Should I Get the New Google Edition Smartphones?
Google really shook the market with their latest announcement for the mobile industry. Rather than introducing a new Nexus smartphone as a successor to the aging Nexus 4, the company designed a new radical program that bridges the gap between Google’s ideal software and their OEM Partner’s ideal hardware.
The new Google Edition smartphones, namely the Stock Android loaded Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, are the first smartphones in this program. Apparently, Sony is also looking at a Google Edition device, but that is news for another time. For now, let’s evaluate this Google Edition smartphones and figure out if we really should be excited for it, and if we really should get one.
A Dream Finally Fulfilled?
As a community of Android users who love to Root our devices as well as install custom ROM, this is like a dream program. The Google Edition smartphones are running what we have always strived to achieve with ROMs like the CyanogenMod and the other AOSP based ROMs out there.
For years we have been trying to perfect the custom ROMs to run all the hardware of the device perfectly with open source built drivers and sources. Still, a common problem is that at one point or another something just doesn’t work such as Tethering and Bluetooth. We made do with these to maximize the speed of the device since stock Android is bloat free and definitely faster than OEM Skins.
Still, Stock Android is not quite like CyanogenMod. While Custom ROMs aim to build the best working stock Android experience, they also built a few additional code and tweaks that were meant to significantly boost the performance of the Android device. It also contains a few tweaks to the interface that Stock ROMs don’t have. With that in mind, is this a bust? Not necessarily.
A Perfect Building Block
When it comes to Custom ROMs and Rooting, the new Google Editions are perfect Building Blocks. Think about it. We have been having trouble perfecting the basic functions of Android. With the Google Edition, we have the blueprint of how to make it all work with help from Google’s vast resources. It is the basic foundation that we have often failed to perfect.
With the proper foundation in place, the only thing left to do is to actually improve the experience further. So, having a Google Edition smartphone doesn’t necessarily make AOSP based Custom ROMs useless for these devices. All it does is perfect it and make the whole process a bit easier. AOSP based Custom ROMs for these devices are going to rock so much more than others.
Of course, all this hinges on the fact that Google will be willing to shell out all the source codes necessary to build this ROM. If they change their mind, or if the OEMs get in the way and block access to other drivers like they did with their regular flagships, all this is pretty much moot. Unfortunately recent developments indicate that Google is not working alone.
Timely Updates? Maybe
As a device that runs pure Android from Google, you would expect that it will receive the same treatment as a Nexus device. In particular, we wanted to know if it will receive the same update speed as a regular Nexus. When this was questioned, Google revealed that it will have them as fast as possible, but it is not entirely up to them.
As it turns out, Google is still working with Samsung and HTC in building the ROMs for this device. That means that somewhere in the code there might be some proprietary drivers that Google cannot release the source for. In fact, a build of the latest Jelly Bean 4.3 ROM has been leaked from Samsung’s hands. For now, all we can trust is that Google will push them to update as fast as possible.
OEMs have evolved in the past year. One can say that Samsung started it all with the Samsung Galaxy S III. Rather than previous versions, which mostly introduced simple skins of Android, new functions were introduced.
Older versions had functionality that was generally the same but only with a different look which was meant to differentiate OEMs from each other. With the value added features that Samsung introduced, they started a revolution where OEMs now added more value to the smartphones by introducing new functions and features that were not included with the original Android code.
If you like these value added features found in the OEM builds, then you might miss them greatly when you move to a Google Edition build or to any AOSP based Custom ROM. IF that is not a problem for you, then by all means, go and get that Google Edition. It is bound to be faster and lighter than their skinned counterparts. Of course, in the future, people will figure out how to turn a regular Galaxy S4 and HTC One into a Google Edition smartphone. You can look forward to that when it happens if you already have a stock device.