Google Play edition Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

Here they are, folks. The "Stock Android" HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. otherwise known as the new "Google Play edition" devices. Two phones we know quite well, seeing as how they've been available for weeks, if not months. But these are different. They are, more or less, Google's.

Gone is HTC's custom software, Sense 5. Gone is Samsung's TouchWiz. Instead, we've got Android 4.2.2 (which Samsung has on its stock GS4, but HTC doesn't on its One) and Google's own svelte user interface. We've also got easily unlockable bootloaders, for those who like to tinker. 

And we've got hefty price tags, at $599 for the HTC One, and $649 for the Galaxy S4.

We've only had these phones for about 24 hours now. Not long enough for a full review, but certainly long enough for some initial impressions, especially since we're already intimately familiar with the hardware. If you're on the fence about ordering and curious about what you'll be getting, read on.

Google Play edition HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 video walkthrough

Hardware-wise, nothing's really changed

Google Play edition Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

The tl;dr is this: This is the HTC One. And the Galaxy S4. Period. Same shape, same size. Same hardware. The HTC One's got 32GB of storage (with about 24.5GB actually usable), and the Galaxy S4 comes with 16GB (11.3GB useable).

As far as the radios are concerned, we've got full AT&T LTE connectivity, and if you're on T-Mobile and are lucky to live in one of its LTE launch cities, you'll get it there, too. Just pop in your SIM card and go. APNs all work just fine.

The cameras are the same as they ever were as well — 4-megapixel total resolution for the HTC One, and just under 13 megapixels for the Galaxy S4. 

What's different in software — a couple tweaks, and an updated camera app

The Google Play editions are running Android 4.2.2 (Build JDQ39). Home screens and launchers and notifications are unchanged from what we're used to in Jelly Bean, so far as we can tell in the first 24 hours. (Update: Ah. The app drawer has moved to a 4-by-5 configuration, same as the Galaxy Nexus. Hat tip to JR Raphael.)

Google Play edition HTC One.

The HTC One has Beats Audio on board. You won't see the Beats logo in the notification bar when it's active, but it's on. There's an option in the audio settings if you prefer to not use Beats.

Google Play edition Galaxy S4.

For its part, the Galaxy S4 has modified code so that it works with the Samsung Flip Cover, protecting the display while giving you a quick glance at the time, date, signal strength and battery life. That's a holdover from Samsung's own software. And while it's not "stock" Android, it's cool to see here. It also affects how the clock looks on the lock screen. You can kill off the light-face one and put in the stock bold-light Google clock (we wouldn't, but whatever), but the light-face one will return, automagically.

Android 4.2.2 updated camera app

Google has sneaked in a new camera app here. It's still part of the Gallery app, which is up to version 1.1.40012. From a user-facing perspective, the big difference is that when you tap and hold for options, they're displayed in a half circle instead of a full ring, making them much easier to get to. There's also smoother animation as you scroll through the options. As you drill down through the options, the nested options are also displayed in a half-moon. It's a nice update.

Also, and this should go without saying, but we'll say it anyway — you lose out on Samsung's and HTC's camera software. No Zoes. No Video Highlights. None of Samsung's excellent camera app. On the other hand, you get Photophere in return.

There also is a new boot animation. If you had any thoughts about these phones being Nexus devices, that should be a clear giveaway that they're not. (And I kinda like this new boot animation. It's very Google in its design.)

It's worth noting that Google still considers the HTC One's camera an "UltraPixel" camera.

Also: The Galaxy S4 has Google Wallet and Google Earth preinstalled. The HTC One does not.

And since folks are asking: Yes, the black menu bar is still on the HTC One. You have to put that functionality somewhere. And lacking on-screen buttons (like the Nexus 4) or a dedicated menu button like the Galaxy S4, the bar is how it's being done.

Basic use

Google Play edition Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

Again, we're still getting our feet wet here. We're going to load these things up like we would our daily drivers and see what's what. Battery life needs more than 24 hours to determine, especially given that we're talking about swapping out HTC's and Samsung's optimizations for "stock" Android.

