Jun 20 AT 3:05 PM Dustin Earley 66 Comments

With less than a week until retail, Google Edition phones seem stranger than ever

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Just six days from now, every Android user’s dream is going to come true. Or at least that’s what a very vocal minority wants you to think. On June 26, the two hottest Android phones available, the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, will be available directly from Google running bone stock Android. You would think this is huge news, and it is, but it doesn’t quite feel like it.

Think about it: die hard Android power-users have been asking for this for years now. Every time a phone comes out, the first thing the most vocal Android users, bloggers and hackers all say is something along the lines of, “If only this phone had stock Android! If only the updates were managed by Google!” I never thought I’d say this, but that’s what’s happening. Google is on the verge of selling totally unlocked, commitment-free Nexus-like devices from every major manufacturer. The Galaxy S4 GE, the HTC One GE, the LG Nexus 4 and hopefully sooner than later, the Sony Xperia Z GE and Motorola Xfon.

Where is the kind of hype that surrounded the Nexus 4? Where are the, “I can’t wait for this to come out” forum threads? Things seem eerily quiet, and I can’t put my finger on why.

Maybe it’s the price. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition will come in at a whopping $650. That’s $300 more than the Nexus 4. Yes, the hardware is superior to the Nexus 4. But is it nearly twice as expensive superior? The HTC One Google Edition will be $600 — still $250 more than the Nexus 4. Both of those prices are compared to the $350 16GB model Nexus 4. There is a cheaper 8GB model as well. The US may be ready for $300-$350 unlocked phones, but $650 is pushing it.

Maybe the majority of Android users like the extra features provided by Sense and TouchWiz. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: not everything included in the latest versions of TouchWiz and Sense are bad. Not even close. There are some very important features and optimizations that make the S4 and One attractive handsets. It’s not just about the display or camera anymore. In fact, we’d argue that software is more important than hardware at this point. TouchWiz and Sense do have a lot to offer.

Maybe people don’t know. Or care. Ask anyone who doesn’t know anything about technology if they know what the Galaxy S4 is. Chances are, they might actually say yes. Ask them about the HTC One, and they’re less likely to say yes. Ask them about the Nexus 4, and if they’re a T-Mobile user, there’s a small chance they’ll know what you’re talking about. Ask them about AOSP, stock Android, Google Edition devices and updates directly from Google, and they’ll think you’re speaking Swahili.

With the amount of effort, or lack thereof, Google has put into marketing the upcoming Google Edition phones, you’d think they don’t care whatsoever. Which makes you think, why? Why go through the effort of getting these phones made? It’s starting to look like Google will be lucky to sell 10,000 units of either device. Are they doing it just to say they did? Maybe so the vocal minority, and bloggers and hackers, will pipe down next time?

If you thought that Google Edition devices were confusing before, seeing how quiet things are surrounding the devices should have you questioning Google’s sanity a bit here. So long as they don’t affect Google’s ability to update their Nexus devices on time and don’t slow the pace of innovation we’re used to, there’s no harm. Still, even if it is business as usual, you have to wonder what Google is thinking. With the minimal amount of hype surrounding the Galaxy S4 GE and HTC One GE, maybe they’re thinking this was a bad idea after all.

Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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