Now that the Gear VR is in users’ hands, the application support for it is quickly expanding, and the newest addition, Samsung Internet for VR, adds in a functionality that people already expect from their smartphones – a browser. It’s still a beta according to page for it in the Gear VR store, but it’s already well-featured, with multiple control methods and support for important formats.
For starters, it supports keyboard navigation through the touchpad, and voice control for navigating the Web. There’s also a gaze mode that lets you select links and menus simply by looking at them for a few seconds. It has most of the trappings of a mobile browser, with quick access, bookmark integration from the Samsung browser, and multiple tabs.
Perhaps more importantly, the browser is capable of handling a number of VR and 360-degree video formats. The most prevalent of those is YouTube, and those videos stream to the browser well whether in 2D or 360. It supports other formats, like HTML5 for VR video, and can easily format side-by-side videos for displaying in a movie theater format.
With a full release of the browser announced for Q1 2016, the app is likely to see a number of functionality and aesthetic updates in the meantime. The beta version isn’t without its odd issues. For instance, new tabs alternative between positions depending on which is currently active. When only two tabs are open, the tab that’s not active always appears on the left. That means switching tabs will send you in a counter-clockwise spin, as you always have to look to your left to switch to the inactive tab.
If you already have a Gear VR and want to try out the browser while in a pre-release version, it’s available for download on the Gear VR Store page. The experience is improved if you already use the Samsung browser, as it will import bookmarks and account information from non-VR use.