Google Play editions

To hack, or not to hack? That is the question.

People who order a Google Play edition Galaxy S4 or HTC One are starting to see their devices delivered today, and one of the things that goes along with that is the hacking that's going to happen to slap the operating system from the Google Play edition devices onto their carrier counterparts. It may turn out to be relatively easy (for the end user, that is) or it may be more difficult, but we're sure it will happen. And that means people with the carrier or OEM models of these two have a decision to make -- to hack or not to hack? 

You lose a lot of functionality that comes standard on the versions with HTC and Samsung's firmware, but to many people that's all just extra fluff they never wanted in the first place. In the other camp, you have the people who have no desire to lose these and take what they feel would be a step backwards to a bare-bones build of Android. It's something to think about, especially if you're tied to your current phone for two (or more) years.

We can't make that decision for you, but we are curious about just how many are going to take the plunge. There's a poll in the sidebar to the right, or you can just click through the break and find it. Take a second and answer it, and feel free to say why you voted the way you voted in the comments here.

Before we go, a look at last week's poll.

What is your top social networking feature?

Poll results

For the two-thirds of us that enjoy social networking, it looks like the quality of our Android app is the most important feature, Are you listening Facebook and Twitter?


Reader comments

This week's sidebar poll: Are you interested in converting your HTC One or Galaxy S4 into a Google Play edition device?


I bought the S4 because of a lot of the nifty features. Going for a stock version (Or even Cyanogen) defeats the purpose of that.

I am not a fanboy of any brand,but I am a big fan of nexus.
I wouldn't say the same about HTC One because the only bloat in it is carrier software(about 6-7 apps). but S4 has carrier/Samsung bloat apps with more annoying redundant apps

It would be Nice if they could of left the Camera software avialable for the Nexus Edition phones for HTC and Samsung, or just do the smart thing and get rid of Sence and TW all together and implement their software into downloadable apps free on the phones when you buy them and available to purchase in the play store for everyone, and more profit for themselves, leaving their phones Vanilla android for fast updates by Google.

Why fanboyism?
Let's set aside those "nifty" features and you are still left with countless 3rd party apps you can't even hide. This is bloat without any question. It's equivalent to getting your brand new Windows 7 computer with Start-up Items full of crap you've never heard of. Only in Windows at least you can uninstall it (although registry still polluted). That's why first thing I always did was reformat and install clean Windows.

Because editing a registry is hard...

The op said they liked the features, the implication is that features are its pretty obvious that subjectivity is key here...

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And I said let's set those features aside and look at other issues... namely pre-installed apps you can remove.
And regarding registry on Windows.... of course cleaning registry is hard. Not only you don't know what went where (big SW packages sprinkle crap all over), you also need some sort of a tool unless you know your way around. But that's off topic so whatever

I love it when an app that someone finds useful is called "bloat" by the Nexus fan boys, just because it came with the phone.


It's one thing to come with a phone but another thing to come with a phone and not being able to uninstall it. This is bloat. No ifs or buts

What tr-1 said, if you can't uninstall it, then it's not cool. Oh and bloatware is a technical term used to describe ANY nonoperating system application. Grow up.

M3w, I agree 100%. I bought the phone for the features and hardware combined....not just one or the other. No intentions of converting to Google firmware (even though pure Android is nice) and no way in hell I'll convert to CyanMods half baked crapware that's riddled with bugs on top of more bugs.

Right on! I love the look of vanilla android, BUT I CANT STAND VANILLA ANDROID! is like an iPhone! I have a nexus 7 that is literally sitting in a drawer, bought it, used it no more than 10xs. Is toooooo simple, I love all of the S ware that came with my Galaxy Ss and Note. Alshare, wave on the music app and lockscreen, hovering with my finger to preview info that I used to do with my Note II with the pen, SMARTSTAY! Though I'm running a custom ROM, is a TW based rom, no apps taken off, but I have uninstalled many apps through ROM toolbox pro. Using a theme that makes my phone kinda looking vanilla android. Love the watch on app and the lockscreen widget... To push music and videos from my phone to my Smartv with one button, without me having to do anything on the TV side, love it. I love my Samsung connected world! GO S CRAP/BLOAT!

I agree 100%! Until someone makes a ROM with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Features enabled I am sticking with Stock Rom...

I played with the Cooked Roms for years and made a few myself and I think these companies really listened to our cries and to me the Current stock Rom I am using Minus AT&T Bloatware is amazing...

Only major issue that bugs me is they never made the Samsung Galaxy S4 Rom have theme's enabled like even light and dark because I prefer not having white backgrounds... Otherwise I am good with the Stock Rom!

I find most of it redundant battery draining bloat that I think is now entirely switched off. The only thing I really like is the notification bar menu.

