- Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headset shipments surged during Q1 of this year. VR shipments rose 70% from a year earlier to 2.24 million, while AR shipments rose 78% to 38,400, according to a press release from the International Data Corporation (IDC).
- "The VR market is still very young, and consumers seem to be taking a cautious approach," Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at IDC, said in a statement. About two-thirds of VR devices were smartphone-based headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View.
- Samsung is the market leader with 22% of the devices shipped, followed by Sony at 19% and HTC at 8%. The remaining half of the market is fragmented among smaller brands, IDC said.
AR and VR devices are still in their infancy, but consumers are becoming more aware of the technology and their limitations, leading to this recent surge in headset purchases, especially in a period that's seasonally slow for electronics in the months following the holidays. Most people’s first experience with AR is using a smartphone to play a game like Pokemon Go, to add filters to a photo in Snapchat or to get a virtual makeover in a cosmetics app like YouCam. Some AR gadgets like Google Glass failed to catch on, at least partially because of the pricey hardware.
Samsung, the market leader in mobile devices with its Galaxy smartphones and tablets, is leveraging its demonstrated distribution strength and partnership with Oculus to maintain its position as the VR market leader. IDC expects Samsung's new Gear VR with Controller update to the headset to be a strong seller. But hardware isn't the problem. There are several headset options in the market, with only more to come. The bigger challenge is slow growth in content that appeals to a large audience, IDC's Ubrani said.
Sony’s strength in the market is associated with the longtime popularity of its PlayStation gaming platform, whose newest iteration, PlayStation 4, has sold nearly 60 million units. The Japanese electronics company created a headset that's compatible with the gaming platform and grabbed significant market share after selling more than 1 million units since the October 2016 launch, as well as 5.25 million VR games. Its system includes the headset, game console and a supportive base of top content developers to bolster its market position, IDC said. Sony plans to announce a PlayStation VR game based on AMC’s hit TV series “Breaking Bad” at next week’s Electronics Entertainment Expo, USA Today reported.