Manufacturers for years have differentiated Android by slathering Google’s OS in their respective skins. In the past, that meant sacrificing hardware speed for unneeded features—you can argue that’s still the case today, though things have improved dramatically thanks to Jelly Bean. Still, many consumers crave the experience of pure Android, and now two of the best handsets available on any platform come without any force fed skins whatsoever.
Samsung was first to announce a Galaxy S4 Google Play edition during Google I/O in May, and HTC quickly followed with the HTC One Google Play edition. There’s obvious demand for a more natural Android experience—especially from more fervent tech enthusiasts; it’s nice to see companies responding. Even though the S4 and One are good in their own right, with Sense and TouchWiz and all the other tweaks involved, offering a stock experience reaches a different crowd. Not without a hefty cost, however.
Both devices are currently available through Google Play now, with the Galaxy S4 going for $649 and the HTC One going for $599—definitely not cheap, but remember you’re not tied to a carrier contract. On that front, getting a stock experience means you’ll get quicker access to Android updates, which is a big point of contention for Android purists.
Are you getting one of the devices? I haven’t yet decided which one I’d rather get. What’s great is that neither is a bad choice—each has its own pros and cons. Today is a big day for Android and consumers as a whole.
The devices are expected to ship by July 9.