsung and Oculus are no longer working on new hardware for future Samsung phones. The direct successor to Gear VR, from the persepctive of Oculus, is the Oculus Go standalone VR headset. Current and Previous Samsung Gear VR Hardware There have been a lot of iterations of the Gear VR hardware, and each version is designed to work with specific Samsung phones. Here's a rundown of each version of Gear VR, including specifications and compatible phones: Samsung Gear VR SM-R325 The SM-325 added support for Galaxy Note 8 and retained the new wireless controller. Samsung Manufacturer: SamsungPlatform: Oculus VRCompatible phones: Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note 5, S7, S7 edge, S8, S8+, Note 8, Note9 (with an adapter)Field of view: 101 degreesWeight: 345 gramsController input: Built in touchpad, wireless handheld controllerUSB connection: USB-C, Micro USBReleased: September 2017 Gear VR SM-R325 was launched alongside the Samsung Galaxy Note8. Aside from the addition of support for the Note8, it remained largely unchanged from the previous version of the hardware. It comes with the Gear VR controller, and it is compatible with all of the same phones that the SM-324 supported. Since this headset uses a USB-C connector, some phones like the Galaxy S6, Galaxy S7, and other related devices can only be used with an adapter. It also works with the Galaxy Note9, which was released after this headset, with an adapter from Samsung. Features of Samsung Gear VR Gear VR's wireless controller sets it apart from other phone-based VR systems. Oculus VR / Samsung Handy controller: Wireless controller is included with the latest version of Gear VR and backwards compatible with earlier versions.See more in VR: Wider field of view than PlayStation VR or Google Cardboard.Light headset: Gear VR is lighter than Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and PSVR.Mobile VR: No external cameras or sensors required, so you can use it wherever you want. Gear VR SM-R324 The SM-R324 added a wireless controller. Samsung Compatible phones: Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, S7, S7 Edge, S8, S8+Field of view: 101 degreesWeight: 345 gramsController input: Built-in touchpad, wireless handheld controllerUSB connection: USB-C, Micro USBReleased: March 2017 Gear VR SM-R324 was launched to support the S8 and S8+ line of phones. The biggest change introduced with this version of the hardware came in the form of a controller. Controls were previously limited to a touchpad and buttons on the side of the unit. The Gear VR controller is a small, wireless, handheld device that duplicates the controls on the side of the headset, so it can be used to play all the games that were designed with those controls in mind. The controller also has a trigger and a limited amount of tracking, which means that some apps and games are able to use the position of the controller to represent your hand, or a gun, or any other object inside the virtual landscape. The weight and field of view of the SM-R324 remained unchanged from the previous version. Gear VR SM-R323 The SM-R323 was launched to support the Note 7 and included support for USB-C. Samsung Compatible phones: Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, S7, S7 Edge, Note 7 (deprecated)Field of view: 101 degreesWeight: 345 gramsController input: Built-in touchpadUSB connection: USB-C (adapter included for older phones)Released: August 2016 Gear VR SM-R323 was introduced alongside the Galaxy Note 7, and it retained support for all of the phones that worked with the previous version of the hardware. The biggest change seen from the SM-R323 is that it moved away from the Micro USB connectors seen in earlier versions of the hardware. Instead, it included a USB-C connector to plug into a Note 7. An adapter was also included to maintain compatibility with older phones. Another big change is that the field of view was increased from 96 to 101 degrees. This was still a little less than dedicated VR headsets like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, but did improve immersion. The look of the headset was also updated from a two tone black and white design to all black, and other cosmetic changes were made as well. The redesign also resulted in a unit that was a little bit lighter than the previous version. Support for the Note 7 was patched out by Oculus VR in October 2016. This coincided with the Note 7 recall, and it made it so that anyone who chose to keep their phone would no longer be able to use it with Gear VR and risk it exploding in their face. Gear VR SM-R322 The SM-R322 featured a redesigned touchpad and was also lighter than earlier units. Samsung Compatible phones: Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, Note 5, S7, S7 EdgeField of view: 96 degreesWeight: 318 gramsController input: Built-in touchpad (improved over previous models)USB connection: Micro USBReleased: November 2015 The Gear VR SM-R322 added support for an additional four devices, bringing the total number of supported phones up to six. The hardware was also redesigned to be lighter, and the touchpad was improved to make it easier to use. Gear VR SM-R321 The SM-321 removed support for Note 4 and addes support for S6. Samsung Compatible phones: Galaxy S6, S6 EdgeField of view: 96 degreesWeight: 409 gramsController input: Built-in touchpadUSB connection: Micro USBReleased: March 2015 The Gear VR SM-R321 was the first consumer version of the hardware. It dropped support for the Galaxy Note 4, added support for the S6 and S6 Edge, and also added a micro USB connector. This version of the hardware also introduced an internal fan that was meant to reduce lens fogging. Gear VR Innovator Edition (SM-R320) The SR-320 was made available to developers and VR enthusiasts ahead of the official Gear VR consumer release. Samsung Compatible phones: Galaxy Note 4Field of view: 96 degreesController input: Built-in touchpadWeight: 379 gramsUSB connection: NoneReleased: December 2014 Gear VR SM-R320, also sometimes referred to as the Innovator Edition, was the very first version of the hardware. It was introduced in December 2014 and provided mostly to developers and VR enthusiasts. It only supported a single phone, the Galaxy Note 4, and it's the only version of the hardware that supports that particular phone.