Google Play Edition (GPE) phones, if you didn’t know, are manufacturer branded phones equipped with “stock” Android rather than the typical manufacturer skins. For those who prefer Google’s version of Android over Samsung Touchwiz, HTC Sense, or other manufacturers’ modified versions of Android, these devices offer the opportunity to buy flagship hardware with stock Android.

The drawback is that these devices are available only through the Google Play Store, at full retail price. If you want a carrier subsidized phone, you’ll have to shop elsewhere. The Galaxy S4 Play Edition, for example, costs $649. With a two-year contract, the same phone is available for $49 from U.S. carriers. Similarly, the HTC One M8 GPE sells for $699 from the Play Store, but $199 with a subsidy. You also lose most of the special features that the manufacturers add to differentiate their phones. None of Samsung’s propritary apps, like S-Health, Smart Stay, etc. For some, that’s a plus, but others might consider it a disadvantage.

The GPE edition phones are only available for GSM carriers, like AT&T and T-Mobile,  so if you’re on Sprint, Verizon, or another CDMA carrier, you might want to stop reading here. On the flip side, these are all unlocked phones, and you can take them to any compatible carrier without being locked into a long term contract.

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Samsung offers a Google Play Edition version of the Galaxy S4, HTC  the ONE M7 and M8, and Sony several high-end phones.  But Samsung has not, to date, offered an S5 GPE. That may be about to change. @EVLeaks is reporting that one is in the works, and has shown an image of a Galaxy S5 with the stock Android UI instead of TouchWiz. And Google’s web site has a photo of a group of Android phones with an S5 running stock Android right in the middle.

devices

It does seem odd to have both hardware and software buttons, which leads us to wonder if these are just photoshop edits, but the One + One phone has both, and  it seems unlikely that Google would include a photoshopped image on their site.

Would you pay $700 for an unlocked, “pure Android” version of the S5? Or is this just too much money for what it offers?

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