Android Central

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition and HTC One Google Edition are on their way.   We now have more than one device coming that will run Android in its native form, with no OEM changes in sight.  No Sense, no Touchwiz, for better or worse.  What does this mean?  Should one of them be your next device?  These are questions that have been asked by many, but don't have a definitive answer. The discussion has been happening in the forums, though, with many members weighing in on the issues.

New Forum Moderator Jennifer Stough had this to say, which probably echoes what a lot of us are thinking:

"I think it's good for the smart phone industry and good for the consumers to have variety, and now you aren't limited to the Nexus line for a stock Android experience. However, I feel like putting stock Android on phones that are so feature rich is a bit of a waste. The S4 will lose most of its features and gestures that are Touchwiz dependent, and the ONE will lose Zoes/Picture Highlights, and will most likely suffer in the camera department without it's Sense counterparts. I see these phones being marketed more towards developers as opposed to people who really want the Vanilla Android experience. For a lesser price, you could get a carrier version, unlock and root, and flash AOSP."

Solid points for sure, and definitely something to consider.  What about those features though?  Are they worth losing just to get superior hardware compared to the Nexus 4?  For some, it boils down to just that, the hardware.  I'll let forum member thebizz explain it:

"This phone is absolutely worth the money in my mind.  I didn't purchase the regular S4 due to Touchwiz, but I like the S4 hardware. The addition of LTE, an SD card, 1080p screen, larger battery, etc all make up for the extra cost over the  Nexus 4 and keep in mind the Nexus 4 is still a 500 dollar device.  Google is just subsidizing the phone. I just need to figure out were I'm going to cone up with the 700 bucks to buy it now."

What do you guys think?  We want these devices to do well enough to justify doing them again, but also know that they aren't for everyone.  Jump into the discussion and let us know how you feel about them.

 

Reader comments

Google Experience phones: What's the big deal and are they worth it?

190 Comments

My wife recently got the regular HTC One on T-Mobile and while I like it, I would still prefer it to not have all the extra stuff on it. I'm personally using a GNexus and wish I had her phone with my setup. I think all the "extra" stuff is just fluff that I will use once and ignore. Stock Android has 90% of what I want and the other 10% is easily obtainable from the store.

By the time my current contract is up on Verizon in December I'm hoping the next Nexus device is out. I want a highly powered device but I want the latest updates as well. If no Nexus is out by then, I will definitely be getting the stock One or S4.

Didn't Verizon more or less get kicked out of the Nexus program? I just sort of assumed with how poorly they handled their Nexus and issues with how stock android handles CDMA that the days of hoping to see any more Nexus devices on Verizon were over. It didn't surprise me to see HTC or Samsung not release the Google Editions on Verizon for that reason so wouldn't that imply we likely aren't seeing any Nexus on Verizon either going forward?

I'd like to get an S4 or One nexus, preferably the One with boom sound, even though the camera is gonna suck ass, its a decent trade off. Just to bad they won't be on verizon, missing out on 100 million people on one carrier is stupid, and I wouldn't be surprised if verizon passed on it. I really hate verizon, but i'm grandfathered in unlimited data for $30 a month.

Some of the extra manufacturer software is what makes the phone interesting. Unless Google comes out with all the bells and whistles that the carriers throw on the phone I don't think just a pure Google device is worth it. After all you can just root your device and possibly get a better experience.

My thoughts exactly.

You get pure Android, with none of the bloat. TouchWiz is so much bloat, so much wasted, precious storage space.

I rooted my S3 and install a custom rom (Jellybam 9.2.0) and I don't have any problems, so not quiet sure what you mean by buggy roms. Running 4.2.2 and it didn't cost me 650.00 dollars. been running it for 2 months and i don't miss touch wiz. Maybe you can't swipe the phone down the crack of your butt and get your body temp, or it won't read my mind by just looking at the screen, but once you try a good AOSP Rom, you'll never go back to touch wiz with all its bloat and gimmicks that you never use in everyday life.

It's about choice. Some want the Google experience and until now that had been the Nexus phones only (still my own preference)
Some like the latest hardware, S4, HTC One etc but are not fans of manufacturers UI and would like, out of the box, the Google Experience without the need to Root.

We all can choose what we would like to do

I think it's funny that so many people used to post something like "If they only provided the kick-ass hardware but with Vanilla Android I'd buy it in a heartbeat". Yet, when the manufactures do just that the tune changes. Now it's "But, this is too expensive" and "But now I won't get all those cool features like Zoes and Air View". It just proves that people just like to complain, period. It doesn't matter what you give them.

Build it and they will bitch.

haha Yeah exactly.

I'm also wondering if the gimmicky Senses and TouchWizs of old are gone and that the broader market is now valuing the efforts put into them. Admittedly, today's Sense and TouchWiz are not your gramma's Sense and TouchWiz. They provide actual value now. I love those features, but I like the organization of stock Android. So Apex Launcher gets my vote.

i cant say for sense but touchwiz is def not dead and gone. look at the success of the S3. people like it. i dont personally but touchwiz is gonna be here a whileee

I apologize - my wording was unclear. I meant that the gimmicky *aspects* of Sense and TouchWiz are gone. Meaning: Sense and TouchWiz don't suck anymore. They're good. They add great value. They have features that I love. The older versions were gimmicky and people threw them out as soon as they had the hardware in their hands.

I call bs on that. People are pissed because no one wants to buy a 700 dollar phone when they get no break on the monthly carrier charges. You might as well bank the money you save from subsidizing. Get the regular phone and root. Anyone in this site reading this should be familiar with root. These phones should be available in store for similar pricing. That is the only way to sell them and be competitive.

I excluded T-Mobile on purpose. Home of no lte and nothing worth while. Oh cool, I just got my new $700 Google edition phone. Let me go to T-Mobile and get 3g speeds from 5 years ago! Yaaày!

Your comment seems like it's from 5 years ago. In case you haven't noticed, T-Mobile has LTE, and it's not uncommon to get over 25 Mbps on HSPA+.

