Google Play Edition: exactly what we asked for, but maybe not what we wanted

by: Nate SwannerJune 27, 2013

HTC One Google Edition

The Nexus 4: maybe not your cup of tea, but a stellar device. Nexus devices are built with the aim of setting a hardware standard for the next year of Android, and raising the bar a bit for all manufacturers. We may look back at each Nexus with a laundry list of pros and cons, but those devices are definitely responsible moving the entire Android market forward.

While LG may have been a bit of a surprise last year as the Android OEM to get the Nexus nod, they really outclassed themselves and much of the market with the Nexus 4. It remains at or near the top of the Android heap, and users are often delighted with it. There remains a vocal few who lament LG’s device, and call for a bigger name to have made the current Nexus device.

We get top-of-the-line hardware at cost with Nexus, and we now have “unskinned” landmark devices from two of the major manufacturers.

The speculation only deepened when device manufacturers like Samsung and HTC came out with their own powerhouse devices. The One is a grand slam for HTC, and the Galaxy S4 is a healthy progression for Samsung’s feature lineup. What if those were Nexus devices?! The world wondered aloud, and looked crossly in the direction of LG’s subtle buzz generator.

The Nexus 4 was a boon for LG, cementing their place as a top manufacturer, if only briefly. HTC needed similar mojo, and Samsung always commands attention. We all have our preferences, but we also love to question things. Why LG? Why only one Nexus device a year? Why can’t we get any device with stock Android?

Good questions. Why not, right? Android is there waiting to be used, so why not just give us those devices with plain ‘ol Android? Just give us the stock OS, on the devices we want, and we’ll be happy. That’s what so many of us said, right?

Google delivered. Those “Google Play Edition” devices deliver exactly what we asked for. We asked that those devices come with stock Android, but come with the hardware we all clamor for. That happened, and yet we still can’t get on board.

Google-IO-Galaxy S4 Google Edition price 1600 aa


The OEM’s made the kernel for each of the “Google Play Edition” devices, and that makes perfect sense. They should control the kernel and updates for their devices, because — you know — they are their devices. It would be silly for Google to try and support hardware they had no hand in. Only the OEM truly knows how to best utilize the hardware for Android, stock or not. If Android with Ultrapixels is what you wanted, it’s not going to be a true Nexus device.

The point is twofold. First, we’re spoiled.

That means slower updates. With Nexus, you’re on the cutting edge. With a “Google Play Edition” device, you’ve got to get the blessing of the OEM before you get the latest and greatest. It shouldn’t delay you much, but you’re still subject to their whim. They could even stop updating the device, if they decided to stop supporting it.

As for the price, well, those the going rates for an unlocked device. Actually, the $600 for an HTC One is a pretty good deal. They could have easily charged $50-100 more and been in the right ballpark for such good hardware. That’s just a reality most don’t grasp, in part due to our current M.O. for obtaining mobile devices.

The point is twofold. First, we’re spoiled. That’s not a knock, it’s a fact. We’ve grown accustomed to spending so little out of pocket that $650 seems insane to many of us. We’ll comfortably spend $200 or so for a device, sign a contract, then lament the update cycle or coverage. It’s about the bottom line for us, and that’s exactly as it should be. We should re-examine our process, though. Many of us who are reading this would probably save quite a bit of money going with a “Google Play Edition” device and a prepaid plan, much less a Nexus 4.

Secondly, this is about compromise. We can’t have it all, but we are getting what we asked for. Neither HTC or Samsung agreed to make a Nexus device. They agreed to have stock Android on existing hardware, and sell the device for a profit, not bend over backwards for Google as Nexus manufacturers do.

Google LG Nexus 4 Logo aa 2 1600

These are not the Nexus devices you’re looking for

A Nexus device is sold to us at cost because it’s really just a piece of hardware. Google accepts all the responsibility for it. They support it, and use it to drive their program forward. LG was completely hands-off when those devices left their facilities. They fulfilled an RFP for Google, nothing more. HTC and Samsung, however, still have to support these stripped down devices of theirs.

We get top-of-the-line hardware at cost with Nexus, and we now have “unskinned” landmark devices from two of the major manufacturers. Those two new devices are sold for a reasonable amount, considering fair market prices, and require minimal software support. You’re not indebted to a carrier, so you’ll get updates fairly quickly. If anything, this program will continue to highlight just how muddled carriers make device updates.

You’re on the Google Play Store device page, looking at three devices. One is half the price of the others, and you’ll get cutting edge updates. The hardware stands up nicely to any other device, and you’re not indebted to a carrier. The reviews are good, and it has the Nexus blessing.

The other two are more money than you wanted to spend. So, you go back to that first device, and start talking yourself into it. “The glass back won’t matter, I’m careful. 16GB is enough memory, I use the cloud. 4.7-inches is almost 5, I won’t notice the difference.”

It seems like we have a winner, here, and it was the champion we always had. Go figure.

