Two of the most popular Android phones -- the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One -- are now available in Google's own image. While the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One on shelves today run Google's Android software, today Google will begin selling versions of the phones with clean versions of its Android software.
Rather than have HTC's news and social media Blinkfeed software on your HTC One's homescreen or Samsung's widgets pre-loaded on the Galaxy S4, the Google Play Editions of the phones have Google's original Android 4.2 software. Similar to Google's Nexus 4 and other Nexus devices, the software is just as Google intended it with Google apps and features front and center.
The phones, however, are more expensive than the $199 versions you get at AT&T, Verizon and the other carriers. The HTC One will cost $599 and the Galaxy S4 $649. They aren't tied to a carrier, though, so you don't need to commit to two years of service. Instead, you can plug in a SIM card from AT&T or T-Mobile. The units will not be offered for Verizon or Sprint.
But why would anyone want these over the version already available on store shelves? First, Google promises that these versions of the phones will get timely Android updates. While it takes carriers and phone makers longer to bring Google's updates to phones, the company ensures that owners of the Google Edition versions will get new software features right after they are announced. Google is expected to release a new version of its Android software called Key Lime Pie before the end of the year.
Additionally, the company is hoping to appeal to users who prefer a cleaner and faster version of Android. "The versions of those handsets that are distributed through carriers today reflect what is being aimed at mainstream consumer," Ross Rubin, principal analyst of Reticle Research, says. "With those, handset vendors want to put their imprint on it, the carriers want to put their imprint on it. These versions offered by Google appeal to purists and enthusiasts and to people who are willing to give up some functionality of the hardware in order to get something that is uncluttered."
Google has worked with Samsung and HTC to offer the new phones. Motorola, which was purchased by Google last year, is expected to release a new made-in America smartphone this summer called the Moto X.
The Google Edition Galaxy S4 and the HTC One can be purchased today through Google's Play Store and will ship July 9.