Meanwhile, Sprint's "LTE" is slower than T-Mobile's 3G.

"These phones should be available in store for similar pricing."

I'm assuming you mean available to be subsidized on contract. There's probably some red-tape involved there with the Carriers and updating. But they *are* technically the same price, just without the subsidies. When I got my Note 2 last November, I was not eligible for an upgrade, so I paid $750 after tax.

The hardware in these things is not cheap. My phone has more processing power than the laptop I bought a few years ago. Actually, I can think of a couple of older full-sized PC's I've got running at home right now that technically have less processing power than my phone.

One is a P4 3Ghz that is my media center. The other is a dual P3 1.2Ghz server that I use as a domain controller and my development application server. Granted, those are older machines, but both run fine for what I need and I still use them all the time. And the Note 2 has more processing power than both of those. In a device small enough to carry around in my pocket.

Think about that for a sec...

"You might as well bank the money you save from subsidizing. Get the regular phone and root." That idea only works for the ones adventurous to root. Yes, it's easy, and yes it can be reversed, but to non-techie types who just want a phone that works well and doesn't want a bunch of bloat on it, a "Google Experience" phone would be their solution.

This. And then some.

The whole "Get the regular phone and root" idea is great to a techy person like myself, who isn't scared of doing so at all. However, I'm sick of having to root my phone at all. I'm sick of having to watch for updates and apply them manually (even CM's new system just doesn't compare to the real deal). Especially when the only reason I rooted my Verizon Galaxy Nexus is because I got sick of waiting for updates that my friend with a Galaxy Nexus on T-Mobile has been using for a few weeks already. (I also started using CM again, but more and more, there's like 1-2 things I even bother with CM for, and they're only marginally better than what Google's already got on AOSP.)

From someone with a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon, rooted and running CM, "Get the regular phone and root" is not acceptable any more. When my contract ends in December, I'm switching carriers and going to a phone that Google deals with the upgrades and does so well. If these 2 phones prove to be in that category by then, they will definitely be on the option. Because I'm sick of rooting my phone and manually updating just because I want AOSP (or very close to it) and I want it upgraded to the newest AOSP as soon as it's realistically available (I do realize there's a gap and a wait, hence "realistically").

Just goes to show you that you can't please everyone. Everyone wants a different experience, and that's what great about Android: you get that. You make it what you want.

Plus I think it's human nature to see the downside of something and quickly bitch about it. Not everyone has the ability to look something and view multiple view points, or understand where someone else is coming from.

You pretty much answered yourself. There weren't many features before in manufacturer skins, but since Samsung/HTC have been doing a lot that enhance Android recently, people don't mind them or actually prefer them.

Took the words right out of my mouth. I actually like touchwiz. People now realize that the days of skins slowing down your phone are gone.

I don't think it's that they like to complain, but that they have a short memory.

ICS/Jellybean have been on the table so long that people have forgotten why they wanted Vanilla in the first place: Manufacturers were taking WAY too long to release OS updates.

As soon as there is another major revision of Android on the table and Google Experience/Nexus phones get the update right away while everyone else is left waiting months and months just to get a timeline much less an update, they'll all be right back to preferring the Google Experience devices.

After years of using skinned phones I just got a Nexus 4. Yes, it is totally worth it. Everything is fast and smooth and consistent and pretty.

If we don't support them, by voting with dollars, we'll lose the option. This is a huge move in the right direction, although the execution was less than flawless from a nerd's perspective, having more of a variety of options is of course a good thing. Consumers won here, maybe we can help steer them further into our way of thinking about these devices, their features, etc.

This is what I think the Google Experience is all about. Just because you don't agree with this program or are going to participate by buying one, you have to commend Google and the supporting manufacturers for it.

If the manufactures would upgrade their phones, I don't think most of us would care. You can always put Nova Launcher or some other app on it if you want to customize the interface to a Google looking launcher and less like touchwiz/sense without rooting or loosing any of the features. My reason for even caring about these phones is upgrades...I want the upgrades and I am disappointed that my GS3 still doesn't have 4.2, 6 months later. Give me upgrades and my next phone will likely not be the Nexus

Exactly this. Give us timely upgrades, and most of the complaints about non-vanilla Android would vanish.

That is exactly how I feel. I like my GS3 but wish I could get the updates a little faster. How do we not have 4.2.2 by now?

the carrier, usually a giant corporation is not that concerned about your bragging rights about moving from 4.1.2 to 4.2.2.

It's not about bragging rights. It's about incredible features like Google Now and Project Butter instead of gimmicks like air view and video pause. It's about having a free wifi hot spot. It's about timely security updates and app compatibility. It's also about not having carrier bloat ware and branding on the phone slowing it down. Lastly, it's also about having having all of this without having to hack your phone.
When Key Lime Pie comes out, you'll see what it's all about too.

Funny, my S3 has google now and butter, even without rooting.

Frankly, I find vanilla Android amazingly limited, and boring. Half of what makes my GS3 better than phones with iOS and WP are Samsung add-ons, not Google features.

I find the entire "Vanilla Android or Die" crowd to be startlingly reminiscent of the "iOS uber alles" fanboys.

Wishful thinking, but the OEMs and Carriers have never been interested in what you're asking for simply because their primary interest is in getting you to upgrade to their newest hardware as frequently as they can. Take note of the recent rising hostility of carriers internationally towards Apple's specific demands to be free of carrier influence as part of their sales agreements as an example of where carrier interests really lay.
Otherwise, I more or less agree with what Jennifer S. had to say.

Carriers don't want you to upgrade your device. Every time you do they're eating hundreds of dollars in subsidies. They would much rather you keep your existing phone until it refuses to function. The OEMs, yes, they want you to keep buying new phones, and thus have no incentive to continue to update old ones.

