Jun 20 AT 3:05 PM Dustin Earley 66 Comments

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

htc-one-nexus-630

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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  • redraider133

    I feel like it’s only a small minority who even know/care about stock android. Most normal consumers are fine with the skins and also Are so used to buying phones on contract, they most likely haven’t heard about these since there hasn’t been much in terms of coverage/advertising.

    • dark_funk

      The expectation of on-contract phone pricing is absolutely the largest barrier to the GE phones becoming hits. If you could, for instance, go into a Verizon Wireless store or Best Buy and have your choice of the Galaxy IV or the Galaxy IV GE at the same price on contract, they would sell quite a few of these.

      As it is, they’re hitting a VERY small niche that is willing to pay top-dollar for off-contract phones with stock Android. Still, if something like this exists when my SGS3 contract runs out next year, I might jump to T-Mobile and pay the upfront cost for a top-end, unlocked, stock phone.

      But as Dustin points out, if the Nexus line is still priced like it is now, it’ll be a hard sell if my choices are $600 for a top-end phone or $350 for a nearly top-end phone.

    • Diego Alejandro Magnone De Barbieri

      In my country (Chile) most people don’t even know that they use android phone… only a few geeks..
      In my case, I have a Htc One and a N4, and there’s some things better in actual sense and many others in stock.
      If HTC release a RUU of stock I’ll be in troubles :)

    • Jedediah Sweetser

      It feels like the Stock Android experience is perhaps phasing out a bit. Ultimately why “I” wanted the stock android, was for fast updates. I said this before and I’ll say it again – Android updates are going to come slower and slower as the experience is getting more and more solid. Back in the day, we expected updates every few months as Android was growing, but Android 4 slowed all that down.

      What people used to dig android on, “Fractured OS” – is now phasing out as more phones per year come out with Android 4 and less come out with earlier versions.

      As Taylor has relentlessly purported though, getting a GE phone gives some people the freedom to get whatever carrier they want – and in some cases better pricing and reception. But for a guy like me, who lives in Orlando – Verizon is the only way to go. It’s on par with the cheaper smaller companies, and i get 4G everywhere i go without worries.

      One other thing – with all the coders out there giving people options to unlock and restock their phones, and with that process getting easier and easier – stock android out of the box isn’t as lucrative anymore. I remember a day when i had to spend an hour downloading hacked drivers for my PC and using crazy CAPCOM commands to boot load and side load ROMS. Today my ROM manager tells me when there’s an update, i hit one button and it updates over the air, foregoing my PC connection all together.

  • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

    The best thing about the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One is the camera experience. I would never go back to the stock camera app, when the major advantage of these devices, Android version updates, hardly matter anymore.

    • Jonathan

      Agreed, Camera apps on the are better than stock. I would say the contact apps are better than stock as well. As long as updates are being provided, there’s no clear advantage to stock. However, with that said non stock phones have too many carrier pre-installed apps which you can’t delete that are mind boggling.

    • Brandon Golway

      Agreed. I took TouchWiz off of my S4 and immediately missed the awesome camera software that Samsung includes.

    • vforvortex

      I dont think most people running 4.X+ will be singing the same tune about “android updates hardly matter anymore”, when google releases 5.0+ and it takes 6 months to a year for you to get that update. or even worse, your phone stops getting updates after 18months or so. I prefer knowing that when i buy a top end phone, it has the ability to stay relevant for 2-3 years. But thats just my opinion.

      • chris crisis

        actually, the way things are going at this point, Google is breaking off the major aspects of the ecosystem (think gmail/maps/keyboard) into standalone apps that they can update at will. Stuff that used to be baked directly into roms are now apps that can be updated directly. I wouldn’t doubt seeing a stadalone google launcher in the near future either.

        • vforvortex

          thats true too, but certain apps might require a newer software…for instance google now requires 4.1+ or newer. I guess time will tell. There isn’t really a wrong choice in these high end super phones.

    • dbareis

      They should be providing any required drivers and allow the camera apps etc to be downloaded from the market, I’m sure they could only allow that for specific devices)

  • Scott

    To me, the real benefit of the GE devices is the fact that there will be real AOSP images available to flash to current “locked” devices like the At&t HTC One (which I own). I am not spending 600+ on a device so being able to get a phone on contract ($99 bucks for the One when I bought it) and being able to unlock it (legally via HTC Dev) and flash a stock Android Rom to it is a HUGE deal. That is why I’m excited about it. I could care less about Google selling the devices via the Play Store…I just want the images so I can put whatever software I personally want on my phone. I don’t want to be stuck with Sense if I don’t want to be.

    Yes, I’m aware that there have been ways to get a mostly stock rom (cyanogen) in the past, but those are updated via Google and they have some other tweaks that don’t work “exactly” right with phones (I had cyanogen on my GS3 previously and it was a bit buggy).

    So yeah…I’m stoked that I can modify my current phone w/ stock images.

  • Dustin Earley

    It would be awesome if instead of Google selling the phones, they just provided a really easy way to convert already existing devices. I could totally get behind that.

    • da9el

      that sounds like a good idea, Dustin. it would make sense. most people don’t care about nexus devices and the people who do can just have it on their phone. i would for example :)

    • Scott

      There is, at least with the HTC One. They will unlock the phone for you and make it REALLY easy.

    • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

      I have been wishing for skins to be an optional download for the longest time. But I know it ain’t that easy to just say, “oh you want Touchwiz/Sense on your stock device? Here’s the apk!”

      But maybe you can get some features, like the camera apps, in separate apks? Might take work but it would make a lot of people happy. Well, maybe not a lot (since we are a minority), but your overall user base will be very happy.

      • masterpfa

        I remember my first Android Phone the HTC Hero. You had this choice to switch off HTC’s launcher and your phone ran stock Android (you lost all the Sense features or you could switch the HTC launcher back on whenever you desired.
        HTC also brought to the market HTC only apps.

