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Google’s new Pixel phones won’t support Daydream VR

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Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The new Google Pixel 3A phone won’t support Daydream — Android’s built-in, but increasingly forgotten, virtual reality platform. Google confirmed the news before I/O, stating that “resolution and framerate” issues made the phone incompatible with Daydream. Google’s Daydream View headset will continue to work with the older Pixel 3 and other supported Android phones.

Google’s Cardboard headset gave VR a huge boost in the mid-‘10s, when it offered smartphone owners a chance to run very simple VR experiences. Daydream was effectively an upgrade meant for more sophisticated mobile VR. Google launched a dedicated Daydream app with access to a special section of the Google Play Store, as well as the Daydream View, an attractive and relatively cheap headset similar to the Samsung Gear VR.

Daydream grew slowly, however. Unlike Cardboard, it didn’t support iOS devices at all. It launched exclusively on Pixel phones, and it spent almost a year restricted to low-profile Android devices before Samsung added support in mid-2017. The delayed rollout was partly because of display issues — Google would only approve low-persistence screens that could provide a very smooth VR experience.

It’s a little ironic that Google itself would decide to sacrifice Daydream support on its new “gOLED” screen, given how long it spent getting other manufacturers on board. Samsung’s new Galaxy S10 line isn’t compatible with Daydream either, and with S10 devices off the table alongside the Pixel 3A, the Daydream View appears largely locked out of the high-end phone market.

Phone-based VR may generally be on the decline, with the release of standalone headsets like the Oculus Quest. And Google has already worked with Lenovo on one standalone Daydream-powered headset, called the Lenovo Mirage Solo. So it’s possible that Daydream will live on through self-contained devices — but its future on phones seems shaky.