I don't see avoiding phone upgrades as the reason people buy Nexus phones anyway. Nexus buyers, if anything, seem even more prone to updating to every new Nexus device as soon as Google offers it (assuming Google actually has them to sell, something they don't seem to be very good at).

This totally depends on where you live. Many carriers charge you a hardware upgrade fee and other "fine print" fees that more than makes up for those losses. If subsidies worked against carrier interests they wouldn't be in the business of offering them.

Bumping up hardware is great, but it is the software that makes it great. Vanilla just doesn't cut it. The skins and added features do.

We are lucky though because with have the perfect test case with the HTC One. If the camera quality is the same then I will go on to that thread and be happy to say it.

I am sure that won't be my post that day though. There has to be a middle ground.

"Vanilla just doesn't cut it for me."

There. I fixed it for you. I've always preferred stock Android and even more so in the 4.0+ era. It's clean. It's efficient. It's without unnecessary artifice. It doesn't get in my way. So what if it doesn't pause video when I look away from my Nexus 4. That's a cool feature, but not one that is useful or important to me.

By the way, will the GE phones have Photosphere? I haven't heard. I really dig the feature but it doesn't get much play.

Love the program, love the phones, love the very idea of providing flagships without OEM fluff... Stuck on Verizon as are a ton of others, and unable to take any sort of advantage of it.

I think it is safe to say that most of us here want a stock google experience and quicker updates and not all the bloat. But you are losing some very nice features of the S4 and one.

I wish instead of offering one extreme or the other offer a device like the htc one with stock core apps (E.G. message contacts and dialer) and then still have sense as a launcher so you can have it or shut it off and bundle the other apps or features on the device like 2 camera apps so we can truely have a choice. 3rd party launchers are extremely powerful so i cannot see why we would not be able to accomplish this. And i do not know why i did not think of this before but literally like the HTC first( i think its called) being able to turn off the the launcher would be great.

Exactly, strip the features out into apps that can run on AOSP, make them available only to specific devices and shave down the bloat. Touchwiz doesn't have to be ugly and laggy in order to offer you a different camera app, they made a decision to do it that way.

and all of the big features can be available in a launcher i mean look at action launcher it changes the way you access your app drawer the launchers are really powerful and can easily accomplish a custom ui with being part of the OS and leave them as merely a layer you can disable. But i just want at the minimum my core apps untouched, Messaging, phone, people, Calendar etc. (although i love the touchwiz calendar just hate every other one of their apps.)

Some Manufacturer features are really nice but i just dont want them all forced upon me. and to interfere with my updates of core features.

I don't agree with giving customers two of every app, eg two camera apps but I 100% agree with giving the customer the ability to completely turn off the touchwiz/sense "launcher" at any time leaving behind a stock interface only.

yea that may prove cumbersome but perhaps maybe camera features as plugins such as windows phone does. but i would like to see like again on windows phone certain apps are nokia only and promote sticking with nokia and you cant download on an htc device but dont interfere with the overall UI or core apps.

You do realize that what you're asking for on these phones is not only impossible on these devices (because it would require HTC/Samsung to give Google proprietary code) but is also completely possible on the *standard* phones with the Sense/TouchWiz OS, right?

You can download Nova, Apex, Action Launcher, etc onto a phone running TouchWiz or Sense, without doing anything other than downloading them, and you can still use any of the TouchWiz/Sense apps on the phone. That's exactly what I do with my Note 2. I run Action Launcher on top of TouchWiz and still have access to all the "standard" apps that came on the phone. You can't "shut off" a launcher, but you can replace it. The primary difference between the HTC First you mentioned and the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, is that the later two have the stock launcher removed. I would guess that a lot of people, though, who get a Nexus device don't use the stock launcher anyway.

And I know anyone who sees me comment on here (assuming they read my long-winded posts) is probably sick of me pointing this out, but Sense/TouchWiz are *NOT* *LAUNCHERS*. They *have* launchers as part of the package, but they also include a number of changes to the Android code itself. The term "Skin" or "Launcher" when describing Sense/TouchWiz is completely misleading.

If you don't like the Sense/TouchWiz *launcher* then just download another one from the Play Store and replace it. End of story.

I do not see how what we are asking for being impossible?

and the problem we are all facing with adding another launcher on top is that yes now it looks better but you still dont get quicker updates.

And i wasn't claiming that sense or touchwiz are launchers as i understand they are not but create them as such. This would not be too hard for these companies to do as far as reducing their skins to a mere launcher layer and keep the stock launcher as well as the new launcher. And if i disable a launcher and set the stock launcher as default that is what i was referring to as far as turning it off.

"Most"?

Speak for yourself. The market has spoken, and Nexus phones are a negligible fraction of Android phone sales. Even on Android central, the branded phone forums tend to be busier than the Nexus forums, I think.

Big deal to me. I have unlimited plan and don't plan on getting a 2 year deal with the Government informer Verizon. Sick of the bloatware. More phones like this is needed with Google. Big difference with my stock S3 and Nexus 7. The Xperia Z should join Google soon.

I think I am one of the few people here who do not prefer vanilla android. To me, it is very plain and lacks much of the flair TW and Sense offer.It is just dull. Worst of all, camera software is so far behind HTC and Samsung. Stock cameras are mediocre at best. With as image/video driven as our culture is today, this is a huge downfall of vanilla.

Maybe Google just needs to step it up and create a better Stock UI.. Key Lime is coming soon (but probably not soon enough?).

What you call "plain" I call "efficient and clean". I don't like artifice and "flair", especially when you are waiting for a fancy dancy animation to finish so you can access an app or a feature. Apps should be showy and flashy. The OS should just work and work as efficiently as possible.

I agree about the camera software, they have always lagged behind the manufacturers. I use Camera FX. BUT Touch wiz is ugly and old Gingerbread. Sense is better now, but when the new Android version comes out, you'll be stuck with the same old Sense version from before, because HTC doesn't update Sense.

ok Sense I can swallow. But glowing-snot Touchwiz is your idea of attractive? come on man...