        Now that was a simple idea then just a shame these manufacturers do not offer the same now.

        • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

          Now that would be perfect. I know you can choose what launcher your home button accesses (I run Nova) but since it’s running on top of TouchWiz I feel like it just won’t run as smoothly if you were able to run it on stock, with or without the option like you described. Very nice of HTC to do that.

  • ZzX44

    Or maybe only ~54% of consumer wireless subscribers can even use them on their network. CDMA represents a significant portion of the US consumer wireless market. I don’t believe any of these devices work with vzw or sprint (or their numerous mnvos). I’d love an unlocked device from Google but gsm coverage isn’t viable in the markets I’d use it in. I know I’m not the only one in this position either.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      You bring up a fair point, but that doesn’t explain why there’s no real buzz around these phones like there was for the Nexus 4 or any previous Nexus devices. Where’s the excitement?

      • ZzX44

        Pricing is big I’m sure. Delay of release in comparison to their flagship models is important. You could logically go as far as saying most of the people excited about stock probably already a have the phone and have it rooted for stock. From a marketing standpoint, these are innovators and early adopters. They already have the product they want therefore less excitement.

        It’s getting easier to root everyday it seems. Even if I could use it on CDMA, I know I’m not too excited about a GE model as I can root my existing S4 whenever I choose.

        Just my opinion/perspective.

      • slimx30

        for one, I think the price is what is keeping the hype down. Second, you have to think about the fact that these phones are not shipping with a brand new version of android. If these were releasing with a brand new version of android there would be more hype and demand. 350 for an unlocked phone with high end specs and a new version of android=hype/demand. A phone that has already been out for a few months and is releasing without a new version of android and is 650-700=less hype/demand.

    • Gunnar Lium

      Oh, and there’s a whole world outside of the US that also don’t have access to these phones, that might count for something too …

  • http://www.androidandme.com Brooks Barnard

    Couldn’t agree more Dustin. I think for the average consumer these Nexus Experience devices are silly and have no place. Part of me thinks that Google is giving people what people think they want, and I think those people will end up disappointed. However, the other part of me is thinking about what developers will be able to do with these powerful devices that are completely unlockable and developer friendly. I am excited to see what developers are able to do and come up with on these devices on AOSP. The devices aren’t for me, but we may ultimately see some cool results and advances on our own devices from this in the future.

  • alexanderharri3

    I believe they feel there is no need to market them, the entirety of people who would ever consider one already know about it from blogs like this one. Marketing is just throwing dollars away. It’s an option they’re providing with minimal cost to them. Win-Win for those not on CDMA.

  • Scott Eppler

    For me personally, it’s the price. I would love either of these phones in full stock but just can’t afford it right now. That being said, I agree with most of the other comments that most consumers probably just don’t care. And like alexanderharri3 said, the people who do care don’t really need any extra marketing to convince them.

  • Nate B.

    It will have a bigger impact when Android is updated and brings new and better features. Right now honestly Stock Android doesn’t contain anything as exciting or useful as Sense 5 or TouchWiz. Some of their futures may be a gimmick but it’s what makes the phone. Stock Android is sweet but what can you really do out of the box? The camera is pretty boring. Yea, you have some filters and panorama. That’s it though. I think Key Lime Pie ad future Android updates will help boost this.

  • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

    The people who get excited about Nexus devices don’t really care about stock Android, they simply want a device that’s been influenced by Google. They want the Nexus brand.

    I think people realize that an HTC one or Galaxy S4 running stock Android offers an inferior experience than what HTC and Samsung offer with their custom builds of Android. It’s the software which make these devices unique and appealing, not the hardware. Yes, HTC has that Ultrapixel camera sensor and BoomSound speakers with Beats Audio, but if you take away Sense you loose video highlights, object removal, bust shot move and HTC Zoe.

    Once you start using those features, they far outweigh the benefits of having a stock Android build that may get updated with a new feature that you may or may not use.

  • Brandon Golway

    These are great if you don’t want to or can’t root/unlock/S-Off your device but it would be kind of silly for me to drop $650 up front just to get vanilla Android rather than give T-Mobile $20/month and unlock it myself. I just want it to be released so we can have official Google ROMs to build off of instead of just the basic AOSP source code which needs to be modified here and there.

  • Aaron

    I assume it has more to do with giving Google a backdoor way to accelerate updates on the top-of-the-line devices, while simultaneously giving Android enthusiasts something they’ve been asking for for a long time. It’s got less to do with the number of GE devices they sell than to push fully-optimized updates to AOSP, at which point HTC and Samsung only have minimal work to do to graft their experiences on top of the core Android experience.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      based on how fast the ROM development community can get buggy versions of the latest Android update running on older devices, I doubt Samsung or HTC really need Google’s help.

  • cj100570

    The Nexus 4 is subsidized so it’s not an apples to apples comparison price wise. If Google wasn’t footing part of the bill it would have cost significantly more.

    • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

      Are you 100% sure about that? I’m not disagreeing with you but numerous i-Fix-it tear downs estimate phones to cost less than $200 for a manufacturer with their economies of scale. I don’t think there’s much, if any, subsidizing going on.

    • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

      They’re just not making that much money on them. But again, I don’t know for sure, would be interesting to know.

  • xaml

    “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.”

    The answer is simple, since it took so long to happen, the majority of those who demanded a skinless (whops) Android have either settled with the phone they were using or applied a custom firmware and went along investing in powerful phones, which is not something you just toss aside to buy such a Google edition phone the minute it comes out. It will be the phones after this wave and the commitment voiced by Google that will probably see interest come into fruition.

  • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

    I totally understand the WTF-ness in regards to the Nexus devices being priced at $300-350 and these GE devices at $600+, but you gotta remember what the carriers are selling them for.

