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An Exercise in Pointlessness: Google Edition

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HTC One HTC One Google Edition Editorial

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dmmarck #1

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Posted May 24 '13 @ 3:57 PM

Look—I get it.

I get the appeal of running stock Android on the latest and greatest hardware.  I hate TouchWiz, and Sense has its own set of faults and nuisances that has given me several moments of insanity and unbridled anger over the past month.

But Google Editions?  This absolutely reeks of desperation; of three companies fixing problems not by their own accord, and not with their own ingenuity, but by slapping Band-Aids on gaping chest wounds while hoping no one notices the festering infection.

As much as it pains me to admit it, Sense and TouchWiz bring life to the One and GS4 respectively.  The OEMs built the hardware for the software, and vice versa.  While one device (not naming names . . .) has better optimization than the other (why hello, laggy animations), the software and its accompanying features utilize every aspect of both.  Look at the One.  BoomSound is fantastic.  Even more fantastic?  Beats . . . and I listen to metal!  How about the IR functions on both devices?  You think Google will utilize those?  Think again, AOSP enthusiast!  Moreover, lest we forget the fact that HTC’s software takes a rather terrible camera sensor and gives it great functionality and ability.

You know what? Ignore the above. Who cares about the features? Let us get to the real root of the issue—Google.

By all accounts, the Nexus 4 is a terrific device, priced so low that only a lunatic (or a Verizon customer) would argue it was not worth it.  Hell, the Galaxy Nexus was at the top of the Android food chain not one and a half years ago.  Unfortunately, both represent nothing truly staggering in the terms of hardware.  Both are sleek, both are built well, and both have soft keys, but neither present that “holy shit” moment that accompanies the moment a customer turns on their new GS4 or One.  Why?  Well, maybe Google does not care about top-shelf hardware.  Maybe they care solely about the software and doing the bare minimum to compliment that software and to create a nice, clean, inoffensive canvas for Android OEMs.  (That has worked well, has it not?) But Google making unreal, almost supernatural hardware?  It has not happened.

Google appears to care now, hence the new GS4 and One Google Editions paring top-shelf hardware with the latest stock Android OS.  These devices offer Android to a much broader audience, an audience cultivated through years of marketing genius and by overwhelmingly positive—and, if I might say, hyperbolic—reviews.  Those who might have scoffed at a Nexus in the past would find comfort in the familiar qualities of the GS4 and the One, even if such comfort meant paying a hefty premium ($650) for the privilege and honor of buying a fancy device with 60% of its native functionality.

I cannot really fault HTC, Samsung, or Google for employing this strategy; it makes sense on some basic levels of comprehension.  Nevertheless, if they all really, truly cared . . . why not create better Nexii?  Could Samsung and HTC not create more Android-focused Operating Systems and features?  Why in the bloody hell would they continue using home buttons or capacitive keys?  Why bother with SDcard expansion knowing that Google treats such things as sacrilege?

The answer, from Google’s perspective, is simple: 10,000,000 and 5,000,000, the recently reported sales figures of the GS4 and One respectively.  You think a Nexus moves that many units that quickly?  Not in Sergey’s wildest dreams.  (Not to mention the fact that a Play Store shipment of 15,000,000 units would be hopelessly delayed for years, if not decades, based upon the Play Store’s exemplary handling of the Nexus 7 and Nexus 4 releases.)

However, in the end, all three love the almighty greenback, even if it means half-assing a product and implementing some mild to moderate deception to get users to buy-in (Samsung has perfected such an art).  Sure, buy a Google Edition GS4 or a Google Edition One.  Go show it off at the Big Android BBQ with the six other people that bought one too.  Go download a bunch of semi-amateur apps to replace the features lost in translation.  I only ask that you heed the following when you ultimately justify your purchase of a $650 device capable of a only a fraction of its "standard" abilities:

Don’t pretend like you are doing HTC, Samsung, or Android a favor by purchasing a Google Edition device.  You are only making things worse, creating confusion and bringing fragmentation issues to a new level of unfettered chaos.  And ultimately, you have now given Google an incentive to become even lazier with the Nexus program.

