27
Jun
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I have to admit, if you were to tell me one year ago today that devices like the Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play edition would exist as things, I'd call you a liar. And I'd probably secretly hope that they did exist, too. These handsets, or really, the idea behind them, have been the enduring dream of almost every Android enthusiast from the early days of MOTOBLUR and TouchWiz. Those skins, which were bywords for "UI lag" and "carrier bloat," became synonymous with everything that made Android worse than the stock experience Google provided on Nexus devices. There were real reasons to hope that something virtually identical to the Google Play edition hardware that went on sale yesterday would eventually grace Android lovers everywhere.

Now, though, they feel far from necessary. I have watched internet commenters fall out of love, almost in real time, with these devices, particularly given the way Google has chosen to handle them from a developer and enthusiast perspective.

The HTC One and Galaxy S4 Google Play edition will very likely never receive support in the Android Open Source Project. Google will not host factory images for either, nor will they host proprietary binaries. It will be up to Samsung and HTC - if they so choose - to provide such materials. (They have not at the time of this writing provided any of the aforementioned resources.) Google will not even be directly handling the OTA updates. Google will provide the underlying Android builds necessary to update the phones, but it's still up to Samsung and HTC to get those builds working on the device (with, it sounds like, support from Google), and that task isn't trivial. And yes, this has all been confirmed by El Goog itself, and where not explicitly, through a bit of common sense deduction.

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What exactly is the benefit to these devices, then? You get to skip the carrier update certification process, and in theory, you will thus receive official updates to the latest version of stock Android in a timely manner. The problem is that on closer examination of those benefits, the entire act of making these devices is basically unnecessary. We didn't need "Google Play edition" devices to get what we're getting here. Allow me to explain.

HTC will sell you an unlocked and bootloader unlockable HTC One that supports identical bands as the Google Play variant for the same price. And you get a $25 Google Play gift card? Not bad. As far as I'm aware, even AT&T's One variant is still unlockable via HTCDev (as are Sprint and T-Mo's). Sprint and T-Mobile's Galaxy S4s ship with unlockable bootloaders, Verizon has a developer edition costing the same as the Google Play edition (bootloader unlockable), and AT&T will soon have a developer edition, as well. You can also rest assured that Canadian versions (SGH-I337M) of the S4 will start showing up more and more online, which will work with AT&T's and T-Mobile's LTE networks, and are carrier unlocked / bootloader unlockable.

Why am I going through the trouble of listing out all these unlockable phones? Because if you can get the bootloader unlocked, an imperfect stock Android experience isn't far away. The biggest reason that experience isn't perfect is the handset OEM. Why exactly do HTC and Samsung need to release new phones in order to make stock Android builds available to devices? Given that these handsets seem to be getting almost no special treatment from Google, and are no more open than unlocked / developer editions, frankly, I have a hard time seeing a big point to the GPE program.

HTC1_BestofGoogle_final_rev

There is some standing in a simplicity argument. If you want a not-quite-completely-open high-end unlocked phone with stock Android out of the box that works on a GSM carrier with LTE in the United States (so, T-Mobile or AT&T, or a prepaid 3G carrier), these are there for you. I am happy to admit that there is some kind of an audience here. Google / stock Android diehards without major tinkering fetishes may well happily hop on to the Google Play edition bandwagon, and that audience is being satisfied. I am not saying there is no point.

However, given the response to all the information about binaries, factory images, and OTAs I discussed in the beginning of this piece, it is clear that Google has reduced the scope of the audience for these phones substantially by making them "less than a Nexus." Granted, it was never promised they'd be Nexus devices.

But the drawbacks don't end there. The HTC One GPE, for example, will have its IR blaster disabled, the Beats Audio switch removed (it's just always on) (Edit: Apparently the switch has been added in), HTC's camera features stripped out, and obviously will lack any other HTC-specific software. This is all a given - the sacrifice one makes for a true "stock Android" experience - but with each passing handset cycle, OEM-specific features and software are becoming more desirable, not less. It just isn't like it was back in the MOTOBLUR days. Not every handset with a custom skin sucks anymore. There are reasons, arguably, to want these overlays.

The same goes for the S4. Its mountain of smart features and Samsung add-ons (like the much-loved notification bar quick toggles) are nowhere to be seen on the S4 GPE. I know this sounds so obvious that it doesn't need to be said, but I think it does need to be said: stock Android simply is not the Holy Grail of Awesomeness we so held it to be a year or two ago. I can understand an aesthetic preference for it, sure, but I for one would take the standard Galaxy S4 or HTC One over their GPE counterparts any day of the week. And as for the "make every phone a Nexus crowd," well, you're going to have a tough time getting them on board with this decidedly not-a-Nexus approach to the GPE idea.

I think the real goal that Google should be pushing for here is not to fragment (I know, that word) the hardware ecosystem by having OEMs release special stock editions of phones. At this point, it seems 95% superfluous. The push should be toward a switch, or a tool. Something that allows you in some way to "Reset to Nexus User Experience." I am not suggesting the "how" - that is a far more complex question. How would you avoid carrier update certification hurdles (on carrier-branded devices)? That's a good question, too. It's probably a pretty hard question. But if you're going to sell Developer Editions, unlocked editions, and make your phones bootloader unlockable in the first place, making a ROM with stock Android available shouldn't be too hard. Most people actually would probably prefer such an option, as opposed to buying an entirely new phone.

gs4_hardwarehome_finalI think the Google Play edition devices were what many people wanted until they realized just what it is they thought they wanted wasn't all that much of an improvement over what already existed, and the improvements that would be gained from the GPE hardware came with substantial caveats. Google, Samsung, and HTC listened to those people. Of which I readily admit I was one, up until the last few months of actually using some of the newest Android hardware. I personally just don't feel that lust for stock Android anymore. Waiting on OTAs for a few new features is never fun, but I can't say it's enough right now to make me want to sacrifice the other benefits skins like Sense 5 and TW Nature UX 2.0 impart on the Android experience.

Maybe 2 years ago, the GPE program would have made sense. It might have made enough sense to catch on in a substantial way. Today? I'm not suggesting that these devices being out there is a bad thing - please don't mistake criticism for disdain - but I just don't think these phones matter now. I will say this: I am greatly interested in seeing if any more GPE devices actually come to fruition after this first round.

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Athishay

    Well written, my sentiments exactly. If we had direct Google support and/or at least camera features, these would've been the BOMB.