    I just wish Google would push these phones out at sub $500, like $400-450 and destroy the model of the traditional carrier. Make people see the benefit of actually owning their own phone and how it’s cheaper in the long run. It would be sweet if Google offered these devices at $400 versus the carriers at $200+ more for full retail price. Sure, the OEMs might not make as much profit but they’ll still be selling phones… and they might actually make more profit because more people might upgrade/replace their phones more regularly when we move away from the contract and subsidy model.

    • http://htcsource.com Nick Gray

      Why would Google be interested in breaking the traditional carrier model? How would they benefit?

      If the manufacturers lowered the prices to $400-$450, they would forfeit 60-70% of their profit margin. That’s a tough sell when Samsung is currently the only OEM that’s making a sizable profit by selling Android phones.

      • http://www.infotainmentempire.com pekosROB

        I think they would actually sell more phones, honestly. And Google may not want to break the traditional carrier model (my previous comments were more wishful thinking, like “I wish they would do this so I can pay less” more so than what is realistic), but if they could drive the overall MSRP of a phone on a carrier due to their pricing, then more Android devices could be sold… of course we’d really be trading one device for another, so in terms of marketshare it might not actually rise or fall, but at least people may buy phones more frequently. I know I certainly would.

        The problem with my thinking is it’s probably a small minority of us that would care to buy phones this frequently – people commenting on this blog for example. :-)

  • Matthew

    I think there is a minimal amount of Hype about it because almost every phone can have a near stock android Custom ROM put on their phone by rooting it. It will be really nice to have updates as soon as there is a new version available, but that is not really enough to make me pick one over the other.

    I feel if I chose GE over Sense with the HTC One I wouldn’t be using the phone the way it was designed, I was really excited at first, but now I feel like it may be a bit of a distraction for Google.

    Still I like the idea of GE phones and I have a friend who says he is going to get the Galaxy S4 GE so I know some people will be buying.

  • Janson

    I’m interested in the GE HTC One because I’ve liked HTC phone hardware but hated the OS update cycle. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough communication from HTC or Google about what will be included with the phone. And part of this is that I don’t understand the relationship of HTC Zoe and the other Sense apps to the OS. Are they built into Sense or are they apps that could be easily made available on the GE running on stock but that HTC wants to hold back to support Sense? Clearly the hardware drivers are not Sense-dependent (I doubt they would have rewritten them). Is it just that sense interaction paradigm conflicts with stock? If that’s all it is, I’ll be able to load all the special sense apps shortly after GE release. Any clarification on these points is welcome.

  • David Coffey

    If stock Android had a camera similar to an HTC one (insert variant here), it would be flawless. Love my aokp nexus 4, but i sure as shit miss my HTC one x camera.

  • uknowme

    Honestly I’m just interested in what the devs are going to do with these. One developer on XDA just put Sense on the HTC First so there are possibilities.

  • URABUS0924

    I don’t know why every keeps saying nothing beats Vanilla Android. I don’t find stock Android to be a very good user experience. It is so bare bones, for me it’s not usable. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care for either TouchWiz or Sense. I have been using AOKP as my ROM of choice on all my phones and tablets. AOSP based ROMs like AOKP and CM are much more usable than bone stock Android. If I were to get either one of these Google Edition phones, I would be flashing AOKP or CM or Paranoid Android or some other ROM as soon as they become available. So for me, there would be no point in these Google versions. I would be just as well served as getting a normal version, rooting it, and flashing my ROM of choice. Only thing different would be I would have a subsidized price instead of paying $600+ up front.

  • Arthur

    I have a theory regarding why excitement is nowhere near as apparent as with a Nexus device aside from the full retail prices. With each new Nexus device, going off history, has come with a new version of Android, Nexus S was Gingerbread, Nexus 4 was Jellybean, next Nexus this fall will be Key Lime Pie if history repeats itself.

    For die-hard stock Android fans who have had the chance to buy a Nexus 4 for over 6 months now, in most cases the thought of a stock running flagship device selling for retail cost is nothing that special. It doesn’t introduce anything new as far as features. Jellybean has been out for over 6 months, yes the hardware is nicer than the Nexus 4 but in most cases doesn’t justify the premium you will pay over a Nexus 4.

    Come fall, October/November, we will see the same level of excitement if not more around the next Nexus as we did the previous. The reason for this is that as many fans as HTC and Samsung or any other vendor have, it will never generate the level of excitement for us techies as what Google has in store for the next Nexus, not only do we drool over what the next hardware will be like but what the next Android version will be.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • lou2cool88

    I think it’s a combination of things. First, as mentioned above, price is definitely a factor. Second, availability is a problem since it’s only GSM phones. Third, even though I hate the look of Sense and Touchwiz, they add features users like. This is especially true given things such as HTC One’s Ultapixel enhancements and features like the Zoes.

    However, The white S4 looks so good in vanilla…

  • ihatefanboys

    I think theres no movement or interest in the Stock HTC ONE mainly because HTC said theyre going to make the Stock experience available for current ONE users. As for the GS4 , who knows. These people that want the stock experience dont have money problems, they regularly sell their current phones on ebay and are always bragging about how theyre gonna buy unlocked phones at $400 to $600. So price definitely is not the problem

  • Dr0me

    I think it also has to do with that fact that a lot of the people who wanted a HTC One or Galaxy S4 with stock have already purchased one of skinned versions of those phones. I was itching to get rid of my Nexus 4 when the One came out but I had no idea a stock model would be announced months later. They should have announced the GE edition along side the normal to give the consumer choice.

    I am EXTREMELY excited for the GE HTC One to come out so that I can flash the RUU on my phone but I already own a HTC One so will not be buying a GE model. If this had launched along side the Sense version I would have likely purchased the GE instead.

  • http://www.youtube.com/emogamer Christopher Chavez

    Mark my words, you wont see HTC or Samsung doing this again next year. This was merely to shut up everyone who demanded stock Android devices, but can’t put their money where their mouth is.

