Samsung joins virtual reality arena

TV presenter Rachel Riley shows a virtual-reality headset called Gear VR, from Samsung, in Berlin. (AP)

TV presenter Rachel Riley shows a virtual-reality headset called Gear VR, from Samsung, in Berlin. (AP)

First published in National News © by

Samsung has taken its first steps into the virtual reality market by announcing its own headset.

At the technology giant's Unpacked event at the IFA technology show in Berlin, the Korean firm introduced the headset - the product of a partnership with VR company Oculus, which was purchased by Facebook earlier this year for two billion US dollars (£1.2bn).

It was a day of several big announcements for Samsung, as the much-rumoured Galaxy Note 4 was also unveiled.

The latest version of the large smartphone has an improved interface, including a new Multiwindow feature that enables users to minimise and resize different screens on their phone for multi-tasking in much the same way you would on a desktop computer. The device will go on sale next month.

A special edition of the Note was the shock announcement of the press conference, with the Note Edge - with a screen that curves around the phone on one side - being showcased for the first time.

The technology is something that has appeared in several fan concepts for the upcoming iPhone 6, however Samsung have got their first.

The new screen was described by Samsung's David Park as working like a "ticker", with notifications and news scrolling along it. Its showcase drew the biggest cheer of the day from the Berlin crowd.

Initial reaction within the industry suggests Samsung has responded well to profit drops earlier in the year, with operating profit dropping by 25% in the company's second quarter results.

Rob Kerr, mobiles expert at uSwitch.com, said: "When it comes to Samsung, bigger is usually better, and its fourth generation phablet is no exception. Size wise, the Note 4 is no bigger than the Note 3, but it's still bigger than most pockets.

"The 5.7-inch dimension does justice to an improved Quad HD screen, which is getting closer to the quality of top-end TVs. The Note 4's improved stylus - the S Pen - offers a different user experience for those looking for something fresh."

The Note 4, as with previous generations, comes with Samsung's own stylus. However there is a twist this year, with a new high-end partnership with world-renowned pen manufacturers Mont Blanc being announced.

"Tying up with Mont Blanc to offer bespoke stylus pens and leather covers gives Samsung the luxury edge that Apple already has," said Mr Kerr.

"Samsung has owned the phablet space for a long time, knocking out more than any other mobile maker and proving there's a super-sized market for supersize phones.

"But Apple could soon be snapping at Samsung's heels with a 5.5-inch iPhone."

The Note 4 also integrates with Gear VR, slotting into the headset to power the mobile aspect of the new device.

Samsung also unveiled another smartwatch to add to its growing collection in the form of the Gear S. The device has its own SIM card port, meaning that it does not need to be constantly linked to your smartphone in order to function.

Ben Wood, chief of research at mobile experts CCS Insight, said this latest wave of products shows how competitive the technology market has become.

"You have to admire Samsung's relentless stream of new products, be it smartphones and tablets at all price tiers or the volley of smartwatches that have been released over the last 12 months," he said.

"Its underlines the ever quickening pace of the mobile devices space and a competitive landscape that sees Samsung having to anticipate Apple's every move while looking over its shoulder at the ever present threat from Chinese manufacturers."

"Samsung clearly wants to capitalise on its lead in the smartwatch space before Apple announces something - be that next week or sometime in the future. Its commitment is underlined by the fact that the official unveiling of the Gear S sees its fifth generation product within a year."

Consumers do not have to wait long for Apple's answer either, with the iPhone maker hosting their own event next week where the iPhone 6 and Apple's very first smartwatch are expected to debut.

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