Will Android Fragmentation Plague Google Daydream VR?

During Monday’s earnings call, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai promised 11 Android phones supporting Google’s Daydream VR platform will be in the marketplace by year’s end. No specifics were mentioned regarding how many of the 11 might be brand new devices, and how many existing phones in line for updates to work with the next generation of Daydream.

The announcement isn’t at all surprising, but it does get me to wondering about a long-running theme of the Android world: Fragmentation. With standalone Daydream headsets also promised by year’s end, my big question about Google’s VR plans is this:

Will Daydream force hardware OEMs into standardization, or will it follow the path of Android down the path of “One Platform Fits All. Sort of. After you fork and/or patch it.” ?

Ideally, all compatible hardware – phones and standalone headsets both – will run the same Daydream platform and the same apps. Android developers and users alike have long suffered with everything from drivers to apps that work on some but not all Android handsets. While things have gotten somewhat better over the years, Daydream represents a chance for Google to get the mobile platform thing right and sow the seeds for a more robust developer ecosystem and better user experience. Apple has long since reaped these benefits, as they control the full iOS stack, from hardware to software to ecosystem.

Currently, seven Android phones support Daydream:

– Google’s own Pixel & Pixel Plus

– Asus Zenfone AR

– Huawei Mate 9 Pro & Porsche Design Mate 9

– Motorola Moto Z

– ZTE’s Axon 7

Samsung has also announced Daydream support for Galaxy S8 & S8+ is coming soon.

One caveat to Pichai’s announcement, as PhoneArena points out:

Exciting news indeed, but before you get super-duper excited, make sure you check if Daydream is supported in your country of residence, as Google has not yet expanded it to countries, such as Mexico or some smaller countries in Europe.