    • Mark Long

      I absolutely agree. I’ll go one further. These devices will be complete and total failures. After the initial run from the very small amount of people wanting stock you won’t hear about these devices anymore.

  • Chris

    For me the Google Edition phones aren’t a “Nexus” experience. I like the virtual buttons on the Nexus line. I just ordered a Nexus 4 yesterday. I would have liked an HTC One or GS4, but I HATE the button layouts. For me, paying twice as much for a device that is going to annoy me, isn’t worth it. I’ll be happy with my N4.

  • Pravas

    This is great news. Now we do not have to continuously flash our devices to get the latest android.

  • donger

    Stock Android phones are simply amazing.

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

    I think I have a theory of why Google is doing this — remember when asked about the slow update problem, we were given an answer that they recognized it and they had some ideas of how to lessen such pain (I don’t think we were ever given the word “fix”.) I think this is it. By making a Google version of, arguably, the 2 most popular and important flagship Android phones of 2013, Google does and will be doing most of the ground work of porting AOSP Android to those 2 phones. So, when Samsung and HTC needs to update the 2 phones to, say, Android 5.0. All they need to do is to work on their own layer of customization. It’s not like Google is doing 100% of the work, but every bit of help from Google will help, since in the past, the OEM will have to wait until the Android source is released before they can start their works.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t even solve half of the problem, because OEM is actually becoming more proactive in updating their phones. It’s the carriers that’s slowing the update down. Take the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon as an example. Google is handling its updates, but the updates are often released months after the non-carrier branded version.

  • james

    The reason is, they’re not international phones (at least the google edition s4). And they are based off an already existing phone so there’s much less hype as they sort of look like half hearted release and not something completely new.

    I could be tempted to get a google edition s4 if it were international, but most users already went for a regular s4

    TL:DR

    These phones aren’t bullet point releases, they’re just sub bullet points.

  • Gavin

    I think its a genius move by Google to open the door for releasing stock android on the upcoming Motorola line up. They can’t be seen as giving Moto an advantage by not offering the other players what will be freely given to Googles own. Note how the rumors surrounding the MotoX point to a midranger running stock android. Another strategic move so as not to spook the other OEMS. Google couldn’t give a rats whether these GE phones fly off the shelf or not what they’ve essentially done is offered them the key to Google’s vision for Motorola. Pure genius!

  • Wicked

    No, the real is because they only offer this for now in the US, make it worldwide and see the response

  • Wicked

    No, the real reason is because they only offer this for now in the US, make it worldwide and see the response

    And who wants the laggy and buggy touchwiz Ui? If i have a choice now I will put stock Android to my s3 to get rid of all the useless bloats

  • bob

    I need to buy an off contract phone because I don’t want to give up my unlimited data on verizon. I really hope that the price comes down or the Google Moto X Phone comes out soon. My current phone is really starting to slow down

  • Tetracycloide

    I remain perplexed by the continued vigor of this argument. What’s stopping third parties or the device makers themselves from offering the same software features in stand-alone apps rather than attached directly to the customization of the OS?

    • Mike Reid

      Because it requires a lot of difficult reverse engineering work which must be repeated on each phone/platform.

      I’m the developer of the Spirit FM Radio app, mostly for custom ROM users and it’s a HUGE amount of work. And that’s part of the reason why I have had virtually no paid app competition in this nice for over 2 year now.

      I just bought an HTC One, now running CM, and the next release of Spirit FM will support AOSP ROMs on the One, including the coming Google version.

      Next up: somebody to mod, port or write apps for the IR, the Camera features and a Beats controller. (But don’t hold your breath.)

  • Mark Long

    It is tech writers and tech enthusiasts who want these devices and even they aren’t talking much about it. It is a very very small amount of people craving these Nexus type devices and there is virtually zero chance these over priced bare bones androids sell well. They won’t. The same people asking for these phones are the same people who root, mod and install custom roms on their phones and always have the latest version anyway, so these devices aren’t really needed by even those folks. People in general buy devices for the features they possess, be it Touchwiz or Sense or whatever. Stock android is not really appealing to Joe Consumer and I for one, cannot wait for the complete failures these phones will be. Stock is all these threads wanna talk about no matter what the topic was supposed to be. Maybe with the colossal failure their precious stock devices are getting ready to experience they will get over it and just do their rooting custom Rom thing and realize the general public want value add features on their phones.

  • chrisbd1

    For me it’s all about price. I’m fine under $400. I can live with stock camera on the HTC One for $400. Hell, I’d buy it on the first day at that price. $600? Not gonna happen. If the X Phone wows me enough and is priced right, I can see myself selling my N4 and jumping.

  • Smvte

    Google should just release a stock launcher and a couple of more stock apps

  • Jonah

    The option for users to turn their One or S4 into Google edition phones is really all that was needed. I never saw the point in releasing a phone to Google play for 600+ dollars just to be bone stock when more than likely there will we a software work around that should be flashable

  • RLX

    I’m very excited about the Google Edition devices. That said, I will not be compeled to purchase one of the devices. However, this does make me hopeful that more devices will get this treatment, even though I cannot contribute to this program’s initial success.

    Because I want a Phablet. Prior to this program being announced i had already resolved that my next device would be a Phablet. I’m just simply tired of carting my Gnex & Nexus7.

    I want the option of a Google Edition Note3, HTC One Max, or Sony Xepria ZU. That is what it will take for me to open my wallet and drop $600 – $700. I won’t hold my breath, and with the above mentioned devices fast approaching market, I don’t think this pilot will be far enough along to compel them to include those options in their offerings.

    Thanks,
    My2¢

  • imutau

    More excited by getting one of these flag ship phones in the fall when I can buy it used for half the price on EBay or get a comparable Nexus or Motorola phone.