I bought the HTC One last Thursday with the sole intention of doing just this. I couldn't be happier.
I didn't use Sense, nor have I any want to use any of the features.
My personal happiness is quenched with the great physical hardware and vanilla Android.

I'm a ROM junkie and there's no 12 Step program I can attend. I had 5 ROMs on my SD card in my HTC Inspire. I now have the HTC One and its been 5 weeks. Its still stock. I'm really LOVING this device and I cannot see hacking it at this time. The small items that I would give up if I flashed Google, is something i don't want to give up. Even thought I'd be be getting updates so very much quicker.

I also flash a lot of ROM's. If I get one of these phones I would probably find a great sense or TW ROM.

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really considering it if its proven we can still return to sense if we change our minds im all over it

I would but ROM for Verizon GS4 still hasn't been worked out. I saw some posts on XDA but it was a hack and there are GPS issues

I'm actually running it right now. I can't tell you why but it's hands down the smoothest ROM I've flashed and I've flashed every ROM available for the VZW S4. GPS is perfect for me. Only bug here is the LTE signal looks like you have no bars...when you really do. Only LTE, 3G works fine. This isn't a bug but there is no way to turn off the capacitive button lights. Which is odd considering it's a feature baked into most phones with this hardware option. Again, this is concerning the VZW version ported by Dubbsy.

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I'm sure there will be a hack to disable those buttons and use the onscreen ones.
Are you running stock kernel?

I've been rolling with the Google edition ROM for the s4 (4.2.2) for the last week or so. I love it. Way better than stock

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I've been an iPhone guy from day one. I changed to a S4 earlier in June, and just wasn't very happy with the Samsung OS, so I looked into Rooting and Flashing custom Roms.

I flashed the Google Edition ROM to my S4, and I'll never look back. My battery lasts twice as long, There aren't 800 features that are basically "show off" and throw aways that I need to turn off, and the phone is overall snappier and quicker.

THIS is the experience I was assuming I was going to get when I switched, and now I have it.

I'd definitely want root, but I'd keep running the stock ROM and just throw Apex Launcher (or some other launcher) on there. It's the best of both worlds. You get the aosp-like UI, keep the OEM features and camera app, and have the benefit of running root apps.

When i picked up the One, I was so sore that I would flash this soon as it came out, but no. Sense 5.0 is actually nice and very usable. Power saver actually works really well, and Zoes is pretty neat. All missing in vanilla Android.

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I flashed the Google Edition Rom on my HTC one, and immediately took it off after 2 hours. I just felt that I was giving up way too much by going stock. I had a nexus 4 before the HTC one and loved it, but after using sense 5 I just feel that sense adds extra value to the amazing android experience. I think the best thing is to run sense and just download apex or nova launcher to find that happy middle ground, because sense and touchwiz only adds to the devices that they are currently on.

I don't actually find my HTC to have that much fluff on it... I mean the main thing people dislike is blinkfeed, but I enjoy it, use it way more than I thought I would. I don't really see that much of an upside to having a Google edition other than updates will come through faster... I think sense works nicely, and isn't even that intrusive in the grander scheme of things.

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Nope. I actually really like sense 5. I've become a fan of blinkfeed and zoe.

I stopped roms but still root. Back when I had my tbolt, I'd rom, then spend countless hours looking for apps to give me back the sense functionality. I realized I really liked the functionality sense adds.

Sense 5 is actually very cool and efficient once you get the hang of it. I still enjoy AOSP but wouldn't put it on the One.

I don't have either, but I would be tempted to go Google Edition. My only concern would be losing the camera features.

I have the Droid DNA, and as I don't have Zoes, it would be a much easier choice.

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Well, with the One, the Sense camera actually works on Google Edition based ROMs, so you don't have to give up the camera features.

I just want the ONE on vzw already dam it. Let's go vzw. I need to sell my t mobile nexus 4

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There are things that I love about sense that I didn't want to give up so I flashed a Rom that has all the sense stuff but has a GE systemui so for example, I have the stock android status bar, recent apps, and quick settings. It's like a hybrid rom and I'm happy. I get a mix of both worlds.

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I've been a nexus user for round about a year and very pissed about Brazillian 4G frequencys ..

So to solve my problem .. Sold the N4 and bought an unbranded S4 GT-I9505 .. and guess.. after 2 hours using TW (very crap UI in my opinion), rooted and flashed a GE based ROM.

Now my GS4 looks like a "SUPER NEXUS 4"

Cant wait to convert, definitly, on GS4 GE.

I thought installing GE would be the first thing I'd do to my HTC one, but after upgrading to 4.2.2 I'm not so sure anymore. Still not completely sold on the blinkfeed, but it's growing on me...