But data acts as data should. Wifi so far as shown no problems. And the home screens and app drawer are as snappy as you'd expect the "stock" home screens and app drawer to be. And, yes, you can unlock the bootloader using the usual fastboot oem unlock command.

If you can imagine running "stock" Android on the HTC One or Galaxy S4 — or if you've had basically the same experience with a custom ROM — that's what we're dealing with here, and that's what you'll get if you purchase these phones from Google Play.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth look after we've got more than a day of use under our belts.

 
There are 146 comments

WoozyBE says:

How about giving us that live wallpaper? :)

KarDan1111 says:

If somebody could upload the red phase beam live wallpaper from these diveces, i would be sooooooooooo happy…

slackerjack says:

I don't know if that's a stock wallpaper or someone just took the "IceCream Sandwich" live wallpaper pack and modified the color pallet on phase beam to produce it - I got mine to look like that in under a minute.

elvisgp says:

I'm pretty sure that wallpaper came pre-loaded onto the google edition devices.

rbess1965 says:

Ya, not paying for that wallpaper. It's a wallpaper folks, get over it.

user7618 says:

http://db.tt/lMyJ4lDM

Posted via Android Central App

maniac2403 says:

What live wallpaper is that? Stock color is now orange instead of the purple one?

What is ... "stock"? :P

maniac2403 says:

Jerry's post really poses the 'Stock' question :)

BTW, here is the extracted Sunbeam live wallpaper from the code dump: https://copy.com/VgRTaGsqdrGo

elvisgp says:

Hopefully this new orange wallpaper shows android's shift towards brighter colors instead of a dark/tron oriented theme.

Posted from the AC app

luckydwg says:

Will google wallet load on the htc one GE ?

XDCX says:

That's a great question. I'd like to know the answer too.

Not easily. Doesn't show in GP for me with an AT&T SIM installed.

jonathan3579 says:

That's a real bummer. Despite all those who say Google's mobile payment services have been an utter failure, it still is a serious interest to me. I'm wondering if it's just AT&T that's blocking it?

still1 says:

I think it might be because of metal casing. this is just a guess, i might be wrong

brycenull says:

I have it on my Sprint HTC One so I do not see why you would not be able to get on the GE other than the carrier blocking it.

Only magnetic metals (steel, iron, cobalt and nickel) would interfere with NFC (which is in the HTC One and works fine). The HTC One is aluminium or some light alloy.

icebike says:

And if Wallet loads, can you use it on AT&T?

still1 says:

I am using ATT on Nexus 4 and wallet works. so i assume if loaded it will work

DWR_31 says:

I just want to know if Google Wallet will work on these devices after they're rooted.

When I sideload it on my rooted GS3 it does a device check.

From the DARK AC App!

impulse101 says:

Yes. I have a rooted Gnex and Wallet works fine. Rooting your phone doesn't make Wallet not work.

breonnagy says:

+1

The Wallet app is available in the Play store, but is it compatible with the HTC One GE?

RamosDevil says:

How about the IR blaster on the HTC One ("TV" app)? I know the app itself is part of Sense, so it probably doesn't exist on the GE, but I was curious as to the status of the blaster itself in stock Android.

jean15paul says:

I wonder if you can use the IR blaster with an app like Peel.

hiimmondo22 says:

I don't know if you could give me an answer, but wouldn't you be able to just go into Odin, or something else to flash over the Google Play Edition software? I mean since no Hardware changes were done it seems logical right?

procol says:

Maybe, HTC will provide standalone app for IR blaster soon, like Samsung already did.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.peel.samsung.app

Floss82 says:

What about the gallery/camera apk? :)

Exigence says:

Would be very grateful if HTC/Samsung or Google provides us the ROM or the option to install stock Android on our Ones and S4s that we've purchased long ago.