  1. I feel like it’s only a small minority who even know/care about stock android. Most normal consumers are fine with the skins and also Are so used to buying phones on contract, they most likely haven’t heard about these since there hasn’t been much in terms of coverage/advertising.

    • The expectation of on-contract phone pricing is absolutely the largest barrier to the GE phones becoming hits. If you could, for instance, go into a Verizon Wireless store or Best Buy and have your choice of the Galaxy IV or the Galaxy IV GE at the same price on contract, they would sell quite a few of these.

      As it is, they’re hitting a VERY small niche that is willing to pay top-dollar for off-contract phones with stock Android. Still, if something like this exists when my SGS3 contract runs out next year, I might jump to T-Mobile and pay the upfront cost for a top-end, unlocked, stock phone.

      But as Dustin points out, if the Nexus line is still priced like it is now, it’ll be a hard sell if my choices are $600 for a top-end phone or $350 for a nearly top-end phone.

    • Diego Alejandro Magnone De BarbieriGuest 2 years ago

      In my country (Chile) most people don’t even know that they use android phone… only a few geeks..
      In my case, I have a Htc One and a N4, and there’s some things better in actual sense and many others in stock.
      If HTC release a RUU of stock I’ll be in troubles :)

    • It feels like the Stock Android experience is perhaps phasing out a bit. Ultimately why “I” wanted the stock android, was for fast updates. I said this before and I’ll say it again – Android updates are going to come slower and slower as the experience is getting more and more solid. Back in the day, we expected updates every few months as Android was growing, but Android 4 slowed all that down.

      What people used to dig android on, “Fractured OS” – is now phasing out as more phones per year come out with Android 4 and less come out with earlier versions.

      As Taylor has relentlessly purported though, getting a GE phone gives some people the freedom to get whatever carrier they want – and in some cases better pricing and reception. But for a guy like me, who lives in Orlando – Verizon is the only way to go. It’s on par with the cheaper smaller companies, and i get 4G everywhere i go without worries.

      One other thing – with all the coders out there giving people options to unlock and restock their phones, and with that process getting easier and easier – stock android out of the box isn’t as lucrative anymore. I remember a day when i had to spend an hour downloading hacked drivers for my PC and using crazy CAPCOM commands to boot load and side load ROMS. Today my ROM manager tells me when there’s an update, i hit one button and it updates over the air, foregoing my PC connection all together.

  2. The best thing about the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and the HTC One is the camera experience. I would never go back to the stock camera app, when the major advantage of these devices, Android version updates, hardly matter anymore.

    • JonathanGuest 2 years ago

      Agreed, Camera apps on the are better than stock. I would say the contact apps are better than stock as well. As long as updates are being provided, there’s no clear advantage to stock. However, with that said non stock phones have too many carrier pre-installed apps which you can’t delete that are mind boggling.

    • Brandon GolwayGuest 2 years ago

      Agreed. I took TouchWiz off of my S4 and immediately missed the awesome camera software that Samsung includes.

    • I dont think most people running 4.X+ will be singing the same tune about “android updates hardly matter anymore”, when google releases 5.0+ and it takes 6 months to a year for you to get that update. or even worse, your phone stops getting updates after 18months or so. I prefer knowing that when i buy a top end phone, it has the ability to stay relevant for 2-3 years. But thats just my opinion.

      • chris crisisGuest 2 years ago

        actually, the way things are going at this point, Google is breaking off the major aspects of the ecosystem (think gmail/maps/keyboard) into standalone apps that they can update at will. Stuff that used to be baked directly into roms are now apps that can be updated directly. I wouldn’t doubt seeing a stadalone google launcher in the near future either.

        • thats true too, but certain apps might require a newer software…for instance google now requires 4.1+ or newer. I guess time will tell. There isn’t really a wrong choice in these high end super phones.

    • dbareisGuest 2 years ago

      They should be providing any required drivers and allow the camera apps etc to be downloaded from the market, I’m sure they could only allow that for specific devices)

  3. ScottGuest 2 years ago

    To me, the real benefit of the GE devices is the fact that there will be real AOSP images available to flash to current “locked” devices like the At&t HTC One (which I own). I am not spending 600+ on a device so being able to get a phone on contract ($99 bucks for the One when I bought it) and being able to unlock it (legally via HTC Dev) and flash a stock Android Rom to it is a HUGE deal. That is why I’m excited about it. I could care less about Google selling the devices via the Play Store…I just want the images so I can put whatever software I personally want on my phone. I don’t want to be stuck with Sense if I don’t want to be.

    Yes, I’m aware that there have been ways to get a mostly stock rom (cyanogen) in the past, but those are updated via Google and they have some other tweaks that don’t work “exactly” right with phones (I had cyanogen on my GS3 previously and it was a bit buggy).

    So yeah…I’m stoked that I can modify my current phone w/ stock images.

  4. It would be awesome if instead of Google selling the phones, they just provided a really easy way to convert already existing devices. I could totally get behind that.

    • that sounds like a good idea, Dustin. it would make sense. most people don’t care about nexus devices and the people who do can just have it on their phone. i would for example :)

    • ScottGuest 2 years ago

      There is, at least with the HTC One. They will unlock the phone for you and make it REALLY easy.

    • I have been wishing for skins to be an optional download for the longest time. But I know it ain’t that easy to just say, “oh you want Touchwiz/Sense on your stock device? Here’s the apk!”

      But maybe you can get some features, like the camera apps, in separate apks? Might take work but it would make a lot of people happy. Well, maybe not a lot (since we are a minority), but your overall user base will be very happy.

      • I remember my first Android Phone the HTC Hero. You had this choice to switch off HTC’s launcher and your phone ran stock Android (you lost all the Sense features or you could switch the HTC launcher back on whenever you desired.
        HTC also brought to the market HTC only apps.

        Now that was a simple idea then just a shame these manufacturers do not offer the same now.

