'Pure Google' versions of leading devices from Samsung, HTC, LG, Sony and Motorola, sold unlocked from the Play Store
From mid-2013 Google has started offering a range of phones and tablets running "stock" Android through the Google Play Store in the U.S. In contrast to the company's Nexus devices, Google Play editions take an existing phone or tablet from one of the major manufacturers and give it "Google experience" software — the latest version of Android without any overt manufacturer customizations, and the promise of speedy updates in the future.
There are currently five Google Play edition devices on sale through the Google Play Store ...
The first GPe phone to emerge, announced at the Google I/O developer conference in May 2013 and released around a month later for $650. Samsung's stock Android device features the same hardware as the regular (Snapdragon 600-powered) Galaxy S4, with T-Mobile and AT&T LTE support. There's a 5-inch 1080p SuperAMOLED display, a 13-megapixel rear camera and 16 gigabytes of storage, backed up by microSD expandability. There's also a removable 2,600mAh battery, making the GS4 the only Google Play phone with a replaceable battery.
Check out our review for the lowdown on the GPe GS4. Buy now in Google Play.
The Google Play edition HTC One (M7) was announced shortly after Google I/O 2013 and released alongside the Galaxy S4 in late June, priced $599. This aluminum-clad beast comes with 32GB of internal memory but no removable storage and a fixed 2,300mAh battery, and support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE, but not AWS HSPA+, potentially limiting its T-Mobile coverage. Hardware-wise, it's identical to the developer edition HTC One sold by HTC, only with Google's software in place of HTC Sense.
Read our review of the GPe HTC One for more details. Buy now in Google Play.
The Wifi-only LG G Pad 8.3 was announced and made available to buy in December 2013 along with the Sony Z Ultra. The first GPe tablet to go on sale, the G Pad sports a metal back and Snapdragon 600 processor, along with an 8.3-inch 1920x1200-resolution display. Its $350 price tag puts it above the Nexus 7 — but that extra money gets you more screen real estate, more premium materials and a slightly faster CPU.
Read more in our Google Play edition LG G Pad 8.3 review. You can buy it now in Google Play.
Possibly the weirdest Google Play edition device of the lot, the Sony Z Ultra (don't call it an Xperia) is based on Sony's similarly-named 6.4-inch phone-tablet hybrid. It's small enough to fit in your pocket, but too large to use one-handed. But it does boast the most impressive specs of the GPe range at present, with a Snapdragon 800 CPU and 2GB of RAM. It's a niche product for sure, but for those craving Sony's hardware design with Google's software, that device is finally a reality.
Check out our full review of the Sony Z Ultra for more details. You can buy one now from Google Play.
A slightly baffling addition to the GPe family, the Moto G was launched with vanilla Android in January 2014 at the same $179 price point as the Motorola version. Since Motorola's own software doesn't differ much from the stock OS, you're not gaining much, if anything by picking up the GPe version, aside from slightly faster software updates. Nevertheless, if you want a Nexus-style phone on the cheap, that's now a possible thanks to the Google Play edition Moto G.
Read more in our hands-on feature with the GPe Moto G and our full review of the Motorola version. The Moto G Google Play edition is available from the Google Play Store.
Announced the same day as the regular HTC One M8, the Google Play edition features the same wraparound metal design (in plain old silver, not gunmetal gray or gold), with stock Android taking the place of HTC's Sense 6 UI. The GPe HTC One M8 sold for $699 on the U.S. Google Play Store, and is based on the AT&T model M8, which includes T-Mobile and AT&T HSPA + LTE support, plus LTE roaming on Bands 7 and 3. It's also able to utilize HTC's unique "Duo Camera" system, which combines the "Ultrapixel" rear shooter with the second camera module that gathers depth information.
Check out our review of the HTC One M8 for more info.
Posted by Alex Dobie on 25 Nov 2013 5:27 am
Over-the-air update now rolling out
Hot on the heels of the open-source code drop, the Google Play edition HTC One has started receiving its over-the-air update to the latest version of Android, 4.4 KitKat. The 320MB update is arriving automatically on some handsets today — though as usual, not everyone will receive the update right away. As is the case with other non-Nexus 5 devices, the...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 25 Nov 2013 4:08 am
Google Play edition Galaxy S4 and HTC One Android 4.4 updates shouldn't be far behind
Samsung and HTC have just published the Android 4.4 kernel source code and framework support files for their Google Play edition devices. While the code released today, a requirement of the GPL, won't be of any use to regular users, it does mean the rollout of KitKat to both Google Play edition phones is...
Posted by Andrew Martonik on 18 Nov 2013 10:26 pm
'Compatibility' isn't always a guarantee of the best experience
pasadenabill posted in the forums with a question:
I bought the HTC One Google Play Edition because I wanted an unlocked phone for when I travel overseas. I am a longtime T-Mobile subscriber and after getting the GPE I immediately noticed that it would not connect to the 4G network very reliably. Thinking this was a possible...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 15 Nov 2013 3:42 pm
Public release timing 'to be determined by Google'
You might remember it was 15 days ago when HTC America President Jason Mackenzie said his company would deliver Android 4.4 for the Google Play edition HTC One within 15 days — so naturally GPe device owners have today been wondering what's up with the update. The official HTC USA Twitter account has chimed in this afternoon with an update on...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 13 Sep 2013 6:10 am
Minor update to Android 4.3 now rolling out for GS4 GPe
Along with the Google Play edition HTC One, it now seems the "stock" Android Galaxy S4 (GT-I9505G) is also getting its over-the-air update to build JWR66Y — a slightly newer version of Android 4.3. The bump from the earlier build JWR66V hit Nexus devices a couple of weeks ago, and includes security updates for the latest iteration of...
