Samsung's Gear VR now free, if you preorder a Galaxy S7 or Edge
Mobile VR keeps getting more affordable. Anyone ordering one of Samsung's newest phones will get the existing Gear VR headset plus some games for a limited time.
Scott SteinEditor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
ExpertiseVR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tabletsCredentials
Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Samsung keeps lowering the price of virtual reality. Its original Gear VR accessory, which turned its Galaxy phones into VR headsets, cost $150. Then the 2015 Gear VR dropped to just $99. And now, for a limited time, you can that same Gear VR unit for free if you preorder one of Samsung's new phones, the Galaxy S7 or Galaxy S7 Edge.
To be clear, there isn't a new Gear VR headset for Samsung's latest phones. They work with the version of Gear VR that launched last year, which was already compatible with the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, Note 5 and S6 Edge+ phones. (That's the same Gear VR that garnered a 4-star rating from CNET, too.) The idea is, finally, some form of consistency and compatibility, so anyone with an existing Gear who upgrades to an S7 will be good to go.
Real phones have real curves: Samsung's bold S7 Edge (pictures)
For prospective S7 owners who are taking the VR plunge, though, the preorder deal will be hard to pass up: The Gear VR will be will be included for free with Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge orders, along with a bundle of six games (a $150 value, according to Samsung's press release). Best Buy will sweeten the pot even more, tossing in a 64GB memory card. The promotion runs from February 23 to March 18 (details here) and makes a really good case for not procrastinating if you're interested in an S7 or Edge.
That's not the only VR accessory Samsung's selling. A new standalone Gear 360 camera shoots 360-degree video that can be uploaded and seen in Gear VR. Maybe the free VR headset is meant to encourage people to take a plunge on the camera.
It's been only a few weeks since the outcry over the $600 price tag of the Oculus Rift (which, in turn, requires a pricey gaming PC to work). But between the already affordable price of Google Cardboard and the increasingly less expensive cost of Samsung Gear VR, it feels like the price of mobile VR headsets is rapidly approaching zero...as long as you have a compatible phone.