If you watched Samsung Unpacked 2023 earlier this week, you'll know that the company announced a new initiative in the field of Extended Reality, or XR. What we didn't get were any details of an actual physical product – which is where a new leak comes in.
As spotted by GalaxyClub (opens in new tab) (via SamMobile (opens in new tab)), a battery that has just passed through regulatory certification in South Korea matches up with a particular model number that the rumor mill associated with an upcoming Samsung device last year.
That device, with the model number SM-I120, was thought to be some kind of AR/VR wearable. Add in the announcement at Samsung Unpacked, and the appearance of this battery module, and it looks likely that this hardware product is on the way.
Goodbye Gear VR
We can't glean all that much information from this battery leak – we don't know the capacity, for example – but it points to a standalone device that can work independently, without a connection to a computer or a smartphone.
That makes it different from the Samsung Gear VR series, devices which you had to slot a phone into. We can expect a pretty clean break from the virtual reality hardware that Samsung has pushed out in the past.
It's worth remembering that this might not be the product Samsung was referring to at Unpacked, in partnership with Qualcomm and Google – in fact it might only be a prototype. But it's an interesting peek into what's coming in the future.
Analysis: what's Extended Reality anyway?
Terms like virtual reality and extended reality can be difficult to keep on top of – especially when companies use them in different ways. A label attached to something by one manufacturer might not mean the same thing as a label applied by another manufacturer.
What most people agree on is that virtual reality (VR) refers to completely enclosed digital worlds (see the Oculus Quest 2, for example). Augmented reality (AR) refers to putting digital overlays on top of the physical world, and this is something you can do with the cameras on a lot of smartphones now (see Google Maps Live View).
Then there are devices that sort of mix the two: mixed reality (MR). Perhaps the best example of this is the Microsoft HoloLens, though the term is quite hard to pin down – sometimes it means a more supercharged, interactive version of AR, and sometimes it means VR with a dash of AR (such as a video call feed dropped into a virtual world).
Extended Reality (XR) is most often used as an all-encompassing term that covers AR, VR and MR – which means Samsung hasn't given too much away by telling us that it's working on new technology. Expect the leaks and rumors to continue.