Here we are, just a little over 9 months since its end-of-November 2016 launch, a full 3 fiscal quarters later and enough time for a Human baby to be born. Time to review this baby.
When Google announced its Daydream platform back in May 2016 during its annual Google I/O Conference, they stated that a total of 9 manufacturers would be building Daydream-ready smartphones: Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Huawei, LG, ZTE, Asus, Alcatel, and Xiaomi. We did backflips in the office. To us, this meant Google was delivering on their “VR FOR ALL” promise. Needless to say, we got excited.
Multiple Smartphone Compatibility: Status Check.
The first manufacturers to have actually delivered these Daydream-compatible smartphones were Motorola (Moto Z), Huawei (Mate 9 Pro), and ZTE (Axon 7). While all those manufacturers are quite reputable, they don’t exactly own a huge share of the smartphone market…
Then came the Google Pixel & Pixel Plus. This technically now meant 10 manufacturers. We got even more excited. I was giddy. I got myself my very first Android-powered phone, leaving behind years of being called an ”iPhone power-user”, and got myself a Daydream View VR Headset. The combo is fantastic, the experience as fun and efficient/comfortable as advertised. Except I had one thing nagging me when trying to compare it with my co-workers’ Samsung Galaxy/GearVR combo: such lack of content…
We had to wait until Google I/O 2017, held in mid-May, to find out that the Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8+ would be Daydream-compatible “by Summer 2017”. The wait was over, as Samsung finally rolled out its OS Update in late July, allowing for the aforementioned S8/S8+ Smartphones to be Daydream-ready.
Let’s call it what it is: Samsung can be Google’s biggest ally via Daydream, and its biggest competitor through their Gear VR headset. My assumption is that it would be in Samsung’s interest to be Daydream-compatible in order to continue to increase the sales of the Galaxy S8. At least on the surface, that logic seems to make sense, right?
I tested the Galaxy S8+ on the Daydream View…
My first thought is that this made the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+ the best VR Smartphone on the planet, being the only one to support the two major Mobile VR Headsets. Something happened to the S8+, that had not been happening when using it with the Gear VR: the phone started to heat up. A lot. Had to put it in the freezer for 5 minutes level of hot. All this, after less than 20 minutes of Daydream use. That had been my only caveat about the Google Pixel/Daydream View experience, which I had assumed was caused by the Pixel hardware… Could it be that the Daydream platform is overly demanding of the smartphone’s abilities? Hmmm…
Let’s keep score: the number of Smartphones that are Daydream-ready are now up to 8. If it happens that the soon-to-be-released Samsung Note 8 is also compatible, we’ll be up to 9 Smartphones. Now we’re starting to make some waves.
So what about the rest of the manufacturers?
Meanwhile we haven’t heard much from the XiaoMi, ASUS and Alcatel camps. While ASUS and Alcatel don’t necessarily represent that big a market share, XiaoMi’s hold on the Chinese market affects the potential numbers for Daydream. On their end, LG was forthcoming in revealing the issue may stem from the requirement of an OLED screen:”That would be the reason we haven’t been able to support Daydream”, said a spokesperson from LG at the time. Today at IFA Berlin, LG unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, the LG V30, which boasts an OLED screen, the first ever OLED screen for an LG Mobile, which may mean they may have gone out of their way to be Daydream-compatible. If that is the case, this is me sending LG an e-High Five!
Meanwhile HTC, the true manufacturers of the Google Pixel & Pixel Plus, released the U11 in May. The smartphone does not have the requirements to be considered Daydream-ready. Questions are being raised, for which we need to start getting answers for, HTC! I don’t believe this has anything to do with the announcement of Google WorldSense (see the video below), as that technology is non-mobile based.
To Daydream App or Not to Daydream App: That is NOT a Question:
We say this at least once a week: CONTENT IS KING. While Samsung Gear VR boasts nearly 800 VR Apps, the Daydream platform is still lagging with a little over 150, although it is finally picking up some dev steam. But now that the great majority of smartphone manufacturers are officially (and tangibly) on-board, the numbers in terms of Target Market are going to be coming very soon. I’d strongly recommend to all Devs to ensure they are creating their apps for the Daydream platform as well as the Gear VR platform.
Google as the Backbone of 360VR?
Looking at Daydream is one thing, but notice everything else the Big G is doing in the VR Space: from being at the forefront of the WebVR movement, from the super-popular Tilt Brush to Blocks, to Google Expeditions… One starts to think that Google is busy building the Tools & Platforms for VR Creators rather than the hardware. Which is not a bad strategy at all, and sticks to who Google is at the core. See: ARCore as a prime example of properly realigned strategy.
In the end, I believe that Samsung & LG’s participation is what may save the Daydream View. Because the content sure isn’t arriving in droves, as App Developers are being slow to create for the Daydream platform.
Guess we’ll have to wait a little more and see, or (warning, incoming Pun)… to View.