IFA 2014: Samsung unveils Galaxy Note Edge and Gear VR headset
Samsung has unveiled its virtual reality headset Gear VR and Galaxy Note Edge, a smartphone whose screen bends around one of its sides.
The new kit was revealed at this year’s IFA tech show in Berlin.
In addition to the Gear VR and Galaxy Note Edge, Samsung also showed off the fourth standard version of its large-screened Note smartphone, which introduces an ultraviolet light sensor.
The announcements come at a time when Samsung Electronics is perceived to be on its back foot.
In July the division reported a 20% year-on-year drop in its net profit and dozens of executives voluntarily agreed to return part of their bonuses.
Samsung’s smartphone market share fell from 32.2% in the April-to-June quarter of 2013 to 24.9% in the same period this year, according to research firm IDC, despite the fact it has one of the biggest ranges of handsets.
By contrast, its Android rivals Lenovo, Huawei, Xiaomi and Motorola all made gains.
At IFA, DJ Lee, Samsung Electronic’s marketing chief, said his company was “focused on accelerating the speed of innovation” and promised to “never slow down”.
The virtual reality headset is the result of an alliance with Facebook-owned Oculus and acts as an add-on for the Galaxy Note 4.
It uses the phone’s 5.7in screen and speakers, and adds a focal adjustment lens – allowing it to adjust for near and farsighted eyes – and a variety of sensors to track head movements.
Samsung said the machine would offer a 96-degree field of view, giving an experience similar to looking at a giant 175in screen from 6.5ft away.
The Gear VR will be sold with a microSD card containing a small collection of 360-degree videos and virtual reality games.
Samsung said the point of wrapping the screen of the Galaxy Note Edge around its side was to offer a new way to access frequently used apps and alerts, which would be useful at times when the rest of the screen was obscured by a protective cover.
It acts as a kind of scrollable dock or toolbar that can be controlled with a swipe of the thumb.
One expert suggested the functions offered by the Gear VR and Galaxy Note Edge might take a while to reach their full potential.
Samsung appears to recognize that of its new devices, the Galaxy Note 4 is likely to be the bestseller, calling it the “hero of the day”.
Galaxy Note Edge is the same size as its predecessor, but now features a “quad HD” screen with 550 pixels per inch, meaning it should in theory present more detail than most of its rivals.
Boosting screen resolution takes a toll on battery life, but the company was keen to promote that it had included “fast charging” technology.
It said the Note 4 would take about 30 minutes to bring its battery up to a 50% charge, versus a 55 minute wait for the Note 3.
Samsung said other changes included:
- an improved S Pen stylus that provides “a more natural brush effect”
- better noise cancellation to help make calls from loud environments
- an improved fingerprint scanner
- a higher-resolution front camera for selfies that is now 3.7 megapixels
The most unusual feature, however, is the inclusion of what Samsung says is the “world’s first UV sensor in a mobile device”.
The component provides users with a built-in way to track their exposure to sunlight if they keep the device outside of their pocket or bag.
However, Netatmo’s June – a bracelet that wirelessly transmits UV levels to connected smartphones – may offer a more practical solution for consumers wanting this feature.
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