Google’s ambitious Daydream VR platform for Android hinges on a combination of hardware and software to enable a high quality VR experience. To ensure the desired level of performance, Google will certify phones of a certain minimum specification as ‘Daydream Ready’. But the company says that even today’s top phones are unlikely to qualify for the title.

At I/O 2016 last week, Google’s VR chief Clay Bavor introduced the ‘Daydream‘ Android VR platform. The branding is an umbrella which encompasses specially designed phones, headsets, and applications which work together to create a high quality mobile VR experience on Android, one that we suspect will rival Samsung’s bar-setting Gear VR.

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With Daydream Ready smartphones promised to hit the market this Fall, we wondered whether any devices already released (or will be released prior to the first Daydream smartphones) would meet the bar set by Google, and possibly be retroactively branded as Daydream Ready.

Unlikely, says Bavor, who tells Road to VR that those interested in VR on Android should hold off on that tempting upgrade.

“I can tell you that there will most likely not be any ‘retroactively’ Daydream-ready phones,” Bavor says. “We want to hold a very high quality bar, and for that to happen all the components need to be just right. So, to VR fans, I would say, hold off for a few months to get your next phone… and get a Daydream-ready phone.”

Interestingly, Google actually recommends the Nexus 6P as the phone of choice for the DIY Daydream dev kit, however it seems that even it won’t officially make the grade when it comes to the Daydream Ready designation.

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What’s in a Daydream Ready Phone?


At I/O 2016, Google announced eight initial partners working on Daydream Ready smartphones for Android VR, some of which will see release dates starting this Fall. The company hasn’t made publicly available the precise Daydream Ready specifications which make a smartphone eligible, but they did give an overview.

High Performance Sensors

First is of course the sensor package in the phone. Every modern smartphone has a set of sensors inside which is used to tell the orientation of the device. This is useful for auto-rotation and for some basic mobile gaming. But for a great VR experience, the sensor inside needs to not only be high performance, but also highly calibrated. This is essential to enabling low-latency, high accuracy headtracking.

High Density, Low-persistence Displays

High resolution displays mean less noticeable pixels when you magnify the screen through lenses for VR. But density isn’t the only thing that makes a screen great for VR. Having an ultra-high refresh rate is necessary to enable a display technique called low-persistence which significantly reduces motion blur during head movement. All the top VR systems use low-persistence, and it seems Google plans to make it a requirement for Daydream Ready smartphones.

Android N

The next version of Android, codenamed ‘N’ is the first with core VR features built in. Daydream will require smartphones to run Android N as the software comes with an important ‘VR Mode’ which balances the device’s processing power for sustained performance over long periods in an effort to keep from overheating under the heavy processing demands imposed by virtual reality. Google says that Android N natively integrate important parts of the Android user-experience into VR; things like notifications and phone calls will be gracefully handled inside of virtual reality rather than interrupting your experience.

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Powerful, Efficient Processors

And of course, powerful processors. Great VR is a demanding task that requires much more performance than your usual mobile application. Most mobile VR experiences must be output at 60 FPS and rendered stereoscopically in real time (not to mention at a very high resolution). A Daydream Ready phone needs not only a powerful CPU but GPU as well, and those which won’t overheat themselves too quickly under load.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • DonGateley

    Is there any hope that XDA type developers will produce Android N ROMs with VR mode for phones like the Galaxy S6 and S7 which already have pretty darned close to the specified characteristics for purposes of the Gear VR?

    • benz145

      That’s a great question. Given that the Nexus 6P can be used for Daydream despite not being a Daydream Ready device, seems like it may be possible to spoof apps into accepting non-Daydream devices.

      • DonGateley

        I am sure there are developer modes or specific builds that won’t keep you in the walled garden. :-)

        Why not bug some people, Ben, and see if you can get a reaction.

        • benz145

          I’m sure the answer from Google will be ‘we can’t support unofficial mods, etc.’ and the answer from the modders will be ‘we won’t know until we have the hardware and software to play with’ ; )

          • DonGateley

            Google seems anxious to get development going so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a Google experimental Android N with VR made available to any device that might help with that. At least I can hope they are that smart.

            Making a portable kernel available to OEM’s and hackers that could be snapped into any of many devices without humongeous effort and a common version of Android N for all devices sitting on the kernel would quickly help them gather application momentum. But I imagine I’m preaching to the choir here.

    • MasterElwood

      S6 and S7 don’t have the sensors needed.

      • DonGateley

        Thanks. That occurred to me as I was falling asleep last night. :-)

        Well, the ZTE Axon 7 it will then be.

    • Adrian Meredith

      Almost certainly, it just won’t be certified as daydream ready. I’m expecting it to give you a ton of warnings instead

    • Madis

      Well, there surely will be hacks to achieve it. But the certification gives you peace of mind that the experience will actually be as good as promised.

  • Me

    Add good cooling to the list, big problem early on.