<whistles>

TenshiNo says:

Phil, I'm assuming that the factory ROM images for these phones is (or will be) available for download from Google. If the hardware is indeed identical (at least US-GSM versions) from the non-Play Editition devices, then flashing that software on an existing carrier phone should be fairly simple with an unlocked bootloader, correct?

I wouldn't assume that. These are not Nexus devices.

That said, I'm sure you'll be able to flash onto other devices. And so is this guy, who's smarter than me about such stuff:

yankeesusa says:

All i can say is both phones look really amazing and with stock google either phone is great although I'm leaning towards htc one even though i love samsung.

luckydwg says:

Ordered my HTC One GE can't wait for July 9th. Also looking forward for the in-depth review on both phones. Great work.

HermanK118 says:

Where did you order it from, I'm in los angeles and Google Play web site is still not showing either phone.
I'm dying here from anticipation.
Please post if there is any news on what time will they be available.
thank you

HermanK118 says:

Ordered my Galaxy S4 and shipping on the 9th like everybody else I guess.
Cant wait !

Eddie1201 says:

What's the name of the wallpaper or is it stock wallpaper

Posted via Android Central App

Sun Beam. It comes in these ROMs.

joedirt2217 says:

Will you be extracting and posting the live wallpaper?

raziel says:

How about the camera app? Is it stock Android camera app on both or does it have the special features? Also on the samsung, will you be able to have photos on to the memory card?

Thanks

eszklar says:

What model is the Google S4? Is it the TMobileUSA one? So could I get a TMobileUSA S4 and flash the Google S4 ROM?

Its not specifically for T-Mobile or att. It is just supported by by their frequencies so you can use it on their networks. Now software wise, who know if that will be released.

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eszklar says:

The AnandTech review confirms it to be the TMobileUSA S4. Pretty good review: http://www.anandtech.com/show/7107/htc-one-and-samsung-galaxy-s-4-google...

WickedRabbit says:

I've read at several places that the Google Edition does NOT support T-Mobile AWS HSPA+ so doesn't that make this NOT the T-Mobile version? Or does the T-Mobile version also not support that? Basically, most places say it's going to be better for AT&T than it will be for T-Mobile in the HSPA+ market

ONE missing 1700 band so if you're not in tmo 1900 then it's 2g only... Am I wrong

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allyn274 says:

This is my concern as well. Any thoughts?

3165dwayne says:

Network refarm. I'm guessing it should be fine. I used a Motorola bravo on tmobile and it worked fine

Brick21 says:

Just ordered my SGS4 GE. So glad they kept the flip cover homescreen where I can see who is calling me and things like that. Soon Samsung market will downloadable and then we could still use watch on and everything. Love It. Also good memory space such a difference!

woody970 says:

Not showing up in the play store.... What gives!

snookasnoo says:

Less memory difference than I expected..but it does tell us how much space Touchwiz takes up. What is with Samsung and these 16 GB S 4's....

snookasnoo says:

Will you be glad when you don't get updates at the same time as a Nexus phone?

procol says:

You don't need to wait for Watchon of Samsung marketplace. It is already on Play Store as standalone app. If it's not available for GE GS4 right now, I guess the only thing Samsung should do is including GE GS4 in compatible devices list for the app in Play Store app setting.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=tv.peel.samsung.app

mosley04 says:

On Google play it says the s4 is running a snapdragon pro, thought it was the 600.

Posted via Android Central App

gravage says:

The 600 IS the Snapdragon Pro. The 400 is the Snapdragon Plus.

mosley04 says:

The pro is the chip that is in the nexus 4. The HTC one and the s4 retail models both use the 600. On Google play it clearly shows the HTC one uses the 600 and the s4 uses the pro.

Posted via Android Central App

mosley04 says:

OK good, I thought it was strange it would be using older hardware than its sister devices.

Posted via Android Central App

SABtres says:

Does this mean it will get HSPA+ 42 speeds on T-Mobile's network if LTE is unavailable?

sx2l says:

What about the menu button on the One?

