Samsung Releases Milk VR App on Google Play, Makes Gear VR Headset Optional

Samsung wants you to watch more 360-degree video content, even if you don’t own one of the company’s Gear VR virtual reality headsets: Samsung released a new MilkVR mobile app on Google Play Monday night that plays back 360-degree videos in a kind of magic window mode, allowing users to look around by simply panning with their mobile phone.

The newly-released Milk VR mobile app offers access to many of the same videos that Samsung has been featuring within the Milk VR app on its Gear VR headset, with the exception of a few more interactive videos that require access to the Gear VR’s touch pad controls.

Some of the content available through the mobile app comes from content partners like Mountain Dew, the NBA, 20th Century Fox and Skybound Entertainment. Altogether, Samsung’s catalog of 360-degreee videos now includes more than 700 titles, according to a Samsung spokesperson.

Samsung is primarily billing the app as a way for Gear VR users to access content when they don’t have their headset nearby. The mobile app also allows users to browse the Milk VR catalog and even download videos for later viewing. “The new companion app virtually eliminates the download waiting period when ‘in goggles’, allowing content to be downloaded in advance,” Samsung’s spokesperson said.

But the app is of course also a way for Samsung to widen the net for its 360-degree video content to users who don’t own a Gera VR headset, which is an interesting move as other platforms are embracing 360-degree videos as well. Facebook in particular has been a big proponent of 360-degree videos, and is expected to give updates on its efforts in this space at its developer conference in San Francisco this week.

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Another company emerging as a major player in the 360-degree video space is Google, which has been trying to get content owners to upload more 360-degree footage to YouTube. Google’s answer to the Gear VR has long been its own Cardboard-based viewers, which is why it’s worth noting that Samsung’s Milk VR app doesn’t support Cardboard playback.

And while Samsung’s new mobile app doesn’t require a Gear VR headset, it is also still limited to newer-generation Samsung mobile phones, including the newly-released Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge — users of Android phones from other manufacturers won’t be able to install the app at all.

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