I end with this:  When you buy a Bugatti, you buy it for looks, exclusivity, and performance.  You want that quad-turbocharged W16.  You want that 1,000 horsepower.  You want the ridiculousness of being able to travel at 260 mph while listening to some foreign-language Opera concerning royal incest and a 400-pound shoemaker.  But would you really pay more for a Veyron if, instead of all of these things, it came with a diesel four-cylinder engine, a top speed limited to 125 mph, and roll-up windows? I sure as hell hope not.


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creccaj #2

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Posted May 25 '13 @ 4:47 AM

I agree with the article, I would even take it a little further and Android is now going to become more separated than ever before.  Before, we could call Sense, TouchWiz and other tweaks to the OS "skins" but by putting stock AOSP on a device it will now come full circle and it will basically be a totally new operating system.  Android is become so different with every iteration of the next skin that the AOSP experience shouldn't even be compared.  I love AOSP, don't get me wrong but Google needs to embrace some of the features that amazing devices hold, not toss them aside as gimmicks (even though some of them are) and build them into their stock Google package.

 

Why would they need to do that?  More and more people want to have "the next big thing" and now a days that means features.  To me and you, yes we care about hardware and overall looks of the device but most of the average user don't even know the difference between an Exynos or Snapdragon CPU.  What Google needs to do is come out and say if you want a Google device, buy a Nexus and buy one at a low price.  Period.  The average user will not buy a Nexus anymore, they will by an Galaxy or HTC.  The Nexus line should be for the hacker, tweaker, modder and  true enthusiast.  That is the only person who will care about the Nexus. 

 

The fact that they are putting out Google edition devices is spitting on their own line of devices.  They are almost saying they don't like what they put out, so here is a more popular product with our operating system.  Google needs to remain confident with what they have, realize the truth that their devices will never have massive sales and be happy with that.  Doing this will only damn Android even quicker and if someone from Google believes this will help Android expand I will call bull shit.  This will only confuse the users and potentially turn them off. 


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C Sab #3

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Posted May 25 '13 @ 2:40 PM

I'm not sure how I feel about the Google Editions yet, but I personally won't be getting them. I have the still-unbeatable Nexus 10.

 

I just hope Google doesn't use this as a way of not having to make better hardware.



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Posted May 25 '13 @ 5:35 PM

I think the point of the Google Edition Phones is that Google want's out of the Nexus business now that they own Motorola. By getting the OEM's to issue Google Edition's of their flagship devices it gives the end user more options and takes a load of work and potential conflict of interest off Google's shoulders. We know that Google spent a TON of time and effort working with the OEM's of the various Nexi educating them about what Android was really all about and how to best leverage the OS with their hardware. Now that the cycle of the major OEM's is mostly complete (Sony is pretty much ASOP now anyway) they can divorce themselves from that resource commitment and avoid the inevitable Moto is getting more preference accusations. 


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lpt2569 #5

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Posted May 25 '13 @ 5:51 PM

FWIW, here is another perspective I found interesting.

 

http://www.cultofmac...-be-best-again/

 

"The Android world is producing great designs, great feature sets and great platforms. However, these three attributes never appear on the same device. Here’s the event that changes everything: On June 26, Google will start selling an unlocked “Google Edition” of the Samsung Galaxy S4 on the Play Store for the same price as an unlocked iPhone: $649."

 

I think that last sentence is what this is really all about, IMO.  If/when the HTC One Google Edition is added to the mix, you'll have Best in Class technology with Best in Class services on multiple devices (HTC One & GS4) at the same price as an unlocked iPhone.  And they are daring Apple to come after them with patent infringement, because this is pure Google at the heart of these devices.  Apple can't go after Samsung and/or HTC on these.


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7stringer #6

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Posted May 26 '13 @ 3:57 AM

I sort of had this conversation with DM recently, but Android is slowly (quickly?) getting to a point of obsolescence. Here me out here.

 

Samsung, easily the only real threat to anything that could play game with the iPhone, is skinning its software to such an extent that people who pick up a Vanilla-branded-S4 won't even know it was the same base operating system. They've created such a suite of images, transitions, and most importantly, apps/gesture-based features that it looks like its own operating system. They're creating an identity based on their features, not Android's. 

 

Ultimately: this is where they want to be.