    • Gerald Terveen

      I hope that they have taken that into consideration ever since the first GearVR as the obvious problem that is coming up.

    • Tommy

      Cooling and battery life. My S6 overheats like crazy when using the Gear VR. Plus after 1 hour of gameplay/360 videos, the battery is down to 50%.

    • Adrian Meredith

      They have on the developers site a comment on how the 6p won’t be very good because of thermal constraints and that “daydream certified phones” will be vastly better

  • John Doe

    Your last paragraph is bunch of “old wives tails”. Do your research rather than just rehashing what companies are telling you!

  • Pete

    Great information RoadtoVR. I was wondering this same thing. I’m planning to ditch Apple and buy an Android for the VR. I guess I will have to wait for a little while.

  • Laura

    I hoping they will change their decision on non qualifying products. Im staying up to date with this website to see if they will make a change with daydream. Fingers crossed!

  • Pratik Gupta

    What About Redmi Note 3 It Has Got Mostly All the Sensors which VR needs and 510 GPU and Snapdragon 650 so I think its a Day Dream Ready Phone

    • Patrik Kadlčík

      I have redmi note, I was planning on upgrading to note 3 this year, but I am probably gonna waint for note 4, hopefully it would be daydream ready..

      • Farhan Afnan Iskandar

        it seem to me that it could be Mi6 or Mi Note, Redmi line always be developing country targeted (affordable phones).

    • androwin

      ZTE Axon 7 will be the first Daydream-certified device since it’s made for it and it has top of the line hardware which is SD820/4 or 6GB RAM/2K resolution/high refresh rate AMOLED display.

      • Adolf

        If such visible specifications are the only criteria to become the Daydream ready phone then most of the available Android handsets are already eligible. Something different is coming in Axon 7 that we all don’t know.
        Equipped sensors can be the big deal here, however, yet to discover this fact.

    • Tommy

      Your Redmi Note 3 would not work. Heck Asphalt 8 doesn’t even run smoothly on it so forget VR.

      • Pratik Gupta

        Who Told You Asphalt 8 Doesn’t Run on It Smoothly …I Am Having That And I Play Daily For More than 1 hr…Now any Comments…

    • Farhan Afnan Iskandar

      Redmi Note 3 SoC is too poor for Daydream (but I think it’s too powerful for gaming for me, not for Daydream-ing), and doesn’t support Vulkan. the display also, requires to be high res display (FHD won’t qualify) and have high refresh rate, I sure Super AMOLED support it. and the VR should have precise sensor. so, NO.
      Impatient? go play Cardboard or buy Vive!!

      • Bhagyesh Rane

        Adreno 510 which Redmi Note 3 has Supports Vulkan. Its a future ready gpu. The only thing is Xiaomi has to work upon the kernel and driver of the phone to show its potential. Its a decent device for this price range. You can’t complain on that.

  • Jack Smith

    This is so cool. Just purchased a S7 that I carry with an iPhone. But will get one of these new phones the second they come out. Really excited.

    • Duane Locsin

      Not so cool for me, because I just got an S7 Edge contract and am not sure it will make this daydream cut. Regardless, it ought to tide me over until I upgrade to an HTC Vive.

      Still a good thing Virtual Reality is seriously taking off.

  • Mark Kiernan

    Does this mean only high end hardware at high end prices?

    • androwin

      Not particularly, since “ZTE Axon 7” will be the first smartphone to be certified for Daydream VR (as rumours say) and that’s considered cheap high-end device, unless you meant mid/low-ranges then No, it won’t be supported because the hardware is not capable for the same reasons mentioned in this article.

      • Tommy

        ZTE is a China phone so that’s an entirely different story. But what’s for sure is high-end hardware would be a definite requirement (eg. SD820, XGB RAM, etc.)

  • neiliewheeliebin

    What i’m looking forward to is having such high end specs on a Nexus phone

  • Austin.malega

    Is the Samsung grand prime ready

    • Austin.malega

      I don’t think it is

    • Farhan Afnan Iskandar

      nope, even S7 didn’t

  • Adolf

    Reading the specifications or requirements, it looks like, there are many such smartphones available with top-notch hardware specifications and like ZTE Axon 7 they too deserve to get the Android N (Nougat) update. So, will these smartphones S7, S7 Edge, HTC 10 become Daydream ready? What’s the hitch?

  • Christian Dahmen

    So will you be able to run Daydream even if your phone is not Daydream Ready certified?

  • Tony knowlen

    they better goddam certify the 6p as day dream ready. I just got one

  • Brennen Gyte

    Will the samsung grand prime work? i highly doubt it but i still want to know.

  • Filipe Carmona

    I keep wondering if someone will ever build an android device focused on games and VR (without any phone capabilities). Guess it would be easier to reach those hardware requirements at a normal price range if you don’t have to spend on something like mobile network antennas and radio drivers… I, for one, would definitely buy a second, game-focused device that performs better than my daily driver phone.