  • MasterMuffin

    Those last three paragraphs are exactly what always happens when I’m buying new tech! First I look at the one that has a price that suits my budget. Then I start slipping to more and more expensive ones and start drooling and dreaming. Then after I wake up from my dream of world dominance, I go back to the first one, think how I could live with that and that and just buy it :D

    I will resist these and get the Nexus 5!

    • I’m glad that all these other Google Play Edition devices have finally surfaced, but out of all of them I’d still prefer to spend some time with the Nexus 4.

      • MasterMuffin

        Me too, but I must resist buying a new device, it’s now been almost a year since my last acquisition and I want to break that magical one year mark before buying another device!

        • Miracle Zhou

          I had my TMO G2x for 2 years and it is so laggy now. I went through the cycle you described and purchased a Nexus 4 (yeah, I needed a new phone now so I didn’t have to wait for my G2x to respond to my taps). Nexus 5… who knows, I may or may not be able to resist it when it is released.

    • Nate Swanner

      We all go through it, don’t we? It’s stressful.

  • rodpe

    Yeah, i want a nexus made by HTC/SONY/Samsung not a GS4 with a Stock android skin. Its diferent…

  • Ivan Budiutama

    can’t help it but “These are not the droids you are looking for” *waving hands

    • Ivana Humpelot

      HTC One, in 24kt is C3P0, and S4 is R2D2..

      • Ivan Budiutama

        my thinking too, I mean the default Samsung’s incoming message really sounds like R2

    • Nate Swanner

      I’m glad you got the joke!

  • Charles Chambers

    What if they were subsidized? I know we would have the carrier problems… But that doesn’t stop people from buying the gs4 or the htc one.

    • Google should introduce monthly plan.

  • Charles Chambers

    I would love that skin on my HTC One but I actually like blink feed. I also like the battery saver option that comes on both Samsung and HTC devices.

  • satsmine2k4

    Amazing devices but pricing close to 450-500 would have been perfect…But their pricing killed my enthu…

  • MSmith79

    If they just used software keys like the Nexus 4, I’d be ordering one right now. Instead, it’s the Nexus 4 for me.

  • Erik Zamora

    No 4g on the Nexus 4 has always been a deal breaker for me. I love my HTC One, even with Sense.

    • James

      So 20Mbps isn’t fast enough for you ? What exactly do you stream anyway ?

      • Christian Lindqvist

        the more important thing with lte is the quicker respons time and a more stable connection

      • slut

        Don’t try to be wise, you know that not all LTE areas has fast hspa, I am frequently in a place where the coverage is limited to LTE, H+ and gsm. That’s right, no 3G or hspa, meaning almost none of last years flagships will have fast internet, since they had no H+, just like the pathetic Nexus 4.

        On a side note, you nexus fans are too much defensive, always defending the lack of storage by promoting cloud, yet not promoting faster network tech. What you are doing is promoting a cheap device that has the torso and arms of a body builder but no legs and chained to a wheelchair.

  • Otto Andersson

    I actually prefer touch wiz to stock. Stock is a pain to use if you don’t plan on doing modifications to your phone. It’s why I’m trading my nexus 4 and paying twice as much for an unlocked galaxy s4.
    Unlocked is the way to go. But pure android is something I can do without

  • matt

    why would you pay 650 when you could get one from any carrier for less than $200 and put on any rom you want

    • weed

      Because you didn’t read the article genius.

  • Cosinav

    Google edition simply not worth it for me, If I want pure, it will have to be a nexus. After owning the s4 for only 2 months, samsung has released another 3 variants of the s4, so much for the flagship huh? On top of that, the unsubsidised s4 pricing where i am has dropped $200! I know that keeping up with new tech comes at a cost but samsung is just f ing with it customers. The s4 may well be my last samsung phone, at least with other brands they don’t going releasing another variant only weeks after the original one was released. And people said apple was a rip off! Seriously, i think samsung is worst!

  • nishantsirohi123

    32 GB nexus 4 and i promise i shall replace my Sony Bravia tv with a LG curved tv announced
    already the refrigerator and washing machine are LG.

  • scb1898

    These are exactly what I wanted. I have no issue with the prices. I ordered a GS4.

    • APai

      for much of the world outside USA, people always paid upfront. US carrier arrangement really sucks, and what really gets my goat is when there’s an announcement that GS4 is 50% less only $100 (half of subsidized price). So, when people start paying the real price – better sense prevails and the carrier is no longer in a dominant position to dictate.

  • Miracle Zhou

    I had my finger crossed to see the details on SGS4 GPe and HTC One GPe. After I figured Samsung and HTC will take care of the OS updates, they are out of my picture and I purchased a 16GB Nexus 4. I still want greatest hardware and LTE, but the GPe’s just aren’t worth the extra bucks.

    • Miracle Zhou

      To me, missing quite some device specific features (e.g. the sensors on SGS4), the hardware + stock Android GPe phones should be less expensive. If they were priced at about $500 – $550, I would have purchased one of them.