The Note 7 debacle hasn’t been good for anyone — not for Samsung, not for Android, not for consumers, not for airlines, not for fire departments, not for stylus-lovers and certainly not for Oculus.
The Facebook-owned virtual reality powerhouse currently has its entire mobile VR future pinned on the successes of Samsung’s handsets and the discontinuation of Note 7 production is likely going to stunt Oculus’s Gear VR sales (and brand) in a pretty damning way.
Today, shortly before Samsung issued a recommendation that all Note 7 users shut off their devices, Oculus disabled Note 7 support for the Gear VR. Users on Reddit discovered the message this morning.
Exploding phones admittedly do not seem ideal for a peripheral that straps the phone to your face, so the real surprise is that it took this long.
The success of the Gear VR is intimately tied to Samsung in more ways that just the phones. Samsung injected major life into the Gear VR platform by capitalizing on the excitement of the Galaxy S7 and shipping a ton of free headsets with pre-orders.
The $99 Gear VR is currently Oculus’s main touch point with consumers, most of whom have likely not even seen higher-end VR systems like the Rift. Oculus announced at their OC3 conference last week that there were over 1 million monthly active users on Gear VR, much of this likely having a lot to do with giveaways on the part of Samsung. No official numbers are out there in terms of sales, but analysts from SuperData Research estimate that while the Oculus Rift will sell just over 355 thousand units this year, there will be over 2.3 million Gear VR’s in the wild by year’s end.
Long story short, Gear VR is huge to Oculus’s brand and now the platform’s immediate future is likely going to see a very unfortunate period of slowed growth given that the next new compatible device from Samsung probably won’t emerge until next spring.
I actually like the new Gear VR headset, but I use it with my S6. The various redesigned pieces to work with the Note 7 will end up going away. But, given how much was put into making this work with the Note 7, it'll be a bit of a loss.