They're making it harder and harder to root and reflash carrier devices. Given how much bloat is involved with TouchWiz and Sense, it's good to offer an option to not have it. This also by default expands Google's Nexus program, and provides an outlet for those who WANT Vanilla Android to get it without having to crack the protections they put on their more customized versions. Possibly in the hope that they will decide not to bother to crack said protections, maybe. But when you can buy a vanilla Android device, not have any warranty problems, yeah, some would be willing to pay extra for that. And maybe a carrier or two will pick them up and subsidize them if there is enough demand.

I like the idea of the Google Experience phones... but

I feel like the S4 and the HTC One were both built to have Touchwiz and Sense running on them.

I have a N4 and I got it cause I wanted the updates when they come...flashing get old after ah while..my wife just got her a N4 cause she like how easy it was to do what she wanted..I say go stock at what ever price you can pay

You know what, I'm going to continue to be wildly unpopular on my opinion here, I'm sorry - I"m not banging the HTC one drum with the same voracity as others...don't care about "metal" phones hang-up most people seem to have (which it's interesting to see so many iCult haters jump on that bandwagon though the years have shown those same people had been disparaging Apple for their design prowess...which is equally stupid). So at the risk of being hated for being the voice of reason here...and not caring about the tech community circling the wagons around HTC, their new beloved underdog...

The only one who stands to gain anything by putting these two devices out...is Samsung. HTC is going to have egg on their face, and intentionally...which is really strange behavior, by releasing this device.

When you apply AOSP to the Galaxy S4, you're going to end up with: A really capabale device, which is faster than it's closest rival (it's already faster..but AOSP will certainly fix any of the "lag" issues generated by touchwiz), with a better raw camera, micro-sd card support and a removable battery. All of it's selling points, sans the gestures/eye tracking, will stand relatively even against the touchwiz counterpart. The only real arguments against it will be largely removed, and we'll be back arguing about the difference between Super Amoled HD versus LCD3 - which, neither is going to win any battles other than in the opinion department. The plastic versus metal argument will stand, no doubt...but I think it's safe to say that a huge number (being completely relative of course) of people who had steered clear of the Galaxy line because of Touchwiz, will have a perfect reason to convert...and I'd guess there's a fair number of them out there.

HTC on the other hand, is going to produce a phone with ALL of it's notable features missing (ZOE, blink feed, the cool post processing stuff for night shots). It'll still be metal...great...but for those of us who didn't care about metal phones (which I'm guessing is a lot considering the GS2,3 and 4 sales numbers) - aren't left with a compelling reason to chose the HTC One, now with a worse camera, no removable battery and no micro-sd slot.

So the question I keep coming to over and over again, is how many more people hated Touchwiz than wanted metal phones? I guess we'll find out, but I can't see this working out for HTC on any level, other than easy ports of AOSP to their current user base (same could be said of Samsung) - so either way...it's "nice" but financially, it seems like a bad move to diversify your product line YET AGAIN, despite having a solid up front strategy to focus on ONE device.

^ This

Though the One will still have those front facing speakers, so that's a pro even if it's a small one. But yes, give a choice between the two I would take the s4.

Good catch, I did miss that. I understand that it'll have some iteration of Beats running on it to - so that is a plus, I guess...if you don't understand how to use an EQ :)

You forgot the IR blaster on the S4 too - a lot of people are using that from what I've been reading.

Plus if you use T-Mobile the S4 is a better option because it supports both bands at hspa+. The One does not and we haven't seen anything about the Sony Z yet to know.

That said I also think the Sony Z will be an incredible Google Experience device. The only downsides are the screen which apparently had worse viewing angles that the One or S4 and it's using the S4 Pro vs the 600. I have no issues with the S4 Pro but I've been using it since December and it would be hard to pony up 600 bucks on the slightly older chip. Still waiting to see if it will support LTE on T-Mobile as well.

It doesn't come down to just the metal phone.

The One comes with a lot more built-in storage. SD card slots are great, except you can't install apps on them. That's a pretty significant hitch. I've got 6 gb of apps on my phone, and that's with most of the big gaming apps having been moved to my Nexus 7 (because why game on a smaller screen if you don't have to?) which has 13gb of apps on it. But if I didn't have an N7, the app storage of something like the GS4 simply would not cut it.

HTC has already come out and said Beats hardware will be on the One. Beats speakers are pretty awesome even without the software.

The camera issue is one that hasn't been answered. Will it function like a 4mp shooter? Or will it function like it does now, as one of the top 2-3 cameras in the Android space? We don't know.

I'm a Nexus guy, I don't have a horse in the HTC?Samsung race, but between these two Google Edition phones, I'd probably end up going with the One. It feels better in my hand (unlike most people, I don't put cases on my phones), I want 32gb of internal storage rather than 16 (expandable means jack to me), I actually don't care much about camera quality since I take an average of two pictures a month on my phone and those are for reminders, not sharing, and I think the sound quality on the One will still blow everything else out of the water (excepting the full beats experience on the stock One).

But, those are my preferences. We live in the land of Android, where we have hardware choices, not the Apple gated community where you've got one choice, which is really no choice at all.

The camera has already been answered. Run CM 10.1 on your phone and thats what the camera will look like. All the HTC features will be gone.

What you get from CM10.1 isn't necessarily what we're going to get with the official One GE release. It's possible I've missed it, but HTC hasn't addressed that question specifically, just the Beats software question. Every Android install has a different relationship to the camera, there's always custom code. Will that code include the ultrapixeling or not, we don't know yet.

So at the risk of being hated for being the voice of reason here...

Stopped reading. You're just another typical Samsung fanboy, except wordy. You are not being the voice of reason, you're just talking to talk.

Yeah...I provided reasons for saying what I said, youre the one that didn't bother. I'm not a fanboy of either, Ive owned just as many HTC devices as I have Samsung devices...I'm just not going to let HTC off the hook for a three year period of bad business decisions because now (miraculously) they're some perceived underdog. I take some real issues with the one...I take the same with the Galaxy S4, exasperated by the fact that I use a Galaxy S4 as my daily driver.... But I'm not going to need tucks medicated pads every time someone tells me that my device isn't perfect.