        • Now that would be perfect. I know you can choose what launcher your home button accesses (I run Nova) but since it’s running on top of TouchWiz I feel like it just won’t run as smoothly if you were able to run it on stock, with or without the option like you described. Very nice of HTC to do that.

  5. Or maybe only ~54% of consumer wireless subscribers can even use them on their network. CDMA represents a significant portion of the US consumer wireless market. I don’t believe any of these devices work with vzw or sprint (or their numerous mnvos). I’d love an unlocked device from Google but gsm coverage isn’t viable in the markets I’d use it in. I know I’m not the only one in this position either.

    • You bring up a fair point, but that doesn’t explain why there’s no real buzz around these phones like there was for the Nexus 4 or any previous Nexus devices. Where’s the excitement?

      • Pricing is big I’m sure. Delay of release in comparison to their flagship models is important. You could logically go as far as saying most of the people excited about stock probably already a have the phone and have it rooted for stock. From a marketing standpoint, these are innovators and early adopters. They already have the product they want therefore less excitement.

        It’s getting easier to root everyday it seems. Even if I could use it on CDMA, I know I’m not too excited about a GE model as I can root my existing S4 whenever I choose.

        Just my opinion/perspective.

      • for one, I think the price is what is keeping the hype down. Second, you have to think about the fact that these phones are not shipping with a brand new version of android. If these were releasing with a brand new version of android there would be more hype and demand. 350 for an unlocked phone with high end specs and a new version of android=hype/demand. A phone that has already been out for a few months and is releasing without a new version of android and is 650-700=less hype/demand.

    • Gunnar LiumGuest 2 years ago

      Oh, and there’s a whole world outside of the US that also don’t have access to these phones, that might count for something too …

  6. Couldn’t agree more Dustin. I think for the average consumer these Nexus Experience devices are silly and have no place. Part of me thinks that Google is giving people what people think they want, and I think those people will end up disappointed. However, the other part of me is thinking about what developers will be able to do with these powerful devices that are completely unlockable and developer friendly. I am excited to see what developers are able to do and come up with on these devices on AOSP. The devices aren’t for me, but we may ultimately see some cool results and advances on our own devices from this in the future.

  7. I believe they feel there is no need to market them, the entirety of people who would ever consider one already know about it from blogs like this one. Marketing is just throwing dollars away. It’s an option they’re providing with minimal cost to them. Win-Win for those not on CDMA.

  8. For me personally, it’s the price. I would love either of these phones in full stock but just can’t afford it right now. That being said, I agree with most of the other comments that most consumers probably just don’t care. And like alexanderharri3 said, the people who do care don’t really need any extra marketing to convince them.

  9. It will have a bigger impact when Android is updated and brings new and better features. Right now honestly Stock Android doesn’t contain anything as exciting or useful as Sense 5 or TouchWiz. Some of their futures may be a gimmick but it’s what makes the phone. Stock Android is sweet but what can you really do out of the box? The camera is pretty boring. Yea, you have some filters and panorama. That’s it though. I think Key Lime Pie ad future Android updates will help boost this.

  10. The people who get excited about Nexus devices don’t really care about stock Android, they simply want a device that’s been influenced by Google. They want the Nexus brand.

    I think people realize that an HTC one or Galaxy S4 running stock Android offers an inferior experience than what HTC and Samsung offer with their custom builds of Android. It’s the software which make these devices unique and appealing, not the hardware. Yes, HTC has that Ultrapixel camera sensor and BoomSound speakers with Beats Audio, but if you take away Sense you loose video highlights, object removal, bust shot move and HTC Zoe.

    Once you start using those features, they far outweigh the benefits of having a stock Android build that may get updated with a new feature that you may or may not use.

  11. Brandon GolwayGuest 2 years ago

    These are great if you don’t want to or can’t root/unlock/S-Off your device but it would be kind of silly for me to drop $650 up front just to get vanilla Android rather than give T-Mobile $20/month and unlock it myself. I just want it to be released so we can have official Google ROMs to build off of instead of just the basic AOSP source code which needs to be modified here and there.

  12. AaronGuest 2 years ago

    I assume it has more to do with giving Google a backdoor way to accelerate updates on the top-of-the-line devices, while simultaneously giving Android enthusiasts something they’ve been asking for for a long time. It’s got less to do with the number of GE devices they sell than to push fully-optimized updates to AOSP, at which point HTC and Samsung only have minimal work to do to graft their experiences on top of the core Android experience.

    • based on how fast the ROM development community can get buggy versions of the latest Android update running on older devices, I doubt Samsung or HTC really need Google’s help.

  13. The Nexus 4 is subsidized so it’s not an apples to apples comparison price wise. If Google wasn’t footing part of the bill it would have cost significantly more.

    • Are you 100% sure about that? I’m not disagreeing with you but numerous i-Fix-it tear downs estimate phones to cost less than $200 for a manufacturer with their economies of scale. I don’t think there’s much, if any, subsidizing going on.

    • They’re just not making that much money on them. But again, I don’t know for sure, would be interesting to know.

  14. xamlGuest 2 years ago

    “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.”

    The answer is simple, since it took so long to happen, the majority of those who demanded a skinless (whops) Android have either settled with the phone they were using or applied a custom firmware and went along investing in powerful phones, which is not something you just toss aside to buy such a Google edition phone the minute it comes out. It will be the phones after this wave and the commitment voiced by Google that will probably see interest come into fruition.

  15. I totally understand the WTF-ness in regards to the Nexus devices being priced at $300-350 and these GE devices at $600+, but you gotta remember what the carriers are selling them for.

    I just wish Google would push these phones out at sub $500, like $400-450 and destroy the model of the traditional carrier. Make people see the benefit of actually owning their own phone and how it’s cheaper in the long run. It would be sweet if Google offered these devices at $400 versus the carriers at $200+ more for full retail price. Sure, the OEMs might not make as much profit but they’ll still be selling phones… and they might actually make more profit because more people might upgrade/replace their phones more regularly when we move away from the contract and subsidy model.