Posted by Andrew Martonik on 11 Sep 2013 11:29 pm
Small security fix hits two weeks after finding its way to Nexus devices
The Google Play edition version of the HTC One is pulling down an OTA update tonight that brings it back up to speed with Nexus devices on build JWR66Y. The update, which folks are indicating has been hitting at least some devices, is to the same one that hit Nexus phones and tablets about two weeks ago with a quick...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 23 Aug 2013 9:08 am
Toggle between TouchWiz and vanilla Android on the international GS4
After the Indiegogo campaign to bring MoDaCo Switch to the Galaxy S4 raised more than double the intended £1000 ($1500) target amount, the first private beta build of the custom ROM is being distributed to backers via email.
Similar the HTC One version, MoDaCo Switch allows owners of the international LTE GS4 (GT-i9505) to...
Posted by Andrew Martonik on 20 Aug 2013 2:45 pm
Some serious prizes await two lucky picture takers this week
We've been getting back into our weekly photo contests, and we're hoping to get even more people involved with a special edition three week long contest this time.
The topic this week is a very fitting one — "back to school". The middle of August is the time when kids are getting ready to head back to grade school, teenagers are...
Posted by Jerry Hildenbrand on 10 Aug 2013 7:36 pm
Sometimes the little things can cause a big headache
The Android 4.3 update for your shiny new Galaxy S4 Google Play edition phone has a minor issue that is frustrating more than a few users. Most apps can no longer write anything to the SD card, and instead just give you an error when you try doing it.
It's one of those little things that can cause a lot of headache. The technical reasons are...
Posted by Andrew Martonik on 2 Aug 2013 7:03 pm
Kernel source now released for both GPe devices, but still no full updates available.
Following right on the heels of HTC releasing the kernel source for the Google Play edition HTC One, Samsung has released its required code for the GPe Galaxy S4. This isn't at all surprising, as the manufacturers are required under their license to make the kernel source for these devices available. What...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 2 Aug 2013 2:11 pm
Kernel source published — but no update for devices just yet
HTC has released the kernel source code and related platform support files for the Google Play edition HTC One, as required under the GPL. The code drop comes ahead of the Google Play HTC One's Android 4.3 update — officially, the phone's still on 4.2.2, and we've not seen any updates on our own devices just yet.
The kernel source...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 30 Jul 2013 2:58 pm
How has Samsung’s ‘life companion’ weathered three months in the hands of an AC editor?
It’s been a little over three months since we first reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4, and a great deal has changed in that time. The phone has launched on countless carriers around the world, allowing us to experience Samsung’s latest on different networks and in different settings. Its firmware has been...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 26 Jul 2013 6:19 am
Dual-boot between Sense and Google edition ROMs on your HTC One, with a single set of app data
Update: For those interested in having similar capabilities on the Galaxy S4 (GT-i9505), MoDaCo has an Indiegogo project set up to raise £1000 ($1500) to bring Switch to the GS4.
Posted by Jerry Hildenbrand on 10 Jul 2013 5:51 pm
The first step of turning your HTC One into a Google Play edition is now ready
Hey there sports fans, if you're thinking of taking your existing HTC One and converting it into a bona fide Google Play edition HTC One, the work has already begun. The stock bootloader and stock recovery have been pulled off the device, and they're uploaded with all the instruction you need to get them flashed....
Posted by Phil Nickinson on 9 Jul 2013 7:18 am
A quick heads up that, as promised, the Google Play edition Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One have begun shipping directly from Google.
In case you've been living under a rock the past couple weeks, these are the (mostly) "stock Android" versions of the phones. Same hardware, with the software as God and Google (HOLOYOLO) intended, for better or for worse. They're SIM-unlocked, with full LTE...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 8 Jul 2013 5:46 am
Google Play edition handset spotted at Bluetooth SIG with new Android version
At this point it's no great secret that Android 4.3 is right around the corner, and that among other things it'll bring Bluetooth 4.0 support as a standard OS feature. So it's just as unsurprising to see the the Google Play edition HTC One dropping by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group with support for version 4.0...
Posted by Jerry Hildenbrand on 7 Jul 2013 2:28 pm
Verizon and Sprint exercise more control over the phones that can use their network, and it takes a little more that just building one to make it happen.
In the midst of all the discussion over the merits and flaws of the Google Play edition Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, there's a third discussion taking place, that more than a few people are interested in -- will we ever see a Google Play...
Posted by Phil Nickinson on 2 Jul 2013 5:28 pm
For better or worse, you've got official 'stock' Android on two of the hottest phones around
Forget, for the moment, the “why” of the “Google Play edition” HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. That’s the official moniker given to the two stock(ish) phones available now, as the name suggests, through Google Play, alongside Google’s own Nexus line. While ours certainly is to question their existence...
Posted by Alex Dobie on 1 Jul 2013 10:43 am
After two months with TouchWiz, what's it like to go 'stock' on Samsung's latest smartphone?
The running joke whenever we discuss the Google Play edition Galaxy S4 is that you can sum things up in just one sentence — it’s the Galaxy S4, with stock Android. Really, if you understand the vanilla “Nexus” UI, as it exists on the Nexus 4, and you understand the Galaxy S4’s hardware, as it exists on...