Today at a launch event in China, Lenovo unveiled its newest smartphone, the Vibe X3. The phone will look to help the company capture some of the market share it lost to fellow Chinese companies, Xiaomi and Huawei. Interestingly, virtual reality may be one of the ways the company is choosing to differentiate itself.
Alongside the phone, the company announced a partnership with the Chinese virtual reality headset company, AntVR to create a mobile VR headset for the Vibe X3. The headset, which will retail for $30, doesn’t appear to have any internal hardware meaning that the headset experience is more akin to Google Cardboard than Samsung’s Gear VR.
Other than the fact that this is yet another big player dipping their toe into the VR ecosystem, the announcement was particularly interesting because the company will be bundling the headsets with the $470 higher end version of the phone. And with over 16 million smartphones sold in the last year, that represents a potentially large segment of people who may be getting the most basic version of VR, free.
Lenovo previously showed off a different mobile phone based HMD earlier this year, but we haven’t heard much about it since. It appears that this may be a separate offering, as the design is very different. Additionally, at the time of reporting it is unclear whether the VR bundle will extend beyond the company’s sales in China, where the phone now available for preorder. We have reached out to Lenovo for comment and will report back when we know more.
As we have seen with the New York Times and Google Cardboard, these basic experiences can provide an excellent entry point for consumers into VR. The experiences they offer pale in comparison to other, more expensive forms of VR, but their accessibility allows them to provide the taste people need to ‘get’ VR, an important step towards its mass adoption… so long as consumers don’t confuse Vive VR and Vibe VR.