 

We'll get to a point--maybe we are there?--that when we hear the word Galaxy, or anything Galaxy-related in tech, we'll immediately understand and think of Samsung, and that's what they have wanted: to simply be part of the big conversation. You won't think of Android, but rather the GS4/5/6/7/etc. The power of the brand becomes more powerful than the base that supports it, and once a company has that kind of branding power, they can begin to shift things around a little bit. No one is going to know the "skin" over Android. They are going to wonder what crazy new features/gestures will be on the "next big thing," and those will be created by Samsung, not Android. Samsung can basically create a basic launcher system that will be ever-so-slightly different than Android's, and they'll basically have a new [Read: its own] operating system.   

 

HTC is taking a similar yet less invasive approach. They are still letting Android do most of the heavy lifting, but adding a few accentual features here and there to compensate for things that the stock software lacks. I think this is actually a good thing in many ways, because things like camera optimization are going to vary depending on the sensor used, and not all software can be created equally to coax the most out of the optics. Still, though, with things like Blink Feed and Zoe, they are creating a "brand" of features, not necessarily something as simple as a list. These tag titles become associated with HTC, not Android, and as a result, they become non-existent when you strip Sense (or TW) from the device. All that's left is really great hardware without any of the promised features that make those devices uniquely different.

 

The average consumer isn't thinking about a phone in terms of raw, lean operating power; they want to know what features are out that remind them that we're living in the 21st century. Oh, hey, I can wave my hand over my phone to go through the gallery? WHOOOAAAA. Sure, it's not really practical in most situations, but I CANZ DO EEET. Fundamentally, we are animals that like to be oo'd and ahh'd, like a cat chasing a laser pointer along a wall. And right now, the Samsungs and HTCs are trying to best the current market of seemingly redundant lasers. 


Updated by 7stringer, May 26 '13 @ 3:57 AM.

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Johnny5 #7

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Posted May 26 '13 @ 3:39 PM

Gawd I hate sense. No amount of hardware will ever save that OS in its current development. Welcome you desperate unlocked Google edition. It is interesting how the mainstream saw android and sees it today. It will be interesting to see how people's opinions change along companies trying to handle android android properly.
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Cory Streater #8

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Posted May 26 '13 @ 11:15 PM

I'm surprised dmmarck liked your post lol :P


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Johnny5 #9

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Posted May 27 '13 @ 5:55 PM

Me too lol! Even though I disagree with Dylan, he does write nice articles that are hard core lol.
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dmmarck #10

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Posted May 28 '13 @ 5:56 AM

Me too lol! Even though I disagree with Dylan, he does write nice articles that are hard core lol.

 

I do my best to keep everyone on their toes :).


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Eric Kane #11

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Posted May 28 '13 @ 6:14 AM

I hesitated on responding to this because I wanted to experience the differences these devices would bring firsthand. That said, I decided to root my One and run CM 10.1 for the weekend to see how I'd like the changes. I could go into a day by day recap of my experiences, but I'll just say that I'm back to stock today. So what does that mean?

 

It means that while I appreciate stock Android for all that it is, I couldn't find myself wanting to keep that experience over Sense 5. The camera suffered, the phone wasn't faster, and aside from quick settings, I didn't like anything so much more that I'd consider keeping it that way. Now that I'm back on Sense 5, the biggest advantage was made crystal clear; I can choose to go back and forth between the two whenever I want. So for me, a Google Edition experience wouldn't be something I'm interested in.

 

Keeping that in mind, I do understand now why other people would want it. I root my phones pretty frequently; others don't or don't know how. The Google Experience versions solve that for them. They're not a cure, they're not a huge deal, but they do cover a section of the market that want a little more flexibility. The price is a little hard to swallow, but so are developer versions and full retail prices. For me, this is just another option in the long line of options these OEMs are giving to us.

 

Samsung offers the original S4, soon to be an S4 rugged edition, an S4 mini edition, an S4 focused on the camera, and now a stock Android version. They've covered a huge portion of the market by offering so many different options to their customers. While almost all of those are not for me, they may be for someone else. That's good enough reason for me to see these launch.


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Cory Streater #12

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Posted Jun 1 '13 @ 11:00 AM

Here's my perspective:

 

It might appear an exercise in pointlessness to us, but perhaps it's a purposely thought out strategic decision by HTC in an effort to be aquired by Google?