Except he actually made good and valid points. Even if that opening line rubbed the wrong way, his logic and such were sound. All you did was stop at the first line, insult him for being wordy, and call him names. Who do you think is more like a "voice of reason" here?

Your credibility = lost.

LOL. In other words, anyone who doesn't share your undying love of the One is a Samsung fanboy. Point out one thing he said that's inaccurate. Oh, wait. If you could you already would have.

If I didn't already have an amazing phone with great specs (nexus 4) and had the money for one of these phones, I'd pick the One. I prefer the smaller screen, I prefer the build quality, I prefer the screen type, and I prefer the look of the device. The Samsung phone brings nothing to the table that I need. Sd card? Had one on my last phone and never put one in. Removable battery? Never needed one on any of my phones since my first device (palm centro). My only problem with the One is the stupid logo on the front and the power button placement. I prefer the placement of the nexus 4 and Samsung phones (on the side) plus you can start the phone with the home button. At least HTC changed the side to the right as that made more sense than the left where it used to be. Not to mention the One is a bit cheaper than the s4.

good points slackerjack ! I have a S4 and want to keep it with touchwiz. I also have a Nexus 4 that is in a drawer because of 16GB, HSPA+ and pretty crappy camera. I was thinking of getting the HTC One GE since I know nothing about HTC or sense and I will not be missing anything. It will be like the Nexus I wanted but could not have...I will gladly pay 600+ for that! I will wait to see the reviews but I will be selling the Nexus 4 ASAP if the HTC One GE will be what I think it will be! I have my cash in the sock drawer all ready to go...

If there was a way to get all the hardware working right I would be all over this idea. Just hate the camera and IR port on my One is Sence reliant to work right.

i really like the idea. It gives us all more choices. Is it smart on a manufacture side...probably not. But its not going to hurt them. I am really excited about Sony Z with stock Android. Not much hurting and you get the high end specs. Camera, screen etc. And most importantly memory expansion. Oh and built quality of the housing unlike the S4.

All phones should come vanilla android. Touchwiz,sense,etc. should be sold through the Playstore as apps. Google wins, and Samsung,HTC,etc. can make more money selling their launchers. i.e. Facebook

...SUCKS

Oh, I thought we were playing word association or finish the sentence. :P

Seriously, though, CDMA as a standard is slowly going away. Even the CDMA carriers in the US are using GSM for data in many cases now. GSM is the more widely used standard throughout the world, so travel to other countries is as easy as getting a SIM card for that area.

A CDMA phone has no such flexibility. Break your phone? Better get a replacement your carrier approves of, or you'll be taking it back. GSM - pop the SIM card into new phone, power on, make calls/emails/etc. Traveling? Better have the "world phone" edition, or no dice.

I thought it was the philosophy of this site that commenting on phones nobody has had a chance to use was a bit pointless.

I think that Android Central's philosophy is to not review a phone that they have not had a chance to use. Commentary is a bit different. If AC didn't have commentary, it would get pretty boring around the site.

I hear these don't offer the T-Mobile 1700 HSPA bands, so that would be a dealbreaker for me. But, even if that wasn't the case, the camera would be the biggest question for me. I like Vanilla Android and probably won't miss Air View and Zoes, but I could easily live w/ TW and Sense if image quality was better b/c it took full advantage of the hardware.

What these phones will allow Samsung and HTC to do is to lock down their stock phones even further than they already have (which is what they want to do) and still provide devices for developers and tinkerers to purchase... with zero additional investment.

First off, when the new update for the s4 comes, you can move the apps to sd. You missed yesterday apparently.

Second, the Samsung bootloader is locked down only in theory. On all carriers is is easier to get through than a hot knife through butter.

Not sure if you are familiar with Samsung at all, but you should be before you comment

Samsung doesn't lock down it's phones, the carrier's do. On Sprint, rooting the S3 takes about one minutes. Blame Verizon and AT&T (and stupid users who brick their phones and expect the carriers to replace them) for locked bootloaders and the like.

What I really wish and was almost gassed up from the rumors of what the Google X phone would be like is to have a powerful hardware device with the options of customizable skins like for instance Facebook home, the idea of you can have the option to replace the covered skin i.e. touchwiz, sense with stock android under it and you can still get updates from both oem skins and Google stock android. Now that would be pretty neat...I know its hard hard work but it can be done just like we have apps to do something like this ex: launchers and themes....so I'm really hoping in the future we can have a device like that instead of having to root.

Not to beat a dead horse, but Sense/TouchWiz *ARE* *NOT* *LAUNCHERS*. They are modifications to the core Android code.

So, no, you cannot run a Sense/TouchWiz "Launcher" on top of stock Android. The modifications are *much* deeper than the launcher itself.

Every one of the TouchWiz "features" and modifications are fully capable of being done as add-on software, however. So his underlying point is valid - updates of core Android from Google, and updates of OEM software from Samsung are completely possible.

That said, Sammy would never do it, as their goal is to sell phones, not OS/software. If they just gave endless and timely software updates, yearly hardware sales would decrease. Not to their advantage or in their best interests.

Camera won't be as good, less features that you could find with Sense 5. I'm not missing my stock Nexus 4 Android experience after switching to the HTC One. The phone is so much better then the Nexus 4, if your someone that needs the latest version of Android then get the S4 or HTC One Google edition.

Better display, better camera, better built quality, better battery life, LTE, more storage.....

Nexus 4 is cheaper of course and it's still a great phone but I don't think it compares to a GS4 or HTC One.

I doubt the One has better battery life. The N4 is no Note 2 but it holds it own. I've heard a lot of people complain about the One's battery.