It's still not there.

Posted via Android Central App

It's probably the same as the Sense version - apps that aren't coded correctly will have the black bar at the bottom with the 3 dots for a button.

I thought it was going to bother me more than it has. Out of all the apps I have, the black bar shows for 5 of them. Since the screen is such a tall form factor, losing that screen real estate isn't that big of a deal for me.

Yep, exactly the same. Knew that going into this, though. There's just no other way to do it.

icebike says:

Exactly.

Its just not an issue, with most up-to-date apps the three dots move to the top, as shown in Gmail app.

bprichard says:

That would probably bother me so much that I'd seek out apps with the same functionality and proper menu button placement.

jackoceanz says:

I was kind of skeptical as well like u. I have used several android phones with menu buttons, and recently I just checked out the htc one. The 3 dot menu button actually feels pretty natural.

mcox1124 says:

Not sure if the GE does this, but I have a 4.2.2 Sense-based ROM and there is an option in Settings > "Display, gestures & buttons" to change the Home button to "Swipe up for Google Now, press and hold for menu". Choosing this option removes the black software bar where apps normally display them on the HTC One.

If this, or a similar option is not built into the GE, there might be individual packages out there already that accomplish this. If not there already, I'm sure they will be arriving soon. Try a search on XDA Forums and you might find what you are looking for. If not supported on the stock GE, be prepared to root your device for this functionality.

GE doesn't do it.

slackerjack says:

And there it is...HTC proving that they have a slower device with a worse camera, no removable battery and no expandable storage. Bravo guys...just...bravo. I still don't get the point of releasing the One like this :*(

Jack

snookasnoo says:

Because hardly anyone cares about removable battery or storage.

benhmadison says:

The ONE is not a slower device. The jury is still out on the ONE GE's camera but if it works like the regular ONE's camera it will blow the S4 away in low light and be able to compete decently in most other shots. I kind of agree with you on battery but it's not a big deal and Google has made it clear that they have moved away from expandable storage so how can we blame HTC for giving us more than double the internal storage for things like apps and Google music. Both of these devices are awesome but the ONE is a better deal at $599.

slackerjack says:

http://www.anandtech.com/show/7107/htc-one-and-samsung-galaxy-s-4-google...

Yes, the galaxy s4 is faster

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benhmadison says:

In day to day use there is no difference. With manufacturer skins the S4 was slower period. With both of these running stock I would guess they will both be lightning fast.

slackerjack says:

Spin it any way you want. The Galaxy S4 in any variant is faster than an HTC One, its got a faster clocked procrssor, faster memory...that equals faster. Touchwiz was slower than Sense (I'll give you that), but without that limitation...there's no reason that anyone should think that the two are the same speed, they are not. Daily use isn't event quantifiable without it being completely subjective, that's why there are synthetics...

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return_0 says:

And there it is... slackerjack proving that he is a troll.

Posted via Android Central App

slackerjack says:

Yep, people posting facts are trolling...

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MERCDROID says:

You're trolling, deal with it. The last thing we need, is for someone to start the whole "S4 vs ONE" crap again.

deadpenguins says:

Why is the HTC One ROM using ~6.5GB while the GS4 only uses ~3.5GB?

Short answer? They're different phones.

TenshiNo says:

It's important to remember that not all "non-user" space is taken up by the ROM itself. The storage on an Android device (being Linux at heart) can be segmented and mounted in a number of different ways.

Also, HTC and Samsung have (historically) used very different storage mounting schemes for their devices: HTC gives you an "apps storage" and "file storage" spaces separately, as apposed to Samsung's model where you get the whole space to do with as you like.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, but that might also explain the disparity.

This, too.

rumanuu76 says:

Thanks, I was wondering the same thing.

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planoman says:

If google wallet works on the one I am in. Let us know!

oplix says:

seems disappointing now that snapdragon 800 is officially in the wild (east). Gonna wait a few months and pick up a 800 chipset.