  • karthik nayak

    Once again, Really Well written.

  • Edward Germanotta

    I was so excited to see google trying the "windows phone way" where all the phones receives updates directly from microsoft but with this news... What's the point? I just wanna see when android 4.3 or 5 arrives how much time are these phones gonna get it

  • rahlquist

    On a side note, never unlock a HTC phone because once you do your warranty is toast. An associate of mine unlocked his One but didnt install a new ROM or anything, phone started having focus issues, and HTC is denying warranty coverage just because he unlocked it using their tool.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

    If you think that a downloadable ROM and unlocked bootloaders nullify the point of a stock HTC One or S4 where a company just handles the software for you (like every other non-enthusiast device on the planet), you've missed the point of the entire program.

    These phones won't sell well. But that's because of the business model, not the product. The product is great. It's a stock alternative to a popular phone at a reasonable price (just because Nexus 4 is sitting next to it doesn't make this suddenly super expensive. This is what most unlocked phones cost). However, by releasing it in the United States only (or in very few countries? I'm not sure if they have or will add others) where we're all drunk on subsidies is a recipe for disaster.

    If you could sell this in stores alongside other phones people are actually shopping for, and if the carriers couldn't hold up the updates (if Apple can do it, there's no reason an explicitly stock version couldn't also), then it might sell well. As it stands, the market is extremely limited. But that doesn't mean it's not a good idea.

    Consumers don't want to fuck around with unlocking their phone, downloading ROMs and doing their software tweaks themselves. Enthusiasts do.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      I never said downloadable ROMs nullify the point of the program. Reread the paragraph.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

        "Why exactly do HTC and Samsung need to release new phones in order to make stock Android builds available to devices?"

        This is the point that I'm trying to get at, though. Anything short of a specific phone you can pay money for that has stock Android already on it without having to worry about anything is an imperfect product. It places the burden on consumers. Right after that you even say you understand why someone would want it, but act like the people who want a phone they enjoy without fiddling are a minority, instead of the overwhelming, market-crushing majority of consumers.

        "But if you're going to sell Developer Editions, unlocked editions, and make your phones bootloader unlockable in the first place, making a ROM with stock Android available shouldn't be too hard. Most people actually would probably prefer such an option, as opposed to buying an entirely new phone."

        This is what I'm talking about. Is it fair to say that losing certain features is a trade-off? Sure. Is it reasonable to think that there should be downloadable options *for developers*? Why not! But saying that the emphasis should be on a switch or a tool because that's what most people would want is, I think, fundamentally flawed. Most people don't want to have to go over the differences between stock Android and Sense. Most don't even know. But many would probably go for a stock Android phone if presented with one in a comparable setting. And, again, that's the real problem here. It's not that selling phones bundled with a different ROM and a couple feature trade-offs (by the way, I'm interested to see if tethering is built-in and active on these models since they're not going through carriers...that'd be worth the sacrifice of an IR blaster for me) is bad. It's that no one's going to be able to actually buy them.

        And the inevitable confirmation bias when these don't sell well can and probably will easily lead to a lot of "See? I told you so!" moments for people who are right for all the wrong reasons.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          "Anything short of a specific phone you can pay money for that has stock Android already on it without having to worry about anything is an imperfect product."

          You seem to indicate there is some kind of innate preference out there for stock Android that consumers would latch onto. That argument in itself is totally unsupported. You want that device, and that's fine. These GPE phones meet your basic requirements.

          I think they also fail to meet the requirements of many other enthusiasts, and simply lack appeal to most other people. What, exactly, is the selling point to your average person of a GPE phone? It gets updated faster? That might have flown a year or two ago, when a lot of people *hated* their Android phones, but I just don't think that's much of an issue anymore. Most Android phones are, believe it or not, pretty good now. They also basically all run OEM skins, apart from the Nexus 4 / GPE devices.

          These phones solve a problem that was much more urgent 1-3 years ago. Today, they are so niche that they don't make sense.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

            I seem to indicate there *could* be demand for it. Never do I say it's inherently better. But we'll never know because stock Android still hasn't gotten a wide release. These phones could provide that but, again, the problem is the business model, not the method.

            You and I agree on the importance of stock Android as a justifiable thing (I've spent far too much time explaining why Play Services is the thing to watch instead of Android updates now) so we don't disagree there.

            I'm merely stating that stock Android has value on its own as both looking nicer and being easier to use (to some). This business model is pitching that experience to an extremely small subset of users: people who want to buy off contract and are on a U.S. GSM carrier. However, if you were to remove those limitations and set this phone against a Sense version of the same device, I can see a world where plenty of people would choose the stock device.

            They're *not* doing that, which is what I'm saying is the bigger problem. Appeasing enthusiasts is bad as a broad commercial strategy.

          • X3HaloEd

            "You seem to indicate there is some kind of innate preference out there for stock Android that consumers would latch onto. That argument in itself is totally unsupported."

            IMO, that's only because there are no good Android phones with AOSP that have any kind of marketing muscle behind them. The closest example we have is the original Motorola DROID which ran a mostly-stock copy of Android 2.0 and it sold like hotcakes. Why? Because it was a solid device, and Verizon marketed the SHIT out of it. The Galaxy S line is arguably successful for the same reason.

            I posit that if both versions of the GS4 were equally marketed (including equal representation by sales reps in-store) and users had a chance to try both, that they would prefer the stock version due to the more pleasing aesthetics, greater UI fluidity, and simpler interface. Alas, we can't know for sure because no such situation exists.

            "What, exactly, is the selling point to your average person of a GPE phone? It gets updated faster?"

            It doesn't become a slow piece of shit when Samsung decides to push a new, more bloated version of TouchWiz to your phone in 12 months, and then pretend you never exist.

            "Most Android phones are, believe it or not, pretty good now."

            Most Android phones have the potential to be good, but are too often hamstrung by poorly written software. (TW, Sense).

            "They also basically all run OEM skins"

            Mostly, and they all suck. Motorola, however, is making an awesome change by removing a lot of the bloated BLUR shit and reverting most of their apps back to stock. The phones are beginning to run smoother and get updated faster. I have a co-worker with a DROID RAZR Maxx, and he really enjoyed the OTA where they ripped out most of the BLUR apps, and switched to the stock launcher. It performs better now, and is just a much more pleasing experience.

