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 obsessed with all things car and tech. His time is split between gaming and fixing his racecar. He also does photography in his spare time.

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

    I could be wrong, but I expect Samsung and HTC to hang on to updates and attempt to release them within the same time frame as their flagships.

    You know how bad it’ll look if these Google Edition devices get Android updates before their flagships? It’ll be another huge PR nightmare with users shouting to the tired argument that OEMs should drop UI skins altogether as it hinders Android updates substantially.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Dima Aryeh

      We all expect Samsung and HTC to do so, if Google gives them early access to the code to build these kernels. However, think about it this way: The PR nightmare may be tiny, as the sale of these devices will be tiny.

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

        True. I think they sold maybe like… 2 devices today. Lol

    • Nate B.

      I think it would look even worse if these Google Edition phones didn’t get the update sooner. Sitting on the bench just to customize for your flagship? We all know how long that takes. Months. 4.2.2 still hasn’t arrived for the HTC One.

      • epps720

        But it is on the HTC One GE, that’s what makes me think that they’ll get these updates out quick. Probably not as quick as a Nexus device but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s 1 to 2 months max after. Plus for anyone that complains the OEM’s can just say that the kernel’s are out there and you can update your phone if you want. I don’t really see the PR nightmare. Most people who keep updated with these updates know how to

        • clocinnorcal

          Good point. They sure whipped up a stock 4.2.2 pretty quick.

    • Federer and Nadal eliminated

    • Jonathan

      Google themselves said that it will get updates when the Nexus Devices do …

    • Bpear96

      Considering both of these devices use Qualcomm SoC. Code Auroa Forums (qualcomm developers) maintains a Android/Linux kernel for Snapdragon chips. A manufacture than has developers port this code to their device running qualcomm chips, all that really has to be done is add support for hardware the device has that is not on Qualcomm developer hardware. NFC driver, camera driver etc can be worked in.

      Google can do this, and HTC and Samsung will have to post what they currently have to follow GPL.

      The fact that the current kernels were built buy the manufactures and not google means nothing. The kernel source will be up soon, and im sure merged into AOSP soon enough.

      Also the Camera on nexus devices is actually not the Open Source version. It is a closed source app, based on the source code in AOSP, but with some Google features like Picasa sync and Photosphere, both are not in the Open Source camera/gallery source code. So the fact that these phones have a newer Google camera/gallery doesn’t mean much since its not in AOSP.

    • Tetracycloide

      On the other hand it’s not exactly common knowledge among general users that these Google Edition devices are even being updated with the help of the manufactures and it’s the carriers, not the manufacturers, that generally hold up updates to the other devices anyway. It could be a great way for the manufacturers to pressure the carriers into approving updates faster.

  • Eric W

    The Google Play store says “The Google Play edition phones automatically receive updates of the latest Android software.” It doesn’t literally say it will come out same day as Nexus, but doesn’t that kind of imply that, and wouldn’t that open them up to liabilities if they didn’t follow through?

    • Jonathan

      Hugo said it will receive the updates as they are released for the Nexus Devices as well …

  • Bpear96

    It is a GPL requirement to post the Kernel Source code online. So google and AOSP developers can easily get the source code for both of these devices kernels once it is posted online. Im sure , soon both GE devices with have kernel code properly in AOSP.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Dima Aryeh

      Yes, push kernel source, but when? Some manufacturers take a long time.

  • mdawg924

    So with the source being released will this make it so other HTC Ones that came with sense UI can be retrofitted with pure android? Because, correct me if I’m wrong but, play store editions will only be for GSM version right? If so Sprint and Verizon versions are SOL.

  • Kendall

    I think these ‘messy situations’ prove more than anything that day and date updates across(significantly) varied hardware.. is a pipedream. Unrealistic to expect without ridiculous resources dedicated and for no benefit to company bottom line. Watch, these Google devices will not sell well at all.
    In fact, the general reaction on the forums seems to be that people would rather have the skinned versions! With the carrier subsidies of course :D .. people actually prefer Touchwiz and Sense now which is an incredibly interesting turnaround. Great turnaround as it also forces Google to innovate :)

  • Josh

    I really hope so. I have an HTC One and would even love to try out stock android on it. I have a Nexus 7 and not to say that i prefer stock android to sense (but I do), but the main reason that I want it is for the fast updates. If they could roll these updates as fast as the regular Nexus devices then I would be happy as anything.

  • Raptor and neoneanderthals

    how many Google bugs betatesters are still left here? What if i will offer you another moronic activity: who will trash their monthly limit faster? Will publish in the Guinness book of records. Or who will be first to succeed to install all Windows 8 updates on a new Haswell PC?

  • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com DroidSamurai

    Didn’t Google state that they will be updating the Google Edition of S4 and One? That said, there’s no guarantee that they will be updated at the same time as the Nexus devices — in fact, I don’t even think Google itself updated all Nexus devices at the same day in the past.

  • Jason

    “If you want guaranteed updates as they come out, stick with your Nexus device. It’s pure, unadulterated Google and will stay that way.”

    My Verizon Galaxy Nexus begs otherwise.

    • http://www.androidandme.com Dima Aryeh

      You poor soul, I’m so sorry

  • Uncle Rico

    wannabes… I’ll stick with my N4 thank you…

  • aranea

    I bought Nexus 4 for the quick and continues updates. So I won’t switch to google play experience until I know not only that updates are quick but also they are not going to stop updating in a year or so.

  • donger

    Gonna wait and find out out, C’mon 4.3.

  • bob

    I purchased Nexus S (AT&T) with promise of Android updates. I am sitting at three years with this phone. Not the first update. I have not received any O/S updates. I know there is a way to do it if I go here and download this and then hack that and update it myself. I should not have to. I won’t. I also won’t BELIEVE until I see it happen.