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Uh-Oh, Apple -- Samsung Has a Bona Fide Ecosystem Around Virtual Reality

The announcement of the Gear 360 means Samsung now has the best option on the market for both capturing and watching immersive video. Your move, Cupertino.


For a long time, Samsung’s phones have gone head to head with the iPhone, but when it came to having an ecosystem of different devices, Apple was the hands-down winner.

Sure, Samsung had its own tablets and watches, but it was Apple that was able to build loyalty, convincing customers to make purchase after purchase.

With virtual reality, though, Samsung is off to the early lead. Alongside Sunday’s debut of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, the company is announcing the Gear 360 — a consumer camera for capturing virtual-reality content. That completes the VR circle, with its Gear VR headset, already the most accessible way to consumer virtual-reality content outside of Google’s ultra-cheap cardboard viewer, which is more for getting a taste of VR than long-term consumption.

The Gear 360 isn’t due out until the second quarter — and Samsung won’t say how much the orb will cost — but it looks small, simple and powerful, at least at first glance.

It works with various Samsung phones, including the new Galaxy S7s as well as the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+, with the phones acting as live viewfinder and remote control for recording controls. Those who want to do more editing will be able to do so on a PC or Mac. The camera comes with its own built-in mini tripod, and works with standard ones.

When people are done, they can upload their work to Facebook and YouTube, the two most popular spots for user-generated virtual-reality content.

Samsung’s smaller Korean rival, LG, is also aiming to build up its lineup of companion products. The just-announced G5 comes with an expansion slot, and can connect to, among other things, a newly-introduced VR headset as well as to a 360-degree capture camera.

All this isn’t to say Apple isn’t working on something in VR right now. It probably is.

And Samsung has been known to be early to a market without being able to dominate it. Let’s not forget that the company had released a dozen watches on at least four different operating systems before Apple came out with its first watch. It’s hard to argue that early work has paid off, at least thus far.

But for those who are serious about trying virtual reality today, it is Samsung and LG with a complete story, and Apple users who are left waiting.

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