    • quiro91

      It's just US only right now

    • Alberto

      Anyway, I think enthusiasts are the main target of Google Edition Galaxy S4 & HTC One. 99% of people won't even know they exist and frankly don't care about it, I doubt many non-geeks will buy these.

    • Danny Holyoake

      But see, both you and the article are right - this phone won't sell very well because Google isn't even trying, no marketing or proper distribution whatsoever, so the only people planning on buying this are enthusiasts - who already know how to root and flash their phones anyway, so even they won't buy these phones.

      • X3HaloEd

        Not entirely true. I'm an enthusiast who just purchased the One GPE. I enjoy tinkering and know how to do so. I've owned and rooted a G1, Samsung Vibrant, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Galaxy Nexus, and a Nexus S. The problem is that I need my phone to be a daily driver AND I want the latest official build of Android. It takes months, sometimes several, for a mostly stable ROM to show up for a non-Nexus device. I'm really sick of having unstable ROMs on my daily driver phones. I want it to work, and I want it to be new and kick-ass --> GPE.

        • Leonardo Farage Freitas

          But from what i could get from the post, the updates will be handled by the OEM, not google. So I guess the GPE won't be getting the updates as fast as a NEXUS, perhaps faster than a OEM phone?

          • Ryan Yakus

            they MIGHT get updated faster than the branded phones. however as was pointed out elsewhere, samsung/htc have a limited number of engineers; which set of phones do you think will get the main attention when it's time to update: the millions and millions of skinned phones, or the handful of google experience devices? it's entirely possible these could end up getting updated AFTER the main flagships, once they've guaranteed a stable release

        • impulse101

          And you will wait months for updates on these phones too. Stable ROM's will come out much fasster than these phones get updated. These aren't Nexus devices. Its easier for me to buy a Tmobile HTC One and put AOKP on it or any AOSP ROM I want. These phones will sell les than 10,000 each.

          • https://plus.google.com/106721695871122826476/posts?hl=en Aja Hemphill

            You have no basis to say this. Purely speculation

      • http://gplusid.com/shiraz Shiraz Siddiqui

        that is an interesting point, and one i had not thought of before, thanks for bringing that up

        i do agree to an extent, but i would also like to add that Google has to start somewhere, and i think this is the first step to a new evolution of stock Android and premium devices

        i think the goal is here to not make these the #1 sellers world wide, but to gauge the market and see who is actually going to buy premium devices with stock Android after years of requests

    • guyfromtrinidad

      I was just going to write a post on G+ that the biggest issue with the GPE phones is that they are targeting the wrong market. In my country our phones come unlocked from the carriers so paying this amount for a phone is just right for me. Actually, right now the S4 is going for around $800+ USD. Getting this phone for me is a sweet deal.

    • firethorn

      Yes, so much this. Thank you for some perspective.

    • Matthew Fry

      I disagree. It's a *very* slim minority. We're talking about

      1) people with money
      2) people that care about having the latest flagship devices/tech
      3) people that aren't currently locked into subsidized plans
      4) people that don't like the TW/Sense UX
      5) people that don't like to mess with tweaking their phone
      6) people that like the "Nexus Experience."
      7) people that didn't already get the Nexus 4.

      Every single one of those requirements quickly reduces the population to a very small subset of Android users. I could see a much larger market for GPE phones in the midrange/budget markets. At least there you see marked improvements in snappiness of the device by having vanilla android.

      From my experience most don't like the Nexus Experience (I hate to break it to ya). Especially the ones coming from iOS. They like the HTC/Samsung camera, they like the multi-window, they like the notification shade stuff, they like the audio tweaks, they like the fun widgets. Most people don't like change either, as you can readily see by the outrage to iOS/facebook interface. The nexus is kind of drab in comparison to the OEM skins.

      I guess I'm an enthusiast but even if I weren't, the steps to download an OTA update via Kies are no more difficult (or any quicker) than downloading the AllInOne unlocker/root/rom tools released on XDA.

  • Imparus

    "the Beats Audio switch removed (it's just always on)"

    in the verge review I saw a checkbox in their video of the htc one GPE, how sure are you on that info?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      That is officially from HTC. If it's changed, I'd definitely be curious to know about that.

      • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

        It has changed. There is a check box under sound settings. Go look at the Engadget or Gizmodo video reviews.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          Yep, I see that now. Thanks.

  • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

    Beats does have a toggle. Both devices have no support for T-Mobile HSPA+, so you're stuck on AT&T pretty much.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Thanks re: Beats toggled. Fixing that now.

    • ProductFRED

      The S4 Google Edition does AWS HSPA+ for T-Mobile. It's an error on Google's part. If you go to the support page for the S4 Google Edition, it says it does it.

      • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

        Really? That's better, I guess. I was interested in the One GPe, so that doesn't help me, unfortunately. I'm on the 30 dollar T-Mobile prepaid plan and don't plan on budging.

        • Barnassey

          You really must be in the dark about tmobiles 1900 refarming. You can use any att device and have HSPA+ support on tmobile now.

          • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

            No, the One GPe requires AWS bands to use HSPA+, which it doesn't support.

          • Barnassey

            Once again you are showing that you are kinda ignorant about what is supported. If that was the case my atrix 2 wouldnt be howing 4g on tmobile.

          • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

            I didn't know the HTC One had the exact same hardware as the Atrix.

          • Barnassey

            Hardware has nothing to do with modems. But i can see you are starting to troll with your ignorance.

          • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

            T-Mobile uses 2 bands for HSPA+. Neither of these bands are included on the HTC One GPe.

          • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

            The HTC One Developer/Unlocked/GPe do not support the proper bands for T-Mobile HSPA+. Go check some forums specific to the device or reddit before you call me ignorant.

          • Barnassey
          • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

            The refarmed network is very, very small and is rolling out very slowly. That doesn't really help a majority of the small number of users.

          • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

            The 1900 band is rolling out very slowly, and it is barely supported. Sure, it "supports" it.

  • Nathan Borup

    What is the point of "Google Play Edition" again? So much for google support...

  • krazyfrog

    Custom skins, especially from Samsung and HTC are not as bad as they once used to be. Yes, they still don't look great, TouchWiz in particular, and have some unnecessary features but they do come with a ton of useful features and exploit the hardware better.

    This is similar to what some car manufacturers do where they strip the features of a particular car to make it lighter and go faster. Sure, it is a bit faster now but the performance improvement comes at the cost of usability and convenience.

