Google Adds Stock-Android Smartphones - InformationWeek

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Mobile // Mobile Devices
09:10 AM

Google Adds Stock-Android Smartphones

With $599 version of HTC One, Google responds to demand for more smartphones that have the stock version of Android installed.

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Google announced that it will offer a stock-Android version of the HTC One. The device will go on sale June 26 and will be sold unlocked for $599. It can be used on either AT&T's or T-Mobile USA's networks. The device will not include HTC's Sense 5.0 user interface skin; instead, it will run a clean version of Android as seen on Google's Nexus-branded devices. The hardware will be unaltered.

This news follows an announcement made by Google earlier this month that it would offer a stock-Android version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. That GS4 will also be available June 26 for $649. It will ship without Samsung's TouchWiz user interface and associated services/applications.

Before Google announced these two devices, the only way to get a smartphone running a clean version of Android was to purchase a Nexus-branded smartphone directly from Google (or hack your handset). The most recent such device is the Nexus 4, which went on sale in November 2012. Google typically trots out one new Nexus device per year. Before the Nexus 4, which is made by LG, Google offered the Samsung-made Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S, and the HTC Nexus One.

[ What's up with Google's own Motorola brand? Read Motorola To Make Moto X Phone In Texas. ]

Clearly there is demand for smartphones that have the stock version of Android installed, and Google is responding. Though Google recently skipped the opportunity to roll out new Nexus gear at its I/O developer conference, this change in tack allows it to give customers what they want: the best hardware with the most up-to-date version of Android and no manufacturer or carrier bloatware.

As with the stock-Android Galaxy S4, people will be losing plenty of features if they decide to buy the stock-Android version of the HTC One.

For starters, HTC's camera software, including Zoe, will be absent. Current Analysis' Avi Greengart pointed out that the HTC One's 4-ultrapixel camera was designed with HTC's camera software and Zoe in mind. It is unclear how well the stock Android camera application will be able to put the One's camera hardware to use. HTC's BlinkFeed app will also be missing. BlinkFeed takes the device owner's Facebook and Twitter streams and intersperses them with news stories of the owner's choosing in a socialized reader app. For many, the trade-offs will be worth it.

This isn't to say that the Nexus program as we know it is dead. Google's Sundar Pichai remarked this week at the AllThingsD D11 conference, "The goal with Nexus was to push forward hardware with partners. That will continue as well."

In other words, we'll probably see a new Nexus smartphone sometime in October or November, but the choice of stock-Android smartphones will no longer be limited to one handset per year.

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