Jun 26 AT 3:35 PM Dima Aryeh 25 Comments

With OEM-provided kernels, will Google Play edition devices receive Nexus-quick updates?


The Nexus line of devices provides the true Google experience. Not only do you get Android the way Google intended it, you also get the newest updates as fast as possible. When Google releases a new version of Android, you can be sure that your device will get it shortly.

When the Play Store editions of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One were announced, we assumed they would come with the full Nexus experience, including fast updates straight from Google. However, we don’t actually know that this will happen. So, what will be the state of updates for the Google Play edition devices?

First of all, we’ve already seen a messy situation starting. The Google Play edition devices come with the camera UI we saw in the Android 4.3 build, despite the fact that they run Android 4.2.2. These two devices have a newer Google-provided camera app than a Nexus device. Won’t Nexus owners be a little peeved?

Next, it seems that the kernels for the two new devices are not made by Google, but by the OEM. This means that future updates won’t depend solely on Google, but on the OEMs as well. This makes sense; you’d expect the OEM to make the best kernel for the hardware they designed (unlike a Nexus phone, where the hardware and software are designed together). But this would mean an extra delay while waiting for the OEM to build a proper kernel. Will Google provide the code before releasing the update to Nexus devices or release the code to the OEMs afterward like they have traditionally done?

We don’t know how this will pan out, but we’ll find out when the next version of Android comes along. If you want guaranteed updates as they come out, stick with your Nexus device. It’s pure, unadulterated Google and will stay that way. Google Play edition devices may get the updates at the same time, or they might lag behind significantly. Hopefully their status as stock Android devices will spur the OEMs to place emphasis on these devices, since that’s one of the reasons people would buy it in the first place. However, OEMs might want to focus on their consumer flagships more, which means these devices might fall behind.

Knowing that instant updates may not be guaranteed, would you still buy a Google Play edition device? Or are those updates irrelevant to you, and you’re just buying for the dev support and unlocked bootloaders? Tell us your thoughts!

Dima Aryeh is a Russian obsessed with all things tech. He does photography, is an avid phone modder (who uses an AT&T Galaxy Note II), a heavy gamer (both PC and 360), and an aspiring home mechanic. He is also an avid fan of music, especially power metal.

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