    By the way, the HTC One GPe does have Beats Audio toggle in the Sounds settings menu.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Thanks re: Beats toggled. Fixing that.

      • krazyfrog

        It was surprising since Google had confirmed that Beats Audio would be permanently enabled but I'm glad they provided a toggle in the final version.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          I'm guessing there was some lashback. A lot of people don't like Beats with headphones, but it's absolutely necessary for the front-facing speakers. They sound like crap without it.

          • krazyfrog

            Exactly. I'm fine with Beats on the speakers but I prefer my headphone output to be unadulterated.

  • sam

    I ordered a galaxy s4 google edition yesterday. Today, I cancelled it.

    Sorry google, I was wishing for a black s4, for a change in the buttons to replace the menu button with multasking just like the nexus, and for updates directly from google.

    Losing all of that, I think I will stick with my touchwiz skinned S4.

    • sri_tech

      I think button layout will be the biggest issue with these phones.

      They are not made with stock android in mind.

      Only with nexus you will get that.

      • Ryan Yakus

        if the xperia z gets a google experience phone as rumored, it has software buttons as well

  • neastws

    The intended market for this phone is basically the intersection of a crazy Venn Diagram:

    People who:

    1) Prefer having Stock Android to the additional features of an OEM skin
    2) Don't want to root and ROM
    3) Are willing to pay for an unsubsidized phone
    4) Are on a carrier that accepts the GE phones

    It's just not a large subset of phone buyers in total. These phones are an interesting development but not an especially interesting value proposition.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/author/eric-ravenscraft/ Eric Ravenscraft

      Those last two are the biggest problems, IMHO. If these phones had as wide of a release as their skinned counterparts, they might actually have a shot at giving them a run for their money.

      Which is probably why they don't have as wide of a release.

      • Michael Panzer

        It's funny. Point 4 would not be any problem at all in the rest of the world but Google only sells them where there is this problem.
        Point 3 is also no big point for me because you pay that money for the phone if you have a contract or not. People who think carriers are giving away phones just don't have a clue how that works.
        Here in Germany I can get a iPhone 5 for 1€ with a 2 year contract, but then I pay like 100€ a month and in there there is an amount that I only pay for the phone.

        point 1: I am totally on board with that! All my 5 devices at home are pure Android without any modification.

        point 2: I am sick and tired of flashing and modding. I only have to do that on my old Galaxy S because I want 4.2. All my other devices are not even rooted!

      • neastws

        Obviously it's great that this is happening. There's no real negative of getting these phones out there in the wild, and there are definitely some positives.

        There is definitely a market when you only look at 1 and 2. Getting the average customer more aware of the benefits of Stock Android would help make this group larger, as these people already qualify for #2.

        The problem is that 3 and 4 are the biggest factors as to why this kind of a phone won't be able to sell well until the way phones are sold in America completely changes. The carriers will never have interest in these phones until there is a significant increase in demand.

        But how will they get that increase in demand? Almost all American customers buy their phones in a carrier store, comparing what that carrier has. They will never see stock android, let alone be able to weigh the costs/benefits of having stock vs the additional features in touchwiz/sense.

  • brkshr

    They were never meant to be 'Nexus' phones! The point of these is to have AOSP on a phone, which I prefer to TouchWiz & Sense. This makes updating the phone much faster.

    Google cannot update the sources themselves. These phones have proprietary binaries, that only the manufacturers have access to. Should Google pay to license these proprietary technologies? These phones weren't designed with open source in mind.

    Another benefit to having these AOSP devices available & updated faster, is the fact that the binaries can be ripped from these and used for AOSP based ROMs. Making these ROMs much easier to make stable & updated to the latest Android version.

    Just because everyone here thought that these were going to be the same as Nexus devices (I don't know why becasue they clearly stated "Nexus EXPERIENCE" devices) & what you assumed was wrong. Doesn't mean you should knock these. Give developers of custom ROMs some time & you will see that these are very beneficial to the ROM/AOSP community.

    • Ibrahim Awwal

      Except as this post states, these phones AREN'T getting AOSP support. Which is exactly why they're pointless.

      • brkshr

        They run the latest AOSP Android on them. I think that technically qualifies them as being AOSP devices.

        Google has stated that Nexus devices will be the only devices getting "AOSP support". If they were going to get "AOSP support", they would have called them Nexus devices and not "Nexus Experience" devices. I believe they called them that because most people know what the software is on a Nexus device. Very few people even know what AOSP is. Apparently, "Nexus Experience" has confused most though.

        • h4rr4r

          These are not AOSP devices. We wanted them to be though.
          Hell, I am still hoping for a nexus device without any binary blob drivers. Google, get that stuff in the mainline kernel.

  • NavalGilles

    I want the best hardware available, running stock android and I don't want to unlock it root my phone.

    That is the point of these phones.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      " If you want a not-quite-completely-open high-end unlocked phone with stock Android out of the box that works on a GSM carrier with LTE in the United States (so, T-Mobile or AT&T, or a prepaid 3G carrier), these are there for you. I am happy to admit that there is some kind of an audience here. Google / stock Android diehards without major tinkering fetishes may well happily hop on to the Google Play edition bandwagon, and that audience is being satisfied. I am not saying there is no point."

      Trust me, I'm not ignoring that.

      • Android Telegraph

        And the best thing is that these devices seem to come with battery optimization, which coupled with the lack of manufacturer bloatware is resulting in great battery life, at least if Verge is to be believed. Surely an audience, but yeah, not that great a need of these devices for most.

        • Marcus Townsend

          I don't think the battery improvements are a result of battery optimization so much as Touchwiz and Sense are battery depletors. I assume that 90% of the features that stock Touchwiz and Sense do the same are just naturally more efficient on stock.

          • Rob Cook

            I disagree with this. Explain how 'stock' CM10 on my GS3 could barely manage 12hrs of battery yet TW nets me much closer to 48hrs of battery? Your argument would suggest that TW is killing my battery yet CM10 seems to go through the juice like a dope fiend through cheetos. I've installed CM10 3 times and been back to TW each time for reasons like poor battery life.

          • Matthew Fry

            Have you tried running them both, as is, without installing anything? I've never had a device drain faster on CM (except on some of the nightly releases).

          • Rob Cook

            My last dance with CM I gave it around 48hrs to settle down before making any adjustments. After that I tried throttling the CPU as well as other battery saving techniques to no avail. I gave CM as much time as I could but after a couple of weeks it just wasn't worth the hassle so back to TW. Really with Nova launcher I can get a Stock like experience without loosing out the TW tweaks, where's the downside?

