Samsung's Gear VR is the most popular VR platform, and it's long been one of CNET's favorites. But to control things, you needed to use a giant touchpad on your head. A new Gear VR controller should finally let the Samsung-Oculus codeveloped platform work more like Google's Daydream View. It's not the same as high-end VR controllers, but it could be the magic wand that Gear VR sorely needed.
Update, March 29: The new Gear VR Controller is officially arriving April 21 for $40 (roughly £32 or AU$52), or in a package set with the latest Gear VR headset for $130 (roughly £104 or AU$170.) Read more about Samsung's latest VR offerings here.
The new wireless Gear VR controller can point and move like Google's Wii remote-like Daydream View remote does, but has a larger set of buttons: dedicated volume plus two more buttons on the top, and a trigger underneath the circular clickable touchpad. It looks a little like a mini version of HTC's Vive controller.
At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we briefly tried holding one for size. It's pretty small and light and palm-sized, and easy enough to find the buttons with our eyes closed. But we didn't get to try any demos with it, so actual VR performance is still an unknown. The touchpad clicked nicely, and the buttons all felt well-placed.
It's up to Oculus and developers to see how the controller will end up changing VR experiences. Oculus says 70+ titles are already in development, and all of the existing touchpad-capable apps in the mobile store will be compatible. Gear VR currently has 550+ existing Gear VR apps that will work at launch, not with full motion controls -- they'll just take advantage of the Gear VR's touchpad.
A new Gear VR headset will arrive alongside the controller, but the controller will work with older Gear VR models, too. The new Gear VR goggles don't seem fundamentally different from the Gear VR released in 2016: it connects with USB-C and Micro-USB Samsung phones going back to the Galaxy Note 5, S6 and S6 Edge, and looks like it will be launched alongside the upcoming Galaxy S8.