Jan 16 AT 8:03 PM Nick Sarafolean 52 Comments

Google Play edition devices are the best idea that won’t sell


Several times a year, we’re treated to the cream of the crop in phones from different manufacturers. It’s a cycle that generally repeats itself every year–sometimes even more than once in a year. Coming from the major manufacturers, most of these phones that run Android are outfitted with a custom skin that the respective company has deemed better than the stock Android software option. But we almost always hear the criticism arise that the phones would have been better with stock Android.

A month or two ago, we discussed the notion that stock Android might not be the best software for your phone. But let’s play Devil’s Advocate here. Just go ahead and forget all that.

The dream of many Android enthusiasts has always been to have a phone that can easily switch between stock Android and the manufacturers software. To date, we haven’t seen this implemented in a way that is intuitive and easy. That’s not to say that it isn’t possible; it’s just that it generally requires your phone to be rooted and for you to have a bit of technical knowledge.

Early in 2013, Google released what they most likely thought was a suitable solution to the problem. They released the first two devices into a new category called Google Play edition devices. Essentially, these were hardware counterparts of popular devices on the market that ran entirely stock Android. Not quite as elegant of a solution as the concept of a phone that could boot into stock or skinned software, but it was a solution.

These special Google Play edition devices were (and are) sold only through the Google Play store and at full retail price–not held captive by any sort of contract. Thus began the new series with the HTC One GPe and Samsung Galaxy S4 GPe on the front lines, showing off their stock Android glory.

But sales do not reflect that glory. Off the bat, selling exclusively from the Google Play store is a major problem. The sentiment that Google wants to keep it all integrated within their web can be understood, as can selling it within their own e-store. Such a plan isn’t practical though. Many consumers aren’t aware that the Google Play web store sells devices–or are completely sure what the Google Play store is.

The next trouble spot comes with the price. Google Play edition devices are sold entirely off-contract, which means that they’re marked at their full retail prices. For those of us who are in the habit of buying devices at full retail, that may not seem like an issue. However, the majority of consumers, at least in the US market, typically buy phones at discounted prices by signing into a contract. That full retail price of say, $600, is going to invoke some serious sticker shock.

Thrown into the melting pot, those two reasons are exactly why Google Play edition devices are the best idea that simply won’t sell. While offering top-end mainstream hardware with stock software, they do it in such a way that general consumers aren’t likely to buy them. For that matter, many Android enthusiasts won’t even feel enough inclination to pull the trigger on them. If Google really wants these devices to take off, then they need to do some serious tweaking to their business strategy.

Now that you’ve reached the end of this article, feel free to give your opinions on this subject in the comments. Are you in agreement that while they’re a good idea, GPe devices simply won’t sell? Or do you think that with as powerful of a combo as they offer, they’re set to skyrocket?

Here’s another question–are sales even the point of this device? Does this even factor in to Google’s profit margins, considering the size and depth of the Search Giant? Maybe this is something Google is doing just for those few who want it–because it’s Google, and Google can do that.

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @Zricon15.

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