          • Matthew Fry

            That's very strange. I've never been compelled to install CM on my S3 but on my Nexus 10 it is very efficient.

          • nokidding

            Erm... CM is struggling with missing drivers on GS3. Courtesy of Samsung. I have one myself, and 16 hours a day at moderate use is perfectly manageable. I never reached past 24 hos on TW though.

          • Marcus Townsend

            I see this argument going in a very poor direction very quickly, so I'm going to try and tread lightly.

            Everything below is my personal opinion. Not fact. Please keep that in mind.

            I've never seen CM Anything perform as naturally smooth or finished as stock android built from the source. There's always something wrong. The problem changes between devices, but there's always something. If there wasn't, I'd have no issue getting an Galaxy SX or HTC One (Etc).

            Another reason for the better battery life, however, is the removal of the tons of "features" that samsung as put into the most recent version of Touchwiz, which to my knowledge are not available for the S3.

            When speaking strictly about the S3 I question your results.

            48hrs of battery? What, using standby? Stock Touchwiz or a TW Rom?

            I've heard virtually no reports of the S3 achieving that sort of battery life under moderate use. So this leads me to believe you were in some specific scenario that doesn't represent the majority of devices.

            And as I look at the other responses to your comment, I see what I expected to see: Missing driver for CM on the GS3.

            This would obviously not be the case with Google and Samsung/HTC working directly together on a specific device. so yes, I think my argument still holds.

          • PAV

            My s3 had great battery life.Lasting around 36 hours on moderate use. Not sure aabout 50 though. It's true that cm never ever impressedme with battery life ccompared to stock. Guess what: my s4 runs longer on stock rather than the genuine Google play ROM.

          • ChangWizzle

            How long did you leave CM on the phone before you switched back to stock?

          • Rob Cook

            Anywhere from several months to weeks. I initially put CM on prior to the 'M' series and had it for several months, then Samsung dropped 4.1.2 and I wanted to see how that was, then switched back when the 'M' series first dropped and did several upgrades past that but switched before M2 or M3. Finally I switched again at S1 and tried some nightlies beyond but couldn't handle the weak battery. I wasn't the only one either XDA had several people having battery issues as well. Now I'm stock, rooted, with Nova, I'm quite happy. There are some parts of CM that I really like and miss but I'm willing to compromise, really I'm thinking that if/when the S3 gets 4.2.2 it's going to be pretty nice.

          • Stacey

            You're using CM10... not an official firmware. You're neither using an official kernel for AOSP Android nor official drivers for it.

          • Rob Cook

            Agreed but in context of my comment the prior poster was suggesting that TW or Sense was draining battery, my point was that I felt that TW doesn't do that in my experience. I have no other comparison aside from CM but it's as close to AOSP that I can get on an S3.

          • Stacey

            This chart compares the stock and GE version battery lives:

            http://images.anandtech.com/graphs/graph7107/56049.png

            They're basically the same.

          • runderekrun

            "...my point was that I felt that TW doesn't do that in my experience. I have no other comparison aside from CM but it's as close to AOSP that I can get on an S3."

            But these non skinned devices prove that TW does drain battery. Otherwise why would they have better battery then skinned devices?

          • GeForceFX

            48 hours. i'll believe it when i see it.

        • Ryan Stewart

          I think just by removing the, in most cases, poorly coded skins and custom applications is enough to greatly improve battery life.

      • NavalGilles

        But that was the purpose for these phones best hardware+ stock android. They are not trying to do anything else. Maybe you missed the point?

        • Ryan Stewart

          They referred to them as Google Edition, as if there was some sort of tie-in besides Google selling them. Most hoped Google was responsible for them (meaning accessible sources, AOSP, etc.)

    • RichardCurtis

      Indeed, this tripe was written by someone that clearly doesn't get it.

      Android allows customisation to your hearts desire, you start with a stock Android and only add the stuff you want ontop. Pretty much all the customisations that HTC and Samsung do are available to buy as similar apps, many of which are free.

    • Matthew Fry

      You are a very small minority my friend.

  • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

    I feel the most important part of GPe is the support for AOSP ROMs which will help developers squash bugs in custom ROMs. The kernel will help issues with NFC, Bluetooth, and more. Although they haven't posted factory images (yet?), I feel that the fact that these exist acknowledges (some) consumer's requests.

  • Erik Michel

    The time on the phone's clock display 4:30. Could Android 4.3 be right around the Corner? Maybe the ship date for these phones is the release date for the next version of Android as well.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      Why would people downvote this? lol I'm hoping that's the case as well.

  • R I

    I think there is a benefit, and its going to be a benefit to other users. First, this stock version of Android comes pre-optimized for these phones. So someone could buy the skinned version unlocked (or unlock their subsidized phone), and use the Google-approved software. That's a big deal. Most custom RoMs involve major tradeoffs. Not so much in this case.

    Secondly, we now have a way to port Google apps to the locked, skinned versions of these phones. So people who purchased an HTC One from AT&T don't even have to root their phone to unstall Google camera, gallery, photosphere, clock, etc. That's huge, especially since image quality is not taking a hit with the camera app. Basically, Google took their core apps, and optimized them for the proprietary hardware in Samsung and HTC's phones. How is that not going to be a benefit, especially once Google's camera software (inevitably) catches up with and exceeds the skinned versions of these phones?

    Lastly, and I may be wildly off the mark here, I can't help but believe that by making Samsung and HTC work on updating these stock editions, we may see faster updates on their skinned versions too. Google is helping them with this, and I believe we'll see that benefit software updates on their skins too. It has to be why Google is restricting this to a few phones (why not spread this to older Samsung and HTC devices, otherwise?). They're attacking the fragmentation problem by indirectly lending their expertise to these companies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      "by making Samsung and HTC work on updating these stock editions, we may see faster updates on their skinned versions too."

      Well said, I'm hoping for this as well.

  • oktnxbai

    What these phones need now is some Samsung, HTC love.

    Want Samsung Smart Gesture? Download it from Google Play!
    Want HTC BlinkFeed? Download it from Google Play!

    However, Samsung and HTC would not do this because it generally meant giving away a distinct (read: competitive) feature found only in Touchwiz and Sense.

