Samsung Galaxy Note 4: Upgraded For VR Power
Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy Note 4 on Wednesday in Berlin, Germany prior to the start of the IFA Berlin electronics show. While the Galaxy Note 4 is mostly an upgrade to its predecessor, one promising accessory may make the Note 4 the first device in a mobile VR revolution.
Tech watchers and journalists have become accustomed to ho-hum device unveilings. Even with the wearable revolution slowly taking off, with the possibility of an Apple iWatch just around the corner, for the most part, recent new smartphones have basically featured faster processors, a higher megapixel camera, and maybe a feature or two that might or might not push the bar forward.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4:
A Nice Update, But Nothing Special... On Its Own
The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 seems to follow this trend. It comes with an improved 16-megapixel camera, improved Fingerprint Scanner and a nice looking design that throws out the faux leather stitching in favor of a more organic feeling plastic/faux leather and real metal trimming.
It also comes with a fast charging feature that brings the battery up to 50 percent in 30 minutes, though charging the latter half of the phone will take longer. The processor has been upped to a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 running at 2.7 GHz with 3GB of RAM, which is hyped to be energy efficient, making the (basically the same as before) 3,220 mAh battery last just as long as before. The front-facing camera was bumped up to 3.7 megapixels, while the microSD slot curiously only supports up to 64GB of additional storage.
Thumbing through the interface will be pretty familiar as well, since it's a TouchWiz built on Android 4.4 KitKat with a few improvements, including even more S Pen integration.
(Photo : Samsung Mobile Press)
Other features from the Galaxy Note 3 are included and incrementally improved upon, but mostly the phablet aspects of the Note 4 won't change your life if you're already familiar with the Galaxy Note series.
That's not the exciting part of the Galaxy Note 4; the fact that it can essentially become an Oculus Rift is.
Apart from the Galaxy Note 4, Samsung is mostly playing up the Galaxy Note Edge -- a version of the Galaxy Note 4 in which the screen strangely spills over the right lip of the phone, resulting in a curved edge of usable screen real estate where Samsung has jammed another TouchWiz launcher.
But tech geeks are likely to get more excited about the Galaxy Note 4-optimized Samsung Gear VR, which Samsung has strangely buried on its mobile press page.
Samsung Gear VR:
Turning Smartphones into Mobile Virtual Reality
(Photo : Samsung Mobile Press)
That's because Samsung Gear VR basically turns the Galaxy Note 4 into a mobile Oculus Rift.
Seemingly taking Google's Cardbord VR Hack to heart, Samsung worked with Oculus to create a similar strap-to-your-head accessory that makes the Galaxy Note 4 the brains and screen of an immersive VR headset. You just strap the Galaxy Note 4 into the headset, and Gear VR takes turns the screen into an untethered mobile virtual reality device.
The Gear VR officialy called the "Innovator Edition," meaning it's still a beta version for enthusiasts and developers, but it offers a lot of promise for the future of immersive VR -- and for the future of large smartphones. The Galaxy Note 4 was specially designed for VR mode, with "low-persistence" screen refreshing tweaks to eliminate motion blur and a quick toggle to look at your actual surroundings using the Note 4's camera.
The Gear VR may be in its infancy, and only works with the Galaxy Note 4, but it could introduce an entirely new dimension of uses for smartphones in the future.
(Photo : Samsung Mobile Press) Is this the real "wearable" of the future?
It certainly gives you a reason to care about super high-resolution displays on smartphones, and the Galaxy Note 4's Quad HD display provides a ridiculous 1440 x 2560p resolution on its 5.7-inch display -- garnering a nearly unmatched 515 pixels per inch, which is more than 100ppi better than the currently available Oculus Rift headset. Split into eye-to-eye, the Note 4 provides 1,280 x 1,440 HD for each side. Samsung Gear VR also comes with a small touchpad and a back button to help you navigate through virtual worlds.
Right now, the Galaxy Note 4 comes with four pre-built Oculus VR packages, including 360 videos and photos, and a 3D "cinema" to watch immersive 3D trailers and videos. Other early demo software includes some offerings from Vevo, Marvel's VR tour of Tony Stark's lab in "Age of Ultron," along with samples from DreamWorks, IMAX, and Cirque du Soleil. But the Gear VR (really the Note 4) won't run the full gamut of Oculus apps. Samsung will instead port certain titles over depending on the graphics and processing requirements.
The Galaxy Note 4 will launch this fall -- it's coming in October to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular, likely running directly into heavy competition by Apple -- but the possible release date and availability of the Gear VR headset remains unknown.
But the idea of popping your smartphone into a well-built VR accessory (not made of cardboard) is out there now, and Samsung might have just sparked a new "wearable" revolution.
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