Google Play Editions: Nearly A Nexus
There are three main reasons why I have a preference for Nexus devices. The first is that I like how stock Android looks, feels and performs. It’s elegant and responsive. The second reason is because the Nexus devices receive their operating system updates straight from Google with no network interference, so you are almost always going to be running the very latest version of Android. And finally, they’re very well priced indeed, usually hundreds of dollars cheaper than an equivalent device from a third party manufacturer. It turns out that I’m quite price sensitive.
In 2013, Samsung and HTC released Google Play Editions of the Galaxy S4 and One handsets. Here, they were combining their new flagship device with a near-stock version of Android. The devices are available for sale direct from Google via the Play Store. Since then, the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 have been joined by the LG G Pad, Sony Xperia Z Ultra and very recently, the Motorola Moto G.
The advantage of the Google Play Editions is that you get a near-stock experience combined with different hardware, without having to modify your handset and so potentially invalidate the warranty. If you wanted the Galaxy S4 for the replaceable battery, memory card, camera or 1.9 GHz processor but really like the Nexus 4, here was a way that you could have your pie and eat it too. Operating system updates are not released quite as quickly for the Google Play Editions, perhaps a few weeks after those for the Nexus products but this is still typically months before the original device.
There are a few catches in addition to the horror of having to wait a few weeks longer than your buddy with a Nexus 5 for the latest update to Android. The first is that the Google Play Edition devices do have some subtle differences in the software compared with a Nexus device, so you’re not quite getting a stock experience. To date, this has been to cover the differences in hardware: the Galaxy S4 and Z Ultra, for example, come with a memory card slots and the drivers and software has to be added to Android for these.
The second disadvantage is that you lose some of the features of the original device; for example, the HTC One Google Play Edition loses some of the clever camera tricks and you don’t get Blinkfeed either. Some of the manufacturer-added features are hot air but some are useful.
The third is that the Google Play Edition devices are not inexpensive in the way that the Nexus devices are. They’re expensive. You do get something extra for your money, but they’re dear! From a productivity perspective, spending more money for a device that is essentially as useful as the original doesn’t make so much sense.
And finally, Google Play Editions are difficult to get hold of in my home market. This is why I don’t use a HTC One Google Play Edition as my daily driver. I have to import one in from the US and that’s when it starts to cost a silly amount.