    (We all know such features are easily extractable and can be installed in custom ROMs.. but let's not go that way)

  • Sergiu Dogaru

    You can actually use the IR Blaster on the S4, using our app:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.remotefairy

    The IR hardware isn't disabled, it's just that Android simply doesn't have any APIs for it.

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    I think you're wrong. But what's exciting, to me at least, is that updates will be relatively fast (according to Anandtech, not more than a month), that's very important. Because despite some delusions among the Android community is not the skins that delay the process of issuing updates, but drivers and carriers.

    Since the drivers are exactly the same, the S4 and the HTC ONE without stock Android should get updated relatively fast too. The only problem still standing is carriers, Google is one step closer of solving the embarrassing situation Apple made extensive use in their keynote: By OS version, the most popular OS is iOS 6 followed by Android... 2.3. That needs to be fixed yesterday.

    • h4rr4r

      A month is too long, Way too long.
      I wanted them supported in AOSP.

  • Waleed Al Suwaimel

    The other thing with these GPE phones is that they may become party stars all of a sudden if Google dropped a surprise soon with Android 5.0. It's safe to think that there will be a good lasting time of only Nexus and GPE phones sporting Android 5.0, before anything else. Google is taking fragmentation seriously now. They think ahead of that green circle report in the few months to come. These GPE phones can help widen the new slice for Android 5.0 shoulder-to-shoulder with the Nexus devices when it comes up. Google is confident about this "Pure Android" thing. They know it served them well as a sale point of the Nexus devices. However, if I were to buy one of these GPE phones today, I wouldn't buy it for Android 4.2, I'd buy it for being unlocked with no contract and the promise that it will be getting the next major update of Android along with or VERY soon after the Nexus line.

  • ProductFRED

    I've been saying this from the beginning. Nexus fanatics were downvoting my comments that said that it's cheaper to buy a carrier model, unlock it, and put Cyanogenmod on it. And more importantly like you said, these devices miss the point. The fact that Google is selling them, but not supporting them as Nexus devices is a HUGE deal, and was the entire point of their inception. It's nice to know that I'm not just crazy for saying that.

    • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

      CM sucks compared to a truly stock experience, it's not stable, the camera always suck. These devices will get timely updates (at most a few weeks of delay), and that's fairly important, and my hunch is it will improve the speed of updates of the skinned phones too (the only remaining problem being carriers).

      • ProductFRED

        Well then just grab the Google Edition ROMs (which are already on XDA) and install that on your AT&T or T-Mobile S4/One. There you go.

      • Ibrahim Awwal

        Please show me your time machine that gives you such confidence that updates will come to these devices so quickly. And even if they get the next major version of Android quickly, I'm pretty confident that after a year when the next flagship phones come out these will be left in the dust. That's what not being supported by AOSP means, no guarantees. I think the main failing of the GPE phones is that they didn't get them to open source everything, which is the one good thing that could have comeof this program.I agree with the blog post, considering the audience the right approach would have been to just put up sanctioned AOSP builds that can be flashed with the stock recovery on the regular devices.

      • selonmoi

        Don't count on "at most a few weeks of delay." Look at how Samsung managed updates on the international versions of the Galaxy Nexus, which they controlled. They literally had to do nothing, but they sat on updates for months. The poor buyers who thought they had bought a real Nexus device, with direct updates from Google, were livid.

        At first it sounded like these Google Play editions were actually going to be updated by Google. Now that we know they're not, it changes everything.

    • getTOtheCHOPPA

      I don't want CM with it's bells and whistles. You wait just as long for CM to get stable builds of newer android versions as you do from carrier supported devices. I want stock android as Google intended.

  • iampun33t

    IMO Even a Galaxy S3 or HTC OneX with AOSP or Stock Android will be as fast as these or have a minute slow performance which wont even be noticeable. So where is the point in buying such a good hardware, which is expensive too, if you don't have the software to make use of it..!! Why not buy a S3 instead and flash AOSP on it? I mean I bought the S4 for the performance and the features, which do come in handy at times. Also the camera of S4 without the camera software of Samsung isn't a match for the actual S4! I think the same will go for HTC One Ultra pixel Camera.

    I mean google had to put Beats Audio in the HTC One to suit the needs!!!

  • dhruva

    ever since andy rubin left they want to make everything stock..thats what motorola is for, sell motorola as stock device..make sure motorola updates their phones at break neck speed using the pdk..others will be follow suit...if you make everything stock, the diversity will be lost..now its all confustion, google play edition, nexus edition, yada yada..

  • http://gplusid.com/shiraz Shiraz Siddiqui

    disagreed, this is what we've all wanted for so long, and it's here and now we're mad?! that makes no sense

    also, yeah it's best if the manufacturer's handle the updates, they know their own hardware the best so they can make tweaks with software updates such as hopefully to improve the cameras etc

    i see the author's point, but i think we should give Google a little confidence here, they said shortly after they release Nexus Android updates that these phones will be updated, give them a little faith geez, bash when they fail to honor that promise

    • h4rr4r

      No, what we wanted is these device to get updates from google.
      Personally I wanted the drivers in Android if not in Mainline Linux.

      This is a total cop out.

      • http://gplusid.com/shiraz Shiraz Siddiqui

        i don't think it's a cop out, even if it's not what you wanted, it's still in line with what i and probably many other people want

        bummer that it's not what you wanted but maybe this program will evolve to eventually become more in line with you and what others are looking for to include updates straight from Google, my fingers are crossed for that, but as a former employee, i don't think it's gonna happen any time soon :-(

      • http://gplusid.com/shiraz Shiraz Siddiqui

        i definitely don't think it's a cop out

        even though it's a bummer it's not what you wanted, it's still viable to a lot of people such as myself

        i agree that ideally it would be great if the updates came from Google, and then we could hold them accountable if they didn't, but hopefully this is the first step towards an evolution within Android and hardware that someday soon devices such as this would eventually get updates straight from Google, which is something i look forward too

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

      Are your parents going to spent like $700 each on these though because you're recommending them? I'm recommending subsidzed S4s to my parents so they can do S-Beam to eachother, and because they're not rich enough to pay that much in the first place.

