Despite the fact that the 2013 Google I/O event hasn’t been the best source of info about the search engine giant’s upcoming gadgets, it did gave us an opportunity to learn about the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition. The device in question is more or less similar to the regular Galaxy S4, as it features the same hardware specifications and design. The main difference lies in the fact that the Google Edition is going to feature “vanilla” Android (the Jelly Bean version). This means that Samsung’s own UI, the controversial TouchWiz, won’t be anywhere to be found.
Although for some this might translate into “fewer software features”, there are also certain benefits that many gadget enthusiasts would be happy to take advantage of. After all, timely software updates and full support from Google is something that many non-Nexus owners have been craving for years.
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To give you a clearer view on what the Google Edition of the Galaxy S4 is all about, think of it as a Nexus smartphone without the Nexus brand. It’s the same Samsung Galaxy S4 that has been released in the United States, but it benefits from the same support as if it were a full-fledged Nexus smartphone.
That said, the SGS4 Google Edition packs a 5 inch Super AMOLED display with a resolution of 1080 x 1920 and a pixel density of 441 ppi, a Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor running at 1.9 GHz, an Adreno 320 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The SGS4 GE also features 16 GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD by up to 64 GB), a 13 MP rear-facing camera, and a 2 MP front-facing sensor. To keep everything up and running, a user-removable 2,600 mAh battery is concealed underneath the back panel.
Even though all the TouchWiz features that we at The Diplomat have talked about at the time of Galaxy S4′s unveiling will be gone, the smartphone will come with an unlocked bootloader, Nexus user experience through vanilla Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, as well as timely software updates.
The Galaxy S4 Google Edition is expected to go on sale in the U.S. only (at least at first), starting June 26th. So far it seems that the device will be sold exclusively through the Play Store, at the price of $649 (off-contract).
HTC One Google Edition
Inevitably, a lot of people have been wondering whether or not they’ll see other “non-Nexus” devices bearing the “Google Edition” moniker. Since HTC has managed to make quite an impact on the market with the One, the idea of an HTC One Google Edition has really caught on, especially given the previous rumors.
Although the Taiwanese manufacturer has denied that such a device will be released, several “inside sources” at Android Central, Geek.com and MoDaCo have revealed that the HTC One Google Edition is indeed in the works. As some of you might know, the HTC One Google Edition has been unveiled very recently, so I suppose this is one of those moments when rumors and speculations were real, while official statements were not.
As for the gadget itself, the Google Edition of HTC’s One seems to follow in Galaxy S4′s footsteps – the hardware is/will be the same, while HTC’s UI (HTC Sense) will be replaced by a stock version of Android. Just like the S4 and every Nexus device, the HTC One Google Edition will benefit from timely updates. There are however a few things to consider before thinking about buying this device, probably more so than in Galaxy S4′s case.
To begin with, unlike the Galaxy S4′s TouchWiz UI, the One’s Sense 5 layer actually contributes to the handset’s performance, so to speak. For instance, the “BoomSound” feature makes extensive use of several Beats Audio software implementation. Additionally, the UltraPixel camera quality has been reported to drop noticeably if it can’t benefit from HTC’s own software “tricks”. The IR Blaster functionality will be lost as well.
All of the above characteristics are provided via the Sense 5 user interface. Removing the UI in order to deliver a vanilla Android OS will alter the smartphone’s performance, and not necessarily in a good way.
On top of that, the HTC One doesn’t have a “menu” capacitive key, and as such, it has to rely on Sense 5 to render an on-screen menu button instead. Even though Sense 5 will be removed, the “black menu bar” will still be present in various applications.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether or not the HTC One Google Edition is worth it. The 32GB version of the handset will be available for purchase via the Play Store, starting with June 26th. The HTC One Google / Nexus Edition will set you back $599. The device will be unlocked, and as with the Samsung Galaxy S4 GE, it will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile bands.
Do you consider the HTC One Google Edition to be a good choice? Are you be more interested in Samsung’s alternative? Or are you rooting for an entirely different manufacturer? Don’t hesitate to share your opinions by leaving a comment below.
Vlad Andrici is editor for gforgames.com and writes about technology issues.