There's always something better coming, you know. :p

slackerjack says:

Exactly...

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snookasnoo says:

They aren't really stock Android obviously. So I don't see how they would get updates straight from Google or at the same time as a Nexus 4.

Why not? If they push them at the same time, then they get them at the same time.

That said, I'll believe it when I see it.

TenshiNo says:

All that would really be required for this to happen would be Samsung and HTC giving Google any "special" code (like for the flip cover) so that it can be integrated into the Android repo as part of Android. The updates would then come directly from Google. And I have no trouble believing Samsung or HTC would surrender these tiny little snippets.

That said, I can't help but wonder if code that only runs for a couple of certain phones will be more likely to let bugs slip through during testing of new versions of Android.

Ry says:

How do the Benchmarks lineup compared to their OEM versions?

slackerjack says:

Anadtech's got a good line up (linked above somewhere)

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Ry says:

Any noticeable differences between the Boomsound on either version of the One?

I've been trying to tell. Not sure if I'm just going deaf, or if there's no noticeable difference.

plee82 says:

Looks like the kernel has samsung and htc signature in there right? That would mean Google still has to wait for them to send their respective kernels to release an OTA.

Dapovi says:

Name of wallpaper: Night Flare live wallpaper. Really good and tons of costumization

Posted via Android Central App

Thats not specifically the same one. Night Flare is really cool and super customizable, but this is something different. You could probably emulate it pretty close with Night Flare though.

BoB16731 says:

Has the button mapping improved?

Posted via Android Central App

jdbii says:

Really cool early post and video! Loved how you showed them side by side.

Why is it on the google play store, it says that the galaxy s4 google edition has a snapdragon s4 pro? not like the htc one google edition with snapdragon 600. So they downgraded the cpu of the GS4 GE?

betsuni says:

Scroll up and read, it is a typo.

betsuni says:

Double post.

weiny says:

Does the GS4 GE come in black or only white? I'm not a big fan of white. Is it weird for a guy to be using a white phone?

lol. Not hardly. :p

jackoceanz says:

white phone? Dude, that is weird man!

Don't do it!

saifbukhari says:

Dear Phil,

Did you noticed the infamous build issues on the htc one? the gaps , dead pixels etc?

S_C_B says:

I returned my original One, within 3 days, because of a gap issue around the screen. I also just didn't like enjoy the phone.

dalex7777 says:

These just make me happy.

dalex7777 says:

These just make me happy.

cpolism says:

I really hope they bring in the Xperia Z to the Google experience! That would be my first choice.

mcook1670 says:

Can we get the boot animation? I'd like it on my nexus 4

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Ry says:

When are you giving them away? lol

Dr0me says:

The developer community demands a system dump or nandroid!

planoman says:

So will you be touching your nexus 4 ever again? Should I be glad I sold mine a few weeks ago? Have an s4, so thinking about the HTC One. Camera and Google wallet are big for me. Let us know! And thanks!

benurd says:

I'll take either device. But if I were to purchase I think I'd go with the One.

LarryLars says:

Phil, is the glass on the HTC One raised where it meets the aluminium? I have seen this on just about every One I have used. Hoping the Google batch actually is ZERO GAP!

radame7 says:

CAN YOU TEST AND SEE IF GOOGLE WALLET WORKS ON BOTH HTC ONE AND SAMSUNG S4 GOOGLE ADDITIONS. IF IT DOES I MIGHT GET THE HTC ONE GOOGLE ADDITION. I AM A HEAVY GOOGLE WALLET USER.

return_0 says:

CAN YOU TURN OFF CAPS LOCK

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KANYE.......... IS THAT YOU?!?!?!?

MERCDROID says:

Why are you yelling at us?

toonhead85 says:

I guess my biggest question(s) about the HTC One Google Edition are: 1) Can Google Wallet be flashed (if not, that's a deal breaker - but maybe why it's $50 cheaper?) and 2) How well does the camera perform (I know Phil said there was to be a post about that).