    • Why would Google be interested in breaking the traditional carrier model? How would they benefit?

      If the manufacturers lowered the prices to $400-$450, they would forfeit 60-70% of their profit margin. That’s a tough sell when Samsung is currently the only OEM that’s making a sizable profit by selling Android phones.

      • I think they would actually sell more phones, honestly. And Google may not want to break the traditional carrier model (my previous comments were more wishful thinking, like “I wish they would do this so I can pay less” more so than what is realistic), but if they could drive the overall MSRP of a phone on a carrier due to their pricing, then more Android devices could be sold… of course we’d really be trading one device for another, so in terms of marketshare it might not actually rise or fall, but at least people may buy phones more frequently. I know I certainly would.

        The problem with my thinking is it’s probably a small minority of us that would care to buy phones this frequently – people commenting on this blog for example. :-)

  16. I think there is a minimal amount of Hype about it because almost every phone can have a near stock android Custom ROM put on their phone by rooting it. It will be really nice to have updates as soon as there is a new version available, but that is not really enough to make me pick one over the other.

    I feel if I chose GE over Sense with the HTC One I wouldn’t be using the phone the way it was designed, I was really excited at first, but now I feel like it may be a bit of a distraction for Google.

    Still I like the idea of GE phones and I have a friend who says he is going to get the Galaxy S4 GE so I know some people will be buying.

  17. JansonGuest 2 years ago

    I’m interested in the GE HTC One because I’ve liked HTC phone hardware but hated the OS update cycle. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been enough communication from HTC or Google about what will be included with the phone. And part of this is that I don’t understand the relationship of HTC Zoe and the other Sense apps to the OS. Are they built into Sense or are they apps that could be easily made available on the GE running on stock but that HTC wants to hold back to support Sense? Clearly the hardware drivers are not Sense-dependent (I doubt they would have rewritten them). Is it just that sense interaction paradigm conflicts with stock? If that’s all it is, I’ll be able to load all the special sense apps shortly after GE release. Any clarification on these points is welcome.

  18. David CoffeyGuest 2 years ago

    If stock Android had a camera similar to an HTC one (insert variant here), it would be flawless. Love my aokp nexus 4, but i sure as shit miss my HTC one x camera.

  19. Honestly I’m just interested in what the devs are going to do with these. One developer on XDA just put Sense on the HTC First so there are possibilities.

  20. URABUS0924Guest 2 years ago

    I don’t know why every keeps saying nothing beats Vanilla Android. I don’t find stock Android to be a very good user experience. It is so bare bones, for me it’s not usable. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care for either TouchWiz or Sense. I have been using AOKP as my ROM of choice on all my phones and tablets. AOSP based ROMs like AOKP and CM are much more usable than bone stock Android. If I were to get either one of these Google Edition phones, I would be flashing AOKP or CM or Paranoid Android or some other ROM as soon as they become available. So for me, there would be no point in these Google versions. I would be just as well served as getting a normal version, rooting it, and flashing my ROM of choice. Only thing different would be I would have a subsidized price instead of paying $600+ up front.

  21. ArthurGuest 2 years ago

    I have a theory regarding why excitement is nowhere near as apparent as with a Nexus device aside from the full retail prices. With each new Nexus device, going off history, has come with a new version of Android, Nexus S was Gingerbread, Nexus 4 was Jellybean, next Nexus this fall will be Key Lime Pie if history repeats itself.

    For die-hard stock Android fans who have had the chance to buy a Nexus 4 for over 6 months now, in most cases the thought of a stock running flagship device selling for retail cost is nothing that special. It doesn’t introduce anything new as far as features. Jellybean has been out for over 6 months, yes the hardware is nicer than the Nexus 4 but in most cases doesn’t justify the premium you will pay over a Nexus 4.

    Come fall, October/November, we will see the same level of excitement if not more around the next Nexus as we did the previous. The reason for this is that as many fans as HTC and Samsung or any other vendor have, it will never generate the level of excitement for us techies as what Google has in store for the next Nexus, not only do we drool over what the next hardware will be like but what the next Android version will be.

    Just my 2 cents.

  22. I think it’s a combination of things. First, as mentioned above, price is definitely a factor. Second, availability is a problem since it’s only GSM phones. Third, even though I hate the look of Sense and Touchwiz, they add features users like. This is especially true given things such as HTC One’s Ultapixel enhancements and features like the Zoes.

    However, The white S4 looks so good in vanilla…

  23. I think theres no movement or interest in the Stock HTC ONE mainly because HTC said theyre going to make the Stock experience available for current ONE users. As for the GS4 , who knows. These people that want the stock experience dont have money problems, they regularly sell their current phones on ebay and are always bragging about how theyre gonna buy unlocked phones at $400 to $600. So price definitely is not the problem

  24. Dr0meGuest 2 years ago

    I think it also has to do with that fact that a lot of the people who wanted a HTC One or Galaxy S4 with stock have already purchased one of skinned versions of those phones. I was itching to get rid of my Nexus 4 when the One came out but I had no idea a stock model would be announced months later. They should have announced the GE edition along side the normal to give the consumer choice.

    I am EXTREMELY excited for the GE HTC One to come out so that I can flash the RUU on my phone but I already own a HTC One so will not be buying a GE model. If this had launched along side the Sense version I would have likely purchased the GE instead.

  25. Mark my words, you wont see HTC or Samsung doing this again next year. This was merely to shut up everyone who demanded stock Android devices, but can’t put their money where their mouth is.

    • Mark LongGuest 2 years ago

      I absolutely agree. I’ll go one further. These devices will be complete and total failures. After the initial run from the very small amount of people wanting stock you won’t hear about these devices anymore.