This +100. Oh, and I love the comment "I've heard ppl complain about the battery life"...oh yeah? Well I've heard ppl, like myself, who love the battery life. I'm a power user and its great.

Still anecdotal just like his unsubstantiated statement that the One has better battery life than the N4.

When you're comparing to the N4, cost has to come into the discussion. I can get an N4 and an N7 for less than the GS4.

"For a lesser price, you could get a carrier version, unlock and root, and flash AOSP."

Can someone please explain this? Does it mean that I can simply unlock my Verizon GS4 and install Google ROM (I understand that it has to be tweaked to work on Verizon).

Thanks.

Head over to xda, go to the forums, find your phone, go into the 'android original development' section under your phone.

All your questions will be answered. It isn't exactly google versions. But there are asop and akop ROM there that are 90% stock. A few tweaks but no bloat

I think the author is referring to installing Roms such as cm or aokp on a unlocked/rooted device. Those roms I mentioned are similar to stock, yet with way more options. This way you could have the best of both worlds. If you decide you want a manufacturer skin then flash back to touchwiz/sense/etc. I personally prefer stock androids look and feel, but don't think I could handle not having all of the options in aokp. Most devices will have several options of aosp roms to choose from.

Ok, thanks.
I just wasn't sure if Google Edition ROM also = AOSP.

I think I'd rather have Google Edition ROM (with few tweaks to work on Verizon) than AOSP such as CM10 (for example) because from what I read there are many initial bugs in AOSP. If a developer starts from GS4 Google Edition ROM, I'm sure there's far less work and thus less bugs.

Google Edition Phones would be a great idea if the manufactures start to follow google's thoughts on releasing "add-on" pieces of the operating system through the play store where you can pick and choose. Where also updates could come faster because you don't have to update the entire operating system. Then people could install the camera from sense onto their one if that is what is important to them and skip the rest, etc. Basically be able to build their own "custom" phone without the need to root/rom it. It potentially doesn't flow as nice as one complete operating system, but could work in the long run.

+1 At one time I thought I would hate on screen buttons. But with the ability in custom roms to customize layout/longpress/actions I have come to detest physical buttons.

For the most part I agree. I love capacitive or virtual buttons on the screen. That said, it works better on a tablet than a phone. I initially thought I would hate the hard button on my S4, but realize it allows me to wake up the phone without using the power button. It's a small thing, but very convenient, especially as I find the power button awkward to hit without also hitting the volume keys directly opposite to it on the other side of the phone...

Sure, pay for all that screen real-estate, and then give 10% of it away to stupid buttons. Yeah, that's brilliant. Soon, our phones can be as disfunctional as an iPhone, with one (soft) button to rule them all.

Personally, I DON'T want ASOP. I want Google's Holo UI, visually identical to ASOP (maybe some small tweaks) with all the power of a manufacturer skin. This is what I've done to my Note 2 via a ROM - its still a touchwiz based system, but the entire system has been themed to Holo Dark. This is perfection in my book. Because I'm NOT willing to give up some features, and a launcher is simply not enough theming for me.

Im no expert so dont shoot me but whats the point of paying twice the price of the nexus 4 for basically a nexus 4. the spec are better yes, but my nexus 4 is very smooth so even if they boast a faster chip you wouldn't notice. the cam on the htc is 4mp and it has the ultrapixel thing. to my knowledge that is software so the camera should be pretty basic right? (correct me if im wrong) and those physical buttons. why oh why? it seems like google, for good reason, just wanted to have more options running just nexus thus making the latest os, whatever it maybe at the time, to have a higher percentage.

they are trying to fix a problem they didnt create. and earlier post today tells about VZ releasing two new phones for prepaid. and they run gingerbread and ics. why do OEMs even still have gingerbread on their comps!? its outrageous

Basically, the biggest difference is LTE and storage. The N4 caps out at 16gb. The One is 32gb internal while the S4 has 16gb internal and an SD slot. For some people, those two differences make it worth the extra $300.

Personally, I'll stick with my N4.

The ultrapixels are actually physically different hardware. I think each pixel is bigger to catch more light. So probably you do need special HTC software to get the quality very good but you couldn't say make a Nexus 4 have the same image quality as an HTC One simply by giving it sense 5.

because some of us have the money to get a better phone and the price of the phone is not the primary objective.

I don't think an upgraded specs warrant an extra $250. I'm not saying they aren't fantastic devices, but $600 is a hell of a lot of money to drop on a smartphone. I can't see them drawing as many people to go unsubsidized as the Nexus 4 did.

Can't expect them to sell the devices cheaper than they cost. $600 is a pretty standard price for a "flag-ship" spec'ed phone. I paid about $750 for my Note 2, after taxes.

I remember paying $600+ for a Nokia N95 back in like 2006, so the price that the S4 is coming with is in line IMO

I'd be more on board with these if the hardware was actually made for vanilla Android. These just come off as afterthoughts and in the HTC One's case IMO makes the phone very crippled compared to what it can do.

I just hope that after buying my One recently, I am given the choice of flashing a stock version of Android. I personally like Sense but I hate the bloatware. I should be able to flash a stock version without having to buy the same phone again or rooting, unlocking the bootloader and flashing ... I want my device to remain stock and untampered lol but after shelling out £490 HTC should give me the choice.

I do have to take umbrage with this comment from the article:

"For a lesser price, you could get a carrier version, unlock and root, and flash AOSP."

This is just plain false. In fact, it's stupid. You will NEVER pay less for a carrier version, because the cost of the phone is built into the cost of the plan. I pay $400+ a year less being off contract than I would being on-contract. I would think a forum moderator wouldn't be this stupid, but apparently Jennifer Stough is.

Lesser up front price, which is how Americans in general shop for phones.

Way to show your ignorance by resorting to name calling.

He was unnecessarily rude, but what exactly was he ignorant of? People often throw around pejoratives without thought of their true meaning.

"I would think a forum moderator wouldn't be this stupid, but apparently Jennifer Stough is."

C'mon, really!? I was with you, until that last sentence...

