Samsung's Galaxy Note10 was officially announced last week, and while it's jam-packed with almost everything most people could want in a smartphone, it also dropped a few features: the headphone jack is completely gone, and the microSD card slot isn't present on the smaller model. It has also become evident over the past few days that the Note10 doesn't support any mobile VR platform, marking an end to both Gear VR and Google Daydream.
Samsung confirmed to The Verge a few days ago that the Note10 wouldn't support Gear VR at all, which is Samsung's own mobile virtual reality platform. That isn't too surprising, considering the headset you slot your phone into hadn't been updated at all since 2017, requiring all recent Samsung phones to use an adapter. Oculus was Samsung's main partner in making Gear VR happen, and once the company moved on to its own Oculus Go standalone headset, the writing was on the wall for Gear VR on phones.
Google has been working on its own Daydream VR platform for a few years, which works on a number of phones from several manufacturers. While Daydream was supported on the Galaxy S8, Note8, and S9, it was missing from the Galaxy S10 series. Google just confirmed to us that Daydream won't be available on the Note10 either, leaving the Pixel 3 and Galaxy S9 as the most recent phones supporting the platform.
Pour one out for Gear VR.
While Gear VR and Daydream aren't technically dead at this point, as they'll remain functioning on existing phones for possibly years to come, it seems incredibly unlikely that either platform has a viable future. Gear VR only ever shipped on Samsung flagships, and now that the Note10 has dropped it, the Galaxy S11 probably will too. Samsung makes up the bulk of flagship Android phone sales, and now that Daydream won't be available on any of the company's 2019 devices (and likely beyond), whatever market there was for Daydream is gone.
Whatever market there was for Daydream is gone.
The only path forward for Google Daydream seems to be dedicated headsets (like the Oculus Go), but there hasn't been much progress on that front. Google promised in 2017 that headsets from HTC, Lenovo, and other companies would eventually be available, but only the Lenovo Mirage Solo made it to market. Google said last year that it was working on a new Daydream controller and more software features, but those haven't materialized.
The new Daydream controllers were first teased a year ago.
I never played with Gear VR myself, but I did enjoy Google Daydream on my original Pixel. I don't think it's a bad platform at all, and I loved the Hulu and YouTube apps that could turn my bedroom into a movie theater, but none of the phones I've owned since then (OnePlus 5T, Galaxy S10e, and OnePlus 6T) have supported Daydream. So my headset sits in a drawer, continuing to collect dust.
It's sad to see the last bastions of smartphone VR die a slow death, but they helped pave the way for the era of standalone VR headsets, which are better in almost every single way (price being the main exception). I'd love for Google to give Daydream another lease on life with more dedicated headsets, but it would take more than a few media apps for that to be a success.
At least we'll always have Google Cardboard.