updated 07:20 am EDT, Thu June 27, 2013
'Google Play Editions' of the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 out now
As promised, the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4 'Google Play Editions' have gone on sale to US customers only through the Google Play store. The Galaxy S4 was the first of the devices to be revealed, making a surprise debut at Google I/O in mid-May, while the HTC One version was revealed a couple of weeks later through an HTC company blog. There are also rumors that Sony is preparing its own 'Google Edition' of the Xperia Z, although any launch details of the purported device have yet to surface.
A regular criticism among reviewers of the Samsung and HTC customized versions of Android (TouchWiz and Sense, respectively) is that the stock Android interface is generally preferred. However, OEM's skin their devices to help differentiate them in the marketplace, building in additional features and tweaks that are not present in the standard version open-sources by Google. For example, Samsung was heavily criticized for adding so many additional apps and enhancements that it dramatically reduced the storage space available to users of the 16GB model. It has been discovered that 'Google Edition version of the offers 12GB of storage compared to just 7GB for users of the regular Galaxy S4, highlighting the extent of Samsung's changes in TouchWiz. On the downside, is that the devices come with less software bells and whistles than they otherwise might.
Early reaction to both the new devices has been very positive, though with early reviewers continuing to favour the build quality and design of the HTC One over the Galaxy S4. Both devices are said to be highly responsive, with reviewers praising the cleaner and leaner experience. However, unlike Google Nexus-branded devices, both HTC and Samsung will be responsible for pushing OS updates to their devices. This is, at least in part, due to the use of capacitive hardware controls on both devices that is not otherwise present in the Google Nexus 4, for example, which implements on screen software controls. Despite this, delays between getting an OS upgrade when they become available should be significantly less than for the TouchWiz or Sense versions of the Galaxy S4 or the One.