  26. ChrisGuest 2 years ago

    For me the Google Edition phones aren’t a “Nexus” experience. I like the virtual buttons on the Nexus line. I just ordered a Nexus 4 yesterday. I would have liked an HTC One or GS4, but I HATE the button layouts. For me, paying twice as much for a device that is going to annoy me, isn’t worth it. I’ll be happy with my N4.

  27. This is great news. Now we do not have to continuously flash our devices to get the latest android.

  28. Stock Android phones are simply amazing.

  29. I think I have a theory of why Google is doing this — remember when asked about the slow update problem, we were given an answer that they recognized it and they had some ideas of how to lessen such pain (I don’t think we were ever given the word “fix”.) I think this is it. By making a Google version of, arguably, the 2 most popular and important flagship Android phones of 2013, Google does and will be doing most of the ground work of porting AOSP Android to those 2 phones. So, when Samsung and HTC needs to update the 2 phones to, say, Android 5.0. All they need to do is to work on their own layer of customization. It’s not like Google is doing 100% of the work, but every bit of help from Google will help, since in the past, the OEM will have to wait until the Android source is released before they can start their works.

    Unfortunately, that doesn’t even solve half of the problem, because OEM is actually becoming more proactive in updating their phones. It’s the carriers that’s slowing the update down. Take the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon as an example. Google is handling its updates, but the updates are often released months after the non-carrier branded version.

  30. jamesGuest 2 years ago

    The reason is, they’re not international phones (at least the google edition s4). And they are based off an already existing phone so there’s much less hype as they sort of look like half hearted release and not something completely new.

    I could be tempted to get a google edition s4 if it were international, but most users already went for a regular s4

    TL:DR

    These phones aren’t bullet point releases, they’re just sub bullet points.

  31. GavinGuest 2 years ago

    I think its a genius move by Google to open the door for releasing stock android on the upcoming Motorola line up. They can’t be seen as giving Moto an advantage by not offering the other players what will be freely given to Googles own. Note how the rumors surrounding the MotoX point to a midranger running stock android. Another strategic move so as not to spook the other OEMS. Google couldn’t give a rats whether these GE phones fly off the shelf or not what they’ve essentially done is offered them the key to Google’s vision for Motorola. Pure genius!

  32. WickedGuest 2 years ago

    No, the real is because they only offer this for now in the US, make it worldwide and see the response

  33. WickedGuest 2 years ago

    No, the real reason is because they only offer this for now in the US, make it worldwide and see the response

    And who wants the laggy and buggy touchwiz Ui? If i have a choice now I will put stock Android to my s3 to get rid of all the useless bloats

  34. bobGuest 2 years ago

    I need to buy an off contract phone because I don’t want to give up my unlimited data on verizon. I really hope that the price comes down or the Google Moto X Phone comes out soon. My current phone is really starting to slow down

  35. TetracycloideGuest 2 years ago

    I remain perplexed by the continued vigor of this argument. What’s stopping third parties or the device makers themselves from offering the same software features in stand-alone apps rather than attached directly to the customization of the OS?

    • Mike ReidGuest 2 years ago

      Because it requires a lot of difficult reverse engineering work which must be repeated on each phone/platform.

      I’m the developer of the Spirit FM Radio app, mostly for custom ROM users and it’s a HUGE amount of work. And that’s part of the reason why I have had virtually no paid app competition in this nice for over 2 year now.

      I just bought an HTC One, now running CM, and the next release of Spirit FM will support AOSP ROMs on the One, including the coming Google version.

      Next up: somebody to mod, port or write apps for the IR, the Camera features and a Beats controller. (But don’t hold your breath.)

  36. Mark LongGuest 2 years ago

    It is tech writers and tech enthusiasts who want these devices and even they aren’t talking much about it. It is a very very small amount of people craving these Nexus type devices and there is virtually zero chance these over priced bare bones androids sell well. They won’t. The same people asking for these phones are the same people who root, mod and install custom roms on their phones and always have the latest version anyway, so these devices aren’t really needed by even those folks. People in general buy devices for the features they possess, be it Touchwiz or Sense or whatever. Stock android is not really appealing to Joe Consumer and I for one, cannot wait for the complete failures these phones will be. Stock is all these threads wanna talk about no matter what the topic was supposed to be. Maybe with the colossal failure their precious stock devices are getting ready to experience they will get over it and just do their rooting custom Rom thing and realize the general public want value add features on their phones.

  37. chrisbd1Guest 2 years ago

    For me it’s all about price. I’m fine under $400. I can live with stock camera on the HTC One for $400. Hell, I’d buy it on the first day at that price. $600? Not gonna happen. If the X Phone wows me enough and is priced right, I can see myself selling my N4 and jumping.

  38. SmvteGuest 2 years ago

    Google should just release a stock launcher and a couple of more stock apps

  39. JonahGuest 2 years ago

    The option for users to turn their One or S4 into Google edition phones is really all that was needed. I never saw the point in releasing a phone to Google play for 600+ dollars just to be bone stock when more than likely there will we a software work around that should be flashable

  40. RLXGuest 2 years ago

    I’m very excited about the Google Edition devices. That said, I will not be compeled to purchase one of the devices. However, this does make me hopeful that more devices will get this treatment, even though I cannot contribute to this program’s initial success.

    Because I want a Phablet. Prior to this program being announced i had already resolved that my next device would be a Phablet. I’m just simply tired of carting my Gnex & Nexus7.

    I want the option of a Google Edition Note3, HTC One Max, or Sony Xepria ZU. That is what it will take for me to open my wallet and drop $600 – $700. I won’t hold my breath, and with the above mentioned devices fast approaching market, I don’t think this pilot will be far enough along to compel them to include those options in their offerings.

    Thanks,
    My2¢

  41. imutauGuest 2 years ago

    More excited by getting one of these flag ship phones in the fall when I can buy it used for half the price on EBay or get a comparable Nexus or Motorola phone.