Meta's CTO explains why Quest has so few Android apps
Meta Quest only supports a handful of Android apps. And according to Andrew Bosworth, Meta is not to blame.
Meta Quest runs on a modified Android operating system, so in theory it would be easy to bring popular smartphone apps from the Google Play Store to the VR platform and access them as simple 2D apps. Meta Quest now even supports direct touch, so you can interact with the apps as you would with a smartphone or tablet using hand tracking or controllers.
Meta introduced 2D apps to the Quest Store with the v34 system update. This was in November 2021. The apps have to support the Progressive Web Apps (PWA) standard to work properly on Quest. The first Android apps being released on the Quest Store were Facebook, Instagram, Smartsheet, and Spike. More apps would follow, Meta said. But two years later, little has changed.
Messenger is now integrated into the VR platform and Whatsapp was added as a 2D app in September 2023. Quite late, considering that the service is owned by Meta. There are dedicated VR apps from YouTube and Netflix. But other major Android apps with millions of daily users like Discord, Spotify, X (formerly Twitter) and Reddit are still missing. The Quest Store currently lists only ten 2D apps.
Why Android apps are important for Meta Quest
Meta Quest needs a connection to the Android ecosystem. Very few users want to disconnect from the apps and platforms they use all day when they put on their headset. Apple knows this, which is why the upcoming Vision Pro headset will support most iPhone and iPod apps out of the box. A huge advantage for Apple.
While Apple has complete control over its software and hardware ecosystem, Meta depends on other players when it comes to supporting Android apps: service providers, platform holders, developers, and Google itself. At least, that's what Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth suggests.
In his latest AMA on Instagram, Bosworth addresses the lack of support for 2D apps, suggesting that it's not up to Meta to improve the situation. Bosworth urges VR users to reach out to app developers:
"I want to call out that the developers of those Android apps are welcome to bring them to our store as APKs. It's a pretty straightforward process if they wanted to just build an app that came in in that way. So you're definitely good to reach out to your developer communities, and encourage them to get developing on the platform."
A little later, he comes back to the issue:
"There's nothing preventing Android developers who have an APK that is running on Android phones today, from bringing that into VR. They just need to ship the APK to us, and they may have to do some light modification, depending on how they want the control scheme to work, but maybe not even necessarily that much of that.
We don't have a way of automatically ingesting those. We would love for Google to bring their Play Store of apps to VR. We've asked them, they don't want to do it. And so it's kind of up to the developers to do that."
The situation is unlikely to change significantly until Quest reaches many millions of daily users and service providers, platform holders and developers see the benefits of releasing and maintaining their apps on the Quest platform.