      • http://gplusid.com/shiraz Shiraz Siddiqui

        i'm recommending these because yes, you pay more up font, i get that, but in the long run you're saving thousands of dollars

        my parents and myself included use T-Mobile's prepaid setup which is $30/month, it works for us because luckily here in San Francisco we have solid coverage and HSPA+ is pretty much the exact same speed as AT&T LTE, ~18mbps down atleast, also my parents travel alot outside of the country, by having an unlocked phone they can just pop in a local prepaid simcard wherever in might be in Europe, Middle East, or East Asia, it's extremely convenient

        but my main point being, it's cheaper in the long run... they buy unlocked devices such as these, and pay $30/month per line with unlimited data and text, compared to an on contract device which would be upwards of $70-90 per month for just the one phone, AND they're stuck at that price for 2 years

        i'm not saying buying devices from Google is the thing for everyone, but my main point was that the author is looking at a very narrow scope and i think an ethnocentric point of view, there's a lot of people these devices are good for, and i also see your point Daniel that a lot of people don't have the money to pay up front, i get that, so yeah if you're ok and happy with signing a 2 year contract for solid service at a premium price then go for it

        but i think theres alot, ALOT alot, of people out there that just aren't informed enough to make a decision and they think that buying a phone is only possible with a 2 year contract, which makes the majority of the public here in the US think that these phones are actually work $150-$200 since that's what they pay when they sign a contract, when in reality these devices ARE expensive, and can range upwards of $700, i would just like more people to realize that buying off contract and saving money in the long run with a prepaid sim is pretty easy and in fact is a great option for a lot of people out there, they just aren't educated about the option yet

        so in sum, rather then bash the phones (on points that we don't even know are true, such as circumstantial "what ifs" like "these phones won't be updated by Google so they'll be horribly slow with Android OS updates") why not be pleased that finally, stock (ish) Android phones are finally a reality and a viable option for alot of people out there, and then help those people get educated on this option rather than scaring them off, and that's my problem with this article, it's written so it scares people off from the great OS that is Stock Android on premium hardware

        • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

          Agreed and very well said. I use the $30 T-Mobile plan as well and its great. I don't know that i can convince my parents to go to that from Verizon yet but I'd love to save them all that money. I may bring it up though since they still use the landline a lot.

  • Zargh

    FWIW another point in favor of these Google Play Editions is that they get they're treated exactly on par with Nexus Products by Google support wise: https://support.google.com/android/?hl=en , which means they have help files hosted on google.com, access to the 24/7 hardware support line and overnight shipping of replacements: https://support.google.com/googleplay/answer/3053039?hl=en&ref_topic=2999683

    Which is to say if these things don't get updated, Google's set things up so they're the ones directly accountable by the consumer. So Google likely have contractual obligations signed by HTC/Samsung behind the scenes to back themselves up.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    It seems to me that the push back against skins is how much it seems to delay updates to the latest iteration of Android.

    I have always liked some of the Sense additions to Android, and I've recommended Sense phones to lots of folks who don't want to root and ROM.

    Bit as an android enthusiast who wants the latest from Google (because I manage so much of my life through Google services), it's more important to me to have the latest Android than HTC's improvements to camera software - and yes they are pro cements at this point.

    If I could get an HTC One that was guaranteed to be upgraded to the new at Android within 2-3 months, I wouldn't hesitate to buy that device, because I think Sense makes improvements. Alas, that device continues to not exist.

    • duncanator

      Exactly how I feel as well. I wish the manufacturers would just release the phone with their own launcher and make their other enhancements as something that could be installed or updated on their own.

  • Jack

    Well said writer.

  • https://plus.google.com/106721695871122826476/posts?hl=en Aja Hemphill

    I think it bears stating that IMHO and from many other people I've heard from, the unlocking ROMing thing just isn't as fun or as useful as it used to be. I tried unlocking my friends Verizon GS3 and nearly bricked his phone and were ecstatic just to figure out how to get factory back on it (phones are getting harder and harder to root as they close loopholes that we have used in the past). I have a Sprint Gnex and rooted and found that many apps no longer worked with a rooted/unlocked device, including important, core Google apps like Drive. And I didn't really gain much if anything in return. I know my rooting days are over and frankly I feel a lot of other people feel the same. On the other hand many people DO root just to get that stock experience. I think many of these rooters that you think are going to be left in the dark are actually the ones that will be happy to not have to worry about rooting anymore, to have stock experience on great hardware.

    • Matthew Fry

      Well Verizon is kind of a dick, so I'm not surprised. My T-Mobile S3 was rooted in minutes. I personally root because my device just gets such bad battery life using the apps that I like. Getting it to a reasonable drain requires root. Some of that is disabling some of the TW apps and some of it is doing greenify type things, disallowing apps to continue to run unchecked.

  • Androidium

    I think David hit the nail on the head here: why bother with supposedly different phone line, when as a manufacturer, you could just make alternative AOSP roms available for unlockable bootloader phones. In fact HTC has already stated, that they will make stock ROMs available to flash to your unlocked One. I mean, the only people that crave for pure, unadulterated Android, are the ones that will have no issues flashing them whatsoever.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, I absolutely despise any skins, and just adore my Nexus 4 with proper stock android, but also came to revelation that I am in a tiny minority here - I've listened to normal people going on about their TouchWizzed/Sensed/etc. Android devices like "I like, that this or that came already with the phone" as I presume that they have no interest or savvy to explore just a little bit, and find out that there are way better alternatives in most cases (S translate vs Google translate, for example) and most of the supposedly awesome features are just silly gimmicks, carefully designed to impress normal person when he is shopping for a phone (Samsung seemingly is the worst offender here).

  • http://mtony75-2.blogspot.com/ mtony75

    I do have to ask what is the point of this article? You go out of your way to prove that the two phones in question aren't true stock Android experiences just to admit you don't think Stock Android is that great of a thing.

    • fakegramita

      I think he's basically saying there's a large crowd that is confusing the 'nexus' experience with the 'stock android' experience. Then going on to make the point that, at a time- getting either one of those would have been an improvement over the usual carrier experience; but these days it's only really the nexus experience that represents much of an improvement, as without those advantages, stock android vs carriers skinned is not necessarily better, and in some cases depending on your tastes may be worse.

      I think all the dude is trying to do is call out people who dug in a position a long time ago on stock android vs carrier modified and refuse to actually try anything to re-evaluate that position.

  • Matthew Merrick

    While the ASOP user experience is not as good as a skinned experience, nothing beats the beauty of the look and feel of vanilla android. Holo (especially holo dark) is just gorgeous.

  • Guillermo

    I think these phones are not for users, but for phone manufacturers. I bet google wants them to taste what it is like to give support without taking months to bring the updates.

