Source code released for Google Play Editions, questions raised over software updates

June 27, 2013
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HTC One Google EditionNow that stock Android versions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 are available directly from Google Play, Google has created a mirror of the GPL licensed source code that is used for the initial factory state of these Google Play Edition devices.

From a marketing point of view, pundits have been asking what is the difference between a Nexus devices (like the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7) and a Google Play Edition – since both devices run stock Android (well almost) and can be bought via Google’s online store. The answer, it would appear, can be found among the developer chit-chat.

Having announced the source code mirror, Jean-Baptiste M. “JBQ” Queru was asked if all the proprietary binaries needed to build a working version of the stock firmware would be available from Google. The answer – no!

OK, what about any plans to release stock firmware images, like the ones for the Nexus devices? According to JBQ, Google has nothing planned.

This then begs the question about future software updates? How will these devices receive the latest version of Android? What happens when Google releases Android 4.3 or Android 5.0? Will these Google Play Editions get instant updates like the Nexus devices? It doesn’t look like it.

Since OEMs like Samsung and HTC don’t have a very good track record when it comes to releasing upgrades to Android, this new twist could be worrying for those looking for a cleaner Android experience on one of these handsets.

According to Droid Life, which has been in contact with some public relations folks over at Google, the Google Play Editions won’t get new software releases as quickly as Nexus devices, but the updates should come out shortly after an official Android release.

On background, we will be working very closely with Samsung and HTC on future software updates for these devices and they will receive software updates shortly after a new version is released.

Of course, what “shortly after” means is any ones guess, but let us hope that this is measured in days rather than months!

And so there is the difference. The release of the source code, binaries and stock firmware images for Nexus devices are handled by Google and new Android versions are pushed out via the Android Open Source Project. For Google Play Editions, Android updates are handled via Samsung and HTC. All the propitiatory stuff remains in the hands of the respective OEMs and any decisions to release stock images or the driver binaries remains solely theirs.

Does this taint your desire for a Google Play Edition of the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4 or is their use of stock Android the most important point for you?

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