The Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One smartphones, both flagship models from their respective manufacturers, just got the stock-Android treatment via Google Play editions that are now available on the search giant’s store. The availability of these two phones represents a big step forward for the Android mobile OS, and it also allows Google to manage expectations by offering new phones that run stock Android without having to release or announce a new Nexus phone just yet.
Stock is Super
Everybody knows stock Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean offers a really smooth user experience, and it comes with none of the third-party clutter that manufacturers like to add to their offerings. Plus, there might be a good chance that these phones will get updates faster than the standard units, seeing as they’re available off of Google Play and have the virgin version of the OS.
Take note, however, that these iterations of stock Android are still built on manufacturer-supplied kernels that means OS updates won’t necessarily come ASAP for these phones. Of course, we did get a promise from Google reps that the company, in cooperation with both manufacturers, will be working hard to make sure that the phones won’t be far behind Nexus devices when it comes to software updates.
Then again, these stock versions of the prized flagship phones also don’t have any of the extra features of their standard counterparts. That’s a special concern for the HTC One, seeing as the HTC Sense features on that phone are integral to its appeal–particularly where the infamous UltraPixel camera is concerned. There’s also BlinkFeed and Zoe Share to consider.
As for the Samsung handset, most people will probably like the lack of a TouchWiz overlay. They get to enjoy the same capable hardware of the Galaxy S4, but the stock Android should really take the experience to a whole new level. Besides, most of the bells and whistles found on TouchWiz aren’t really all that widely used, although Multi-Window and Smart Stay are really useful for some.
The absence of compatibility problems should help offset those third-party omissions. You can run anything on these babies anything from HD games, business phone service apps, custom skins, and others, should run fine. Plus, without clutter eating up precious system resources, the phones should provide blazing-fast performance across all functions.
No Subsidies for These
The Google Play editions also don’t come with any carrier subsidies, so you’ll be forced to pay full price for high-end devices. You can cop the HTC One (32GB) for $599, while the Galaxy S4 (16GB) retails for $649. That’s the price you pay for getting the top hardware running the ideal software, although this shouldn’t be an issue for some die-hards. Besides, the devices come unlocked so you won’t be bound by carrier limitations.
With carriers already providing the standard retail versions of the One and the Galaxy S4, we don’t see the Google Play editions getting subsidized. On the off-chance that that happens, software updates will only get delayed more because they’d have to pass through the service providers first.
It’s nice that Samsung and HTC partnered with Google to provide the market with yet more options. If you feel like the Nexus devices have limitations in terms of the hardware side of things, now’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy completely stock Android Jelly Bean running on the best hardware today. You’ll have to pay full price for these handsets, though; but it’s all about what matters most to you as a consumer. If you’re itching to try vanilla Android bundled with the cutting-edge hardware of current flagship smartphones, you certainly won’t go wrong with these Google Play editions. If you can wait, there’s always the next Nexus-branded smartphone to look forward to.