  • Andrew

    You also can't use these phones on the largest US carrier... which also kills the business model. I understand why, just saying I wish we could have unlocked CDMA phones. I love my call quality on Verizon. I also get fantastic service everywhere I go. Unfortunately for me, I'm stuck with a bastardized nexus experience and overpriced phones off-contract (no way am I giving up my unlimited data). Should verizon be dumb and take away my unlimited data, these phones will be exactly what I'd be looking for when I switch to T-Mobile.

  • Stacey

    At least we're getting an official firmware with drivers and kernel. Otherwise, AOSP ROMs from the community on devices always use dirty hacks to get things working, and this compromises battery life and performance.

    CM10 camera quality tends to be lower. CM tends to have some graphical glitches. CM is less stable than stock.

    These devices will help to alleviate some of this.

    • Khary Anderson

      and CM has terrible GPS and cell reception!!

  • acey_zero

    I think the main point of these Google Edition phones is the software, which can be loaded on to other versions of these phones, not necessarily the physical devices on sale in the play store.

    I just hope their success is judged that way and not on play store sales alone.

  • Mike C.

    I bought HTCs top phone one year ago: the One X

    Its a nice phone, but unfortunately HTC has decided to ignore it in terms of software updates and it seems pretty clear than once they deliver Android 4.2 then that's it. It is pretty clear why: they have made their money - now they just want to sell me something else. With HTCs fairly heavy customizations of Android, releasing new firmware versions must be pretty expensive. Therefore they terminate real support relatively quickly. Compare that to the guys from Cupertino who delivers firmware updates to phones 3 years old. Here Android is lacking.

    What I was hoping for with these Nexus Experience/Play Edition phones, was to get firmware updates without having HTC or Samsung involved. A phone where Google would provide the firmware and because it was stock Android, it would be relatively cheap for them.

    Google really needs to find a firmware model that allows updates without involving manufacturers - kind of how Windows used to work. Obviously, hardware specific drivers must come from the manufacturers, but the rest could come directly from Google and do not need to be released together.

  • Michael Olsen

    I owned the Galaxy Captivate and now the original Note. Both phones, via updates from samsung, added features but with each update performance and battery life has gone down. My Nexus 7 has been updated a number of times and hasn't slowed down a bit. I am an Android enthusiast, but I have no desire to root etc my phone. I can work around Sense, but when I buy a phone now, I worry about how it will perform a year from now. This helps alleviate those concerns.

    That being said, I have an upgrade soon and will get the One at ATT...the low up front cost is hard to ignore.....

  • southernfanboy26

    I think people are getting ahead of themselves. Since the release of the NEXUS 1 Google has always promised NEXUS devices with speedy updates. The Samsung gs4 GOOGLE EDITION & the HTC One GOOGLE EDITION(which aren't NEXUS devices) were just promised to be the android stock experience on flagship hardware. I think when people heard Google Edition they assumed it would be treated like nexus devices. The distinction between nexus branded and google edition phones is imperative. Just like with retro jordans vs team jordans; yeah technically they're both jordans but one comes from his career" 1-23" and others are just downgraded versions of the original

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/101557612307322870761/posts John Scott

    I think this article is really short sighted. It should be obvious to any non-noob that you can't compile a stock Android and simply install it without adapting it to the hardware. This is what manufacturers do. Google can't assume responsibility to make ROMs available for every phone, especially in the US where there are a ridiculous number of variants of each phone for every carrier. In Europe you only have to adapt one image for a particular model and it will work on all carriers. I wouldn't even expect Google to do that unless they branded the phone themselves.

    Your method of getting stock versions is cumbersome as well. Anyone who has ever installed Cyanogen knows how to add notification bar shortcuts and quick toggles so why would anyone need to go through so much headache? They wouldn't.

    Being able to get stock Android through Google Play or anywhere else for that matter makes perfect sense. The point is that you get it that way out of the box WITHOUT the hassles you would put folks through.

    • fakegramita

      I think you're both right, but the main point he makes that is true imo is that stock android (from a UI perspective) is not miles ahead of the skinned versions anymore. Some of what gets called 'bloat' is actually useful, and some you can take or leave without it really affecting the user experience in a meaningful way (for some, not all). He's basically just saying, some people are being purists because they've dug their feet in, and not from a practical standpoint.

      The crowd that actually cares to install custom ROMs and otherwise tinker at that level is a small niche compared to the overall market for android devices these days. Just to be clear- I AM one of those people, but I have no illusions that the number of people choosing to buy GPE for those reasons is going to have any serious impact on how carrier business is done. They always say they hear people, but they never do all that much in practice : /

  • Atifsh

    Pretty stupid article!

    • fakegramita

      pretty stupid reply.

      • Atifsh

        yes it is

  • Alex Ohannes

    "The HTC One GPE, for example, will have its IR blaster disabled, the Beats Audio switch removed (it's just always on) (Edit: Apparently the switch has been added in)"

    This is a dead giveaway that this article was written before the author had actually used the One Google Edition. :)

  • opan

    The only thing kind of holding me back is the warranty policy with these phones. Its Samsung manufacturer's warranty and if something breaks you have to wait up to a month for it to come back from repairs which is a long time IF samsung can even fix the problem. With AT&T you get a refurbished phone which may/may not work but they will continue to replace the phones as long its within the one year warranty period. Still the other alternative is zero HSPA capable smartphones on AT&T's network at the moment. Other than having the rare ability to switch to 3G on the Galaxy Note 2 at the moment, but having phone with a huge screen is a caveat I'm not willing to take on due to shoulder surfers and the lack of privacy in my daily use.

  • tony

    My screen is not responding how do I reset phone I have the older beats phone from Verizon

  • bug

    This totally misses the real issue: carrier subsidies. Let's say I want the Galaxy S4 on an AT&T plan costing $100/mo. I could get the AT&T branded S4 for $200 and a plan of $100/mo. On the other hand, I could get the S4 GPE for $650 and a plan of $100/mo. You pay for the subsidy with AT&T, Verizon, or Sprint regardless of whether you received a discounted phone. Is putting up with TouchWiz worth $450? Sadly, yes. For some, T-Mobile is an option, but their footprint does not hold a candle to Verizon or AT&T.

  • Todd Baamonde

    Pretty much wrong on all counts in this article. HTC One GPe is getting Kit Kat from Google before many Nexus users. Lawl.