For someone who has the opportunity to be off contract, yes, you are very much correct. Thank you so much for taking your time to come here and educate me on that. However, there are many of us that ARE tied into a contract for whatever reason, and spending the extra money UPFRONT to buy this device is absolutely pointless. God forbid that some people actually choose to be on contract, like myself, who left 3 years with straight talk to go to Verizon. Your opinion is always welcome though :)

brendilon-

Aren't you proud that $400 a year is a big deal to you? Whew $34 a month! You are so cool and smart pitching pennies and calling people names? She is clearly talking about people on contracts because those networks and plans work for them.

How do you pay $400+/year being off contract? On or off contract aren't the plans with ATT or Tmobile the same price?

Sure you might lose out on some of the extra features added by the manufacturer, but you don't have to wait 14 months after a new version of android is released.

The features you will miss out on from the new android version will almost always trump the features you miss out on from the hardware manufacturer.

Fast updates are king. Not only for features but also for security.
Anyone complaining about the loss of features now is forgetting how it felt to own a manufacturer gingerbread phone when Ice Cream Sandwich was released.

"Fast updates are king. Not only for features but also for security.
Anyone complaining about the loss of features now is forgetting how it felt to own a manufacturer gingerbread phone when Ice Cream Sandwich was released."

+9000, I completely agree. Couldn't have said it better myself.

For me I prefer stock android but I am actually curious about trying touchwiz (never tried it before). BUT I absolutely can't abide the modifications the carriers make to the software experience. I don't want tons of bloatware that tries to get me to sign up for services I don't want. I want to use the native tethering built into Android. I don't want carrier IQ or any other tracking software built into the firmware. I don't want to be forced to use wifi when I don't want to. And because it changes based on carrier the only way to really know how badly the carrier has messed with a phone is to buy one and try it.

This is why I would consider a Google Experience phone. So I could buy a great phone that belongs to ME not the carriers. I have really enjoyed that experience with the GNex and I couldn't see myself going back from that. And since I'm on T-mobile an international unlocked S4 or HTC One isn't an option so the Google Experience phones would work for me. I assume that if I really wanted to give touchwiz a try it wouldn't be too hard to convert a GE S4 to a touchwiz S4?

It's a way for manufacturers to have their cake and eat it too; and I'm OK with that.

Device manufacturers don't want to sell a vanilla Android device as their flagship because there wouldn't be that much differentiation and little reason to compete among themselves. On the other hand they know there's a community who like their hardware but can't stand their software customizations. "I like the Galaxy S4; if only it didn't have that stupid TouchWiz... I like the HTC One but can't stand that annoying Sense..."

Now manufacturers can sell their flagships with whatever customizations they want to do to stand out from the crowd and also sell their hardware to users who would rather have unadulterated Android.

In an ideal world manufacturers would sell you a device and give you the option to install the customized or the unadulterated software, but that will happen when pigs can fly and unicorns get to exist, so this experiment seems like the next best thing.

People already complain about how much space Android takes up. Can you imagine if there were *two* sets of Android code inside the phone? The S4 would have had like 2.5 gigs of internal storage left ;)

I did not imply that both OS versions would be stored on the device, more like you buy the device with whatever software comes in but you're free to replace it by downloading and installing the other software variant.

Still, what you thought I meant wouldn't be all that impossible if it's done in a way where you choose on first startup which version of the OS you want, customized or pure, and whichever one you didn't choose gets deleted from the device's storage.

Either case is still as far away as unicorns and flying pigs though.

Any one of the OEMs could sell you a box of "stuff" that when paired with that particular consumer, would transform into the perfect device for that person and people would still bitch about it.

No one will ever be happy. Meanwhile, I'll be over here enjoying my Note 2...on Verizon.

I ran AOKP on my S3 for a long time. I mainly wanted AOKP for the onscreen buttons cause I don't like the physical home button. I have an S4 now and debating if I want to switch to AOKP. I do like some of the added features in TW and run Apex launcher so other then the onscreen buttons and super smooth GUI and incredible battery life I'm sticking with TW for now... I do use the hyperdrive rom though for some added features to the TW rom.

Not True..

The AWS Band ( 1700 ) is present along with the Re-Farmed 1900 Band.

Your good to go with your purchase.

It comes down to what you want. If this is the future, where Google not only partners with a manufacturer to make its own flagship, but also putting stock Android directly on the highest-end hardware, count me in. In some ways, this almost enables the Nexus line to go more mainstream, since now there is something to compare it too in the play store. Suppose someone goes to the Play Store to buy a Nexus 7. He gets there, and sees three smart phones: the Nexus 4, the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, and the HTC One with Nexus User Experience. Then he proceeds to look at the price tags: $350 for a 16GB NExus 4, $600 for the 32GB One, and $650 for the 16GB Galaxy S4. Ultimately, if he's in the market for an unlocked smartphone, he may more than likely pick the Nexus 4. The higher price tag is meant for hardware fanatics who love stock android, and developers. Personally, I think it's great. It really gives the Nexus brand a shot at the mainstream.

I def. would get the HTC One Google Experience.. the build quality from HTC One + Googles Holo version of android (instead of sense) = winning!

It is absolutely worth the money. Going from a Galaxy Nexus to a GS3 I loved the physical phone, but hated Touchwiz. I believe that all phones should be Vanilla Android it truely gives you the BEST experience. I dont need the extra skinning that the manufactures put on there it slows the phone down and gets in the way. I spent a month looking for a keyboard that was 1/2 as good as the stock Google one (THANK GOD THEY RELEASED IT AS AN APP)

There is a reason why Google doesnt skin the crap out of the OS like Sense and Touchwiz, it's simply better.

It gives YOU the best experience. For someone who uses the features of touch wiz and sense, vanilla is a huge step back.

But to each his own. That's kinda the point.

I think we really need to see what a google experience entails before the hate/love fest starts.

the keyboard that is twice (not half) as good is called Swiftkey. Google's keyboard doesn't come close.