I love that there are more choices for the 'Google Experience'. Choice is always better.

With that said, I feel the GS4 Google Edition will do better for a few reasons: 1) Removable batter 2) microSD

jackoceanz says:

Google wallet comes pre-loaded on the *GS4 not* HTC one. If you want to install wallet on the HTC one just download it from Play store. (check out vid at 1:38)

As for removable battery... most people don't remove their batteries. I have GS3 and I never ever once took out my battery.

And while it's nice to have extra microSD memory, it's just confusing as heck like trying to figure out where ur stuff is stored. I'd prefer the HTC one's single storage space that comes with 32GB instead of just 16GB like GS4

So pretty much the exact same as my GS4 has been since I bought it but with less tweaks.

I'll just stick with rooting and flashing ROMs myself.

Posted via Android Central App

crxssi says:

>"As far as the radios are concerned, we've got full AT&T LTE connectivity, and if you're on T-Mobile and are lucky to live in one of its LTE launch cities, you'll get it there, too"

And if you are on Verizon or Sprint, then these don't work at all.

Newcron says:

How can you say that their prices are 'hefty' while they are about exactly the same?

rodolphemehu says:

http://goo.gl/eDNml Anandtech say gs4 GPe support band 4 1700 on 3G. But Google say it's band 4 2100 and not 1700. Which one is correct?

Posted via Android Central App

anexiole says:

Just confirmed with other articles that the photosphere camera feature is available on these pure google devices. Sweet!
Now, if only they would now make them available in Australia...

nirogu325 says:

I'd like to know how much the picture quality suffers going from TW to AOSP. I've noticed lower quality in both my Galaxy S and Galaxy S III when going from TW to AOSP, side by side.

edisepic says:

IR Blaster?

Posted via Android Central App

rubi76 says:

Phil,

Thanks for the amazing - as always - hands on.
Quick question, does the S4 still have wireless display capabilities? Do you think it's done through allshare or something else (miracast) ?

Also, when you have the flip cover (S view) on, and someone calls, can you still slide right / left to accept / refuse the call?

Thanks!

Does Google wallet work on the GS4? Is it still blocked by AT&T

Posted via Android Central App

the1dynasty says:

I signed and changed some names around so I can upload it to the Play Store... Here's the unmodified SunBeam for FREE!! Just install it like a normal app, no need for pushing to system blah blah... https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.phasebeamorange And Phil, feel free to update the article with this link :)

Can you please tell us how you get the software on these? I really want this on my HTC One.

davem2421 says:

These are not ROMs this is out of the box Google Edition phones. to get something similar you'd probably have to root your device

Root your phone and run AOKP, or CM 10.1, or PACMAN

tramsay09 says:

The Google edition HTC One and GS4 are not available in Canada

jackoceanz says:

any chance HTC butterfly s getting the GE treatment as well?

jackoceanz says:

it's be nice if htc can release the zoe just for htc users to download

cheechoz818 says:

Hey Phil is there any way you can stop laughing and talking at the same time??

Does anyone know if the normal S4 MHL adapter will work with the Google Edition so that I can play 1080p movies on my hdtv? Mostly Google Play movies but .mp4 would be nice too.

slayerpsp says:

I use the tv remote way to much to go stock plus the whats on and whats on next I use ever day much easier to look through the guide on the phone to see whats on add that feature I would try this. Really happy with my Htc One the way it is tried stock just missing to much stuff I use

Did they change the power button?. Is it still hard to unlock the phone?

LanceNanek says:

Black menu bar can be controller by the apps. It basically only shows up if they are targeting older Android build versions. See the documentation on the removal of the menu button here:
http://developer.android.com/guide/topics/ui/menus.html

aussiebatt says:

Excellent update, love HTC One

Q says:

"Does it come in black?"

Seriously, is the Google Play HTC One available in black, or only in silver? (Hoping if not I can find a factory unlocked black one, with US LTE, for anywhere close to the $599 price!)