After denying that it had any plans to do so, HTC announced on Thursday that Google will soon sell a “Google Edition” version of the flagship One smartphone. The device will run pure Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean and will retail for $599. I think there are too many trade-offs for it to be a compelling device for most consumers. That said, it’s not really made for consumers and is instead targeted at developers, but you should know what it lacks.
First, it supports the same bands as the unlocked Developer Edition in the United States, which means you won’t get access to T-Mobile’s faster HSPA+ data network (even though Google will sell a model that will operate on AT&T or T-Mobile).
Second, you’re going to miss out on what helps make the HTC One so great: all of the software features. Finally, it’s pretty expensive. The device will retail for $599, which is $300 more than the Nexus 4 but a hair cheaper than the $649 Google Edition of the Galaxy S4. Sure, you’re getting better hardware but is it really worth the extra $300? If you’re in the game for a pure Android experience then you’re probably better off with a Nexus 4 for now.
So what’s missing?
HTC recently confirmed to TechnoBuffalo — though it was fairly obvious — that the Google Edition won’t offer BlinkFeed, any form of Sense 5 (which means you’ll need to find something else to power that IR blaster), the Zoe snapshots or the live gallery. That means you can’t use one of our favorite features: the Zoe mode on the camera, which can be used to capture quick 3-second clips that can be combined with photos into a 30-second highlight reel. Beats Audio is still supported, though the phone will not display when it’s active in the status bar.
To be fair, you’re also going to miss out on a lot of the software features on the Galaxy S4 version, though Google and Samsung made it clear that it was going to be a pure Android device during Google I/O and HTC quickly joined in on the game today. We also prefer Sense 5 to Samsung’s user interface, so it seems like a bigger deal to us. And, playing devil’s advocate, you’re going to miss out on early Android updates with the original HTC One while the Google Edition will get those right away.
Again, it’s a developer device that runs pure Android so we weren’t expecting these features, and consumer choice is always a good thing. We just wanted to let you know what will be available and what won’t.