Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm announce XR partnership ahead of Apple's rumored headset debut

Samsung's Unpacked 2023 event ended with an unusual teaser that saw execs from Qualcomm and Google on stage to reveal a new alliance focused on XR.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer
Galaxy and Snapdragon against blue background

Three of the biggest players in Android hardware have turned their sights on XR.

Screenshot by ZDNET/Samsung

While the world waits for Apple to finally tear off the band-aid and let us know what mixed, virtual, or augmented reality device it's been working on all of these years, Samsung took the opportunity during its 2023 Galaxy Unpacked event to tease something very slightly more concrete. 

At the very end of the event, the device maker brought executives onstage from Qualcomm and Google. The trio then announced... something. 

Apparently none of the companies were ready to share details just yet about their collaboration -- only that they are indeed collaborating. 

They clearly wanted to make it known that they're a strongly aligned triumvirate, all heavily invested in both Android and integrating XR content and hardware into their apps and devices. 

Of course, none of the three are exactly novices when it comes to VR/AR hardware and software. Qualcomm could be considered the most recent entrant into the arena, and it's already got accomplishments under its belt like designing the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1 Platform for the Meta Quest Pro

Also: Should you pre-order HTC's VIVE XR Elite headset?

Meanwhile, Google is probably best known in the space for designing the Google Cardboard, a literal piece of cardboard that, when folded into the shape of a headset and combined with a smartphone, could be used to create shockingly compelling VR experiences. That product, if you can even call it that, debuted all the way back in 2014 and is long since defunct, as is its follow-up, the far more technically capable Google Daydream headset. Despite stepping away from smartphone-based VR, the search giant continued to heavily integrate AR functionality into apps like Google Maps, Google Lens, and its ARCore platform.

Finally, Samsung itself was the beneficiary of that same previous-gen wave of smartphone-based VR that Google Cardboard helped kick off, having released several generations of its own smartphone-holding VR headset, the Samsung Gear VR line, which passed 1 million users during its lifespan

The trio also has ample experience working together, with Qualcomm having supplied chipsets for dozens of Samsung smartphones, and Google having created the Android operating system they run. With Apple once again ready to dive into, and potentially dominate, a new area of technology, it's hardly surprising that these old friends would want to preemptively join forces to assemble the best possible defense. 

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While we can only guess at the specifics of what the trio might be planning, the reason why they chose now to pull the trigger on their still-nebulous plans is pretty clear: Rumors that Apple will take the wraps off its own XR hardware are once again beginning to ramp up, with a Spring 2023 timeframe being the latest supposed window. If this proves true, three of Apple's biggest competitors in the smartphone and chip spaces can now say they staked at least somewhat of a claim there before Cupertino planted its flag. 

Hopefully within a few months we'll finally have some answers about what any of these companies are actually planning to try to sell us, and when we might be able to buy it. 

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