Back in 2014 Samsung surprised the world by announcing their new partnership with Oculus to create the first fully mobile Virtual Reality headset. Powered by the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and dubbed the “Innovator Edition” (apparently somebody at Samsung had an issue calling it a development kit) this was our first taste of what would become Oculus’ mobile line.
But 4 years is a long time when it comes to computers, and a lifetime when it comes to mobile phones. With the Samsung Galaxy S9 annoucement just around the corner, I thought I’d dig out the old Note 4 and see how the Innovator Edition stacks up against the consumer (Gear S6/S7/S8 powered) GearVRs.
Its worth starting with the bad news. The Note 4 is unofficially “end of life” when it comes to the GearVR. It does still work but a lot of applications won’t be available to you, and some of them will run quite poorly. You’re also out of luck when it comes to accessories – neither the GearVR controller nor the Gear360 camera will work with the Note 4.
My Note 4 is running all of the latest firmware, and I’d heard some horror stories about non-functional Innovator Editions. It’s been a good six months since I last fired it up, so I must admit to a bit of hesitation as I slipped the HMD on.
Good start. We have a menu. Tiny bit of stutter looking around quickly, but so far so good.
Let’s start with the basics. Oculus 360 Photo app. Hmmm. Needs updating. Ok then, Samsung Gallery. Also needs updating. Fine, while those download lets play a bit of Temple Run.
It works. I haven’t got a gamepad hooked up so it’s a bit challenging to actually play, but Temple Run works just as well as it did Day One.
360 Photos and Video
Now the updates have finished, lets try out 360 photos and video.
Oculus 360 Photos app works beautifully. I’d actually forgotten how enjoyable it can be just to sit back and explore 360 photos from around the world. There is now a dedicated tab for 3D photos, and it only took a few sections to scan through my own photo library and be able to view my own 360 photos too. Samsung Gallery gave a similar experience – everything works fine.
So what about video? Now I admit to only having a small selection loaded on the Note 4, but firing up Samsung VR – and they played back fine too!
Lastly I tried the Oculus Video app. Again I was pleasantly surprised to see everything working exactly as it should.
So the Note 4 might be getting a bit long in the tooth, but if you have an Innovator Editor, or have the chance the get one cheap, rest assured it still works as advertised. 360 videos still play, and ten minutes of Smash Hit will still overheat the handset.
You will only have access to a fraction of the titles available on Oculus Home and newer features like Chromecast support and Facebook live streaming won’t work but 4 years later, the Innovator Edition still provides a solid virtual reality experience.