As Google begins to accept orders of the recently announced ‘Google Editions’ of both the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, it’s natural for the first reviews to already have hit the web. The two devices are arguably the best Android phones on the market right now, and once Google announced these stock Android versions, everyone expected for them to get even better. The verdicts are in, and if you don’t want to check every site individually for a review, we’ve got a roundup for you below.
The good: The Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition offers users the most powerful hardware specs of any Android phone without any carrier bloatware, and an elegantly simple Jelly Bean UI.
The bad: Google’s Galaxy S4 variant strips away a lot of Samsung’s neat software and photo features, and it comes with a steep price tag.
The bottom line: Unless you’re an Android enthusiast or demand total freedom from carriers, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition isn’t worth the hefty price.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Even though CNet praised the original Galaxy S4 for its plethora of features, the Google Edition negates those features in favor of pure Jelly Bean. On top of losing all those cool TouchWiz settings, including the fantastic camera software, if you’re interested in the Google Edition, you’re forced to pay the full $649 unsubsidized price. CNet recommends that “unless you’re an Android enthusiast”, it would be smarter to opt for the standard carrier-locked edition of the Galaxy S4.
The good: The HTC One Google Play Edition’s metal design is gorgeous. The phone’s hardware and components are top-notch. The clean Android Jelly Bean UI is refreshingly simple, and Google promises a stream of fresh updates as they happen.
The bad: The HTC One Google Play Edition doesn’t offer any of the extras found in HTC Sense. The handset’s unsubsidized price is expensive.
The bottom line: The pricey HTC One Google Play Edition’s unique blend of premium design, components, and pure Jelly Bean software will only tempt true Android fanatics.
Rating: 4/5 stars
CNet praised the original HTC One for its stunning design and gorgeous screen, but like the Galaxy S4, CNet can’t fully recommend the Google Edition of the HTC One because of its lack of Sense features, especially the camera feature, such as HTC Zoe. If you recall, the HTC One uses a 4MP camera, marketed as an 8 Ultra Pixels, unfortunately though, the camera only takes decent shots with Sense’s software, so without it, the camera goes back to being mediocre.
Galaxy S4 & HTC One
…the skinned versions of both phones offer a user experience arguably better suited to the masses. It’s really that simple. That’s the advice I’m sticking to, at least.
Although unadulterated Android is great, as I mentioned earlier I still can’t shake that there’s-something-missing feeling when using it. There’s usually just more that I wind up installing and tweaking to feel at home on those devices. Even though I regularly critique OEM skins and software decisions, there’s an undeniable certainty that HTC and Samsung respectively do add a lot to their software that makes things better. I ended up enjoying HTC’s Sense 5 and found that it addressed a number of friction points, and even though I harp on TouchWiz a lot I do make frequent use of their notification center settings shortcuts and appreciate their camera UI.
Although AnandTech seem to like the two stock Android devices, like Cnet, they seem to agree that both these phones respective skins add a lot to the devices, and only a select few will actually want to get one. AnandTech is only recommending these phones if you really care about a lot about stock Android and “if you know what AOSP stands for without having to Google it”.
Galaxy S4 & HTC One
It’s unfortunate that these phones aren’t available on all carriers and won’t be sold at subsidized prices. The HTC One Google Play edition retails for $599 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play edition sells for $649. There are carrier and price hurdles you have to jump over when choosing the stock Galaxy S4 or HTC One, but in my opinion they’re worth the leap…there are still tradeoffs, but these are the best Android phones you can get.
The Verge on the other hand was a little more favorable to these devices, saying that although their missing skins results in a few tradeoffs, they’re ultimately better because of the timely updates they’ll receive and all-around smoother experience. The Verge recommends that if you can take the $600-$649 plunge that these phones cost, it’s worth it.
Galaxy S4 & HTC One
Honestly, these are both terrific phones, and you’d be happy with either. If an SD card slot and removable battery are a big deal for you, go ahead and get the Galaxy S4. Otherwise, the HTC One is our favorite by a nose. Most of all, though, just be glad that you can finally get the best possible versions of the best possible phones on Android. It’s about time.
Similar to The Verge, Gizmodo seemed to really like these phones a lot, especially the HTC One, giving it the upper hand in every category except the camera. Gizmodo says that if you can’t decide between the two, go with the One because of its lower price, unless you really care about a Micro SD slot and a removable battery.
Although not a full review, Computer World, made some interesting observations during their early testing of the devices such as a different boot up animation from the one found on Nexus devices and a newly designed camera app with a ‘lighter’ interface. Although these features may stay as a ‘Google Edition’ device exclusive, it could be foreshadowing what’s to come in the future versions of Android.
The video below shows the new boot animation found on the two devices and a new Beam wallpaper not found on Nexus phones.