Love the quote of the moderator Jennifer! As to the debate and opinion: I'm going to keep my Nexus 4 for two more years. I don't care what comes along. This phone will easily meet my needs and I'll be laughing all the way to the bank.

I have a question: Is it possible for HTC & Samsung to just create stand alone apps for the features that are lost with these "Google Experience" devices?

Then the user can pick and choose which features they would like to try.

I want a "Google Experience" HTC One. But I'd also like to test the camera features that HTC has come up with.

ok before this google edition phone's came out everyone was upset because they dont have stock android on it now that this phones are here people what's touchwiz and htc sense why?ok the priece should be similar to the non gogle one but maybe it will go down . have a nice day and sorry for bad English

I think this may be a test for companies to see if they can handle the demand of "Nexus" type of phones. It very well could be a real world test run for HTC, Samsung, possibly Sony to see if they can put out better then HTC failed to do. I also think they may be going a different direction with Motorola since nothing really big has come from there in a while, and possibly in the means of creating there own overlay to the stock android system. All and all pretty good idea, will help all parties involved since sales seems to be dropping for the great S4 and Htc One.

You folks are asking for a $10,000.00 Lexus.
News Flash: Ain't gonna happen...

Just like there is not "One Car" to fit EVERYONE's needs, There is not one phone or setup that will either...

You want to have your little 5" cake and eat it too?

Then Learn How To Root & Rom..

Then you can switch back and forth hourly from Touchwiz / Sense to Stock Android if that's your choice...

Hand Pick and Choose which apps you want and freeze the rest...

All this complaining.. And a SOLUTION is right in front of your eyes.

YOU JUST HAVE TO *GROW SOME* AND DO IT!

It doesn't really matter what software features are on the Galaxy S4. Don't compare the Google Edition S4 to just the normal Galaxy S4 - compare it to all other phones. So what if Touchwiz has more features than stock Android? If losing those features is a negative for the Google Edition S4, then it is a negative for other phones as well.

In my opinion (and I think most would agree) the ability to have stock Android with fast updates trumps the ability to have all the features of Touchwiz. Also, stock Android takes up far less space, so all the complaints about the limited on phone storage space on the Galaxy S4 wouldn't exist for the Google Edition.

"Most" don't seem to agree, given the relatively tiny sales of Nexus devices and the huge sales of touchwiz devices. You're projecting what you want to the entire marketplace, but the data says you're the outlier.

"For a lesser price, you could get a carrier version, unlock and root, and flash AOSP."

This would be great if carriers and manufacturers weren't attempting to lock bootloaders tighter than fort knox. Fortunately, Samsung hasn't put too much security into their bootloaders, and they have been relatively easy to hack. But HTC has been more of a challenge. Same with Motorola. While the comment I quoted is a good idea on paper, in reality, it's not so easy to do.

I say the Google experience phones are worth it, but not if the low end devices are the only result. 16GB devices are so 2011/2012 we need 32GB minimum with microSD and sadly HTC still can't figure that out.

It's all about choices. I have used Stock (N7) and Sense (HTC One). And honestly, I prefer Sense. It gives more class and functions to an already great OS.

I have no problem with the price tag but I don't see a point of buying that expensive device when u have nexus 4 on the other hand with the better price tag. Yh I know SD card and bigger battery and display all counts for S4 but I don't think its a lot different than nexus 4 ...not really worth a different ..plus nexus 4 also got really
Good design too ..

My contract is up with Sprint November 29th and I likely will be paying more off contract with T-mobile when I switch but my plan is either the Next Nexus phone or that gorgeous Xperia Z, if it's priced right, or whatever floats my boat from the unlocked play store division B-)

If the carrier versions didn't exist, I'd buy one of these in a heartbeat. As it is though, their mere existence basically turns the carriers' S4 and HTC One into fake Nexus devices, like the VZW Galaxy Nexus. In theory, as soon as a new ROM updates for the GOogle Editions, we'll be able to flash the Fake editions as well, just like we flashed the fake VZW Gnex.

In that case, I don't see any reason to pay full price for the Google Editions, when I can get the AT&T version subsidized. (And I'm on a family plan, so I pay $40 a month whether I'm subsidized or not.)

It is true a nexus phone does not have all the extra manufacturer or carrier added software. However, there is a cost for more software that you can't uninstall in terms of battery life and speed.

It think you shouldn't take a picture with your mom and use it as your avatar.

Oh and just buy the phone on contract. Root it and aosp or keep TW or sense. Your choice.

Isn't it that a while back people used to ask "Samsung, HTC make such power horses but why put ugly Touchwiz and Sense" ? I absolutely love this idea. I see it as starting a trend. People may start loving stock Android and making OEMs to focus only on hardware. And with more and more people using stock Google will start putting more features.

To me, the "Pure Google Experience" is boring. The stripped down camera especially.

I like starting with TouchWiz and stripping off what I consider useless crap. I find many features quite handy.

Personally, I find Samsung's UI design inconsistent, intuitive, and ugly. What's with all the black-to-cyan gradients? And the over-use of Windows 95 buttons? The default backgrounds are even ugly. The launcher isn't that big of a deal since you can download a new one anyways. It's the other UI pieces that bother me. That and the hardware button is incredibly awkward to press.

True re:hardware button. On the other hand, it makes additional functionality possible via double presses and such.

Once I saw Android in it's "Pure" form, I was sold. From my experience, those that are use to Touchwiz don't really consider pure Android but those experiencing both for the 1st time mostly choose "PURE" Android. I think it's wonderful. I've been using Blackberry for years but continuing to use it isn't much of an option - they've gotten behind but still demand a price that would suggest they're on top. Pure Android is desirable in my case but I would prefer not to have to install a custom ROM for the experience. I certainly hope we're gonna see more "Pure" Android phones in the future. Wonder why these companies feel the need to change Android so drastically? What is it they don't like about "PureAndroid."