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Have an S4 now going to order the S4 GE once I get back from vacation if reviews are good from users. Could not work out the timing with our vacation and the wife & kids would not understand canceling vacation for a phone!

I have the S4 and it had Touchwiz until a couple of days ago. I have just installed Google Edition and there is no way I am going back to Touchwiz. I found myself that most of the touchwiz features were sluggish or simply not as useful as I thought they would bel. Aesthetically, Touchwiz is kind of ugly. Specially the dialer for the phone. Looks are subjective though so I understand if someone likes it. I do recommend installing the Google Edition Rom for anyone that hasn't tried a pure Android ROM. Worst comes to worse you can just revert back to Touchwiz.

I am considering the GE for my S4 but there are at leas 3 version on XDA.
Which one did you flash on your phone?

HTC One on T-Mo. I won't convert to the GE or developer edition because of camera + tv remote (IR blaster), both of which are really good Sense 5 features.

I heard beats n the camera are on board?. Same as the stock htc. As far as the IR blaster. There is an app. for that.

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No. I am tired of rooting my phones and flashing roms, I'm worn slap out. Hopefully my stock (stock as in stock from Samsung) gs4 will satisfy me for now.

I just bought a GS4 today and would consider flashing stock android. I do not like Touchwiz, so I immediately installed Nova launcher. I am kind of on the fence with flashing stock. I had the Note 2 and I had the same feeling.

I'm sure you already know this but, don't install the ota update from at&t if you plan to root and flash the rom.

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Just go find ur self a themed ROM or a ROM that supports themes, that's what I did, and use rom toolbox to freeze apps u don't want, and make sure to freeze SAE.apk, security thing that goes off when u have root. Or just KNOX. Using Nova with HOLO icons

Nope. I *love* Zoes and Video Highlights way, way too much. And I use the universal remote feature quite a bit.

But, seriously, Zoe/Highlights is *the* killer app for the HTC One. They are the number one reason I'm not putting a custom ROM on my phone and this from a previous ROM addict.

I have my HTC one and I love how fast everything is. Why in the world would I want to change it. What would I gain from going to the Google edition rom. The only thing I can think of is the better IMHO multitasking and android 4.2.2. But soon the 4.2.2 thing will be worked out.

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Stock on a phone that was intended to be stock is nice.

Stock on a phone that relies on sense/tw to get the most from, stick is a disappointment

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Sense 5 has actually grown on me, so I won't be flashing vanilla on my HTC One. I doubt I could handle TouchWiz's outdated feel though. If I had an S4, I would do this.

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I have tried the GE ROMs on my one. I prefer sense honestly it's grown on me. Now that they have ported the sense camera app it's more tempting. Once they port the gallery I'll probably run the GE Rom on the regular. Although I won't convert so I can get OTA. No need with xda

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I didn't realize how much stuff in CyanogenMod I took for granted! Things like the slide lockscreen shortcuts and customizing the quick settings panel don't exist in the Google Edition ROM.

So now that I realize how much work they've done, I'm donating to the CM team. Good work, guys.

Install CyanogenMod, don't install the Google Play edition crap. The Google Play edition roms are still built with the Samsung/HTC kernel and framework. Install CM or an AOSP rom to really go Google.

I use a custom Kernel anyways. I love CM I look forward to a RC.

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If HTC were to supply RUUs via htcdev / imei for us to go back and forth between the GPe edition and sense I'd be interested. If not, I'll wait until HTC abandon the device before I start messing about with it.

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At&t and Tmo already had GNE Roms. Waiting for sprint developers. As far as I understood it. Beats and the megapix or whatever it's called are still there and functioning.

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I would like to but I am too scared to figure it out. Scared that I'll screw it up and brick my phone. Plus, I don't have the patience to download the software to root my HTC One.

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Unlocking the boot loader, installing a custom recovery, rooting, installing custom Roms, kernels, etc is very straight forward. Read a lot, only use phone and carrier specific files, and you will be fine. There are so many tutorials on this its not funny. Send me a PM if you'd like some help or would like to be pointed in the right direction.

Unlocking the boot loader, installing a custom recovery & rooting takes all of ten minutes on the HTC one.

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I feel the same way. I know it's not that hard, but I absolutely cannot risk my phone not functioning. I also really like Sense 5, Zoes, and Blinkfeed. It's a risk for very little net return.

I bought the One with the expectation of converting to the the GE version if possible. Sense 5 is better than I ever thought it would be and Blinkfeed has grown on me...

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I always prefer a android device running a vanilla android os ! One of the most off putting things with android especially the Samsung and Sony handsets are the custom skins they put over the vanilla android os.

well i de-activated all the s "features" to save battery life anyway so i wish i could but in my country there was only the exynos version so no aosp for me:(

I'd love to have stock jellybean on my gs4, but I'm sceptical about rooting.

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