 

As odd as that seems -- especially if you don't fully understand the Google/Moto relationship -- it's actually a very plausible possibility.

 

It's a CEO's job to make themselves and their shareholders as filthy rich as possible. Depending on the state of the company, they are always looking at one or more of these options:

  1. Maintain steady upward momentum on the stock market.
  2. Raise additional funding to enhance/grow the companies product line.
  3. Merge with a competitor or a company that can enhance/bring more products to their portfolio.
  4. Hope that their intellectual property is compelling enough to get aqurired.

When Google aquired Motorola, a lot of people scratched their heads and wondered why in the world they would do such a thing. There was and continues to be a lot of confusion as to how the Google/Motorola relationship works.

 

At the D conference, Walt Gossberg asked Motorola's CEO Dennis Woodside for more specifics:
 

Dennis: We are owned by Google & we are funded by Google with support from finance and legal.

 

this paragraph is key to me --> However, Android is completely different. We have no access to Android code which is what you want. We are managed by their partner managers, and when we have meetings with Google, their respective partner managers are in the same room with us, and there has been no advantage that's been conferred to us.

Walt: What about the rest of Google that's separate from Android. Can you draw from them? Suppose you wanted to do something with Search? Every manufacture tries to throw something on top of Android. There are parts of Google that do those things. Can you draw and help from them?

Dennis: the way the Android agreement is structured -- with all the partners -- is that Google agrees it will give access to all of its partners to their services at the same time. For example, if Google wants to update YoutTube, it can't give a special version just to any single OEM -- so there's no way we could work with a particular service to gain an advantage.

 

We have indeed brought over engineers from Google. However, those Engineers leave google, give up their badge, and are no longer Google employees.

 

 

 

HTC believes their IP is worth a lot. The perception is that they manufacture great hardware, and have done some really interesting things on the software side. However, they are finding themselves in the same position as Motorola was in. Google has been doing things on the user interface and performance side that has started making UI's like Sense and Touchwiz unnecessary. In fact, I personally feel these custom UI's are becoming less user friendly than Android was a few releases back. Feature rich, yes, but stock Android releases are much easier to use, and the user can have any interface they want via launchers and other apps available in the market.

 

Google could acquire HTC and run it the same way they do Motorola, or they could acquire them + their Engineers and merge the two together. The Googlized version of the One could make a strong case (from HTC to Google) that this type of relationship could indeed work.

Regardless, I think there's a much larger vision at play here than a Googlized version of the One.


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creccaj #13

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Posted Jul 1 '13 @ 8:03 AM

After reviewing all the pros and cons of the Google Edition phones, I still am on the fence about them even though I find myself semi wanting one.  Here me out on this one...

 

I find myself in a very strange position... this is the first time that I had to worry about what I do with my phone for work.  I can not unlock/root my device and flash ROMs consistently because of my company IT policy for accessing this server.  That means I would need to be able to get OTAs in order to avoid a wipe of the device and I do see a GE phone would make my life significantly easier to get pure stock Google.  

 

Yes, it would be a hit on my credit card for a month or so at the same time I keep contemplating the headache that it would cause to unlock/root my phone and explain to my IT dept what I did and why my corporate server access mysteriously disappeared off my phone and that I need it back on my phone.  By purchasing a GE phone, I would be able to get around that argument by saying I got a new phone and give them my old phone to wipe the device and ensure that all firm information was deleted.  THIS is why I have an issue of unlocking and rooting my device, my IT dept doesn't understand nor care about what unlocking/rooting does.  

 

Besides, for those of you who know me from prior forums it shouldn't be a shock that I am considering buying a new phone without having a real "good" reason.  In the end, I am considering buying one of these devices to make it easier on myself as well as my company.  Yes, it may be a waste of money.  Yes, it may be pointless in the end that I would be potentially buy the same device just for a different OS.  But I agree with Cyber, there is a very small market for these phones and I find myself in this small market potentially.  


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dmmarck #14

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Posted Jul 1 '13 @ 12:50 PM

The problem remains, however: you still lose a portion of the functionality in return for having stock Android, which can easily be replicated through other means (aside from quick toggles and such, which be coming whenever the hell they update Sense).  In essence, you're paying an additional $600 for the privilege of rendering X% of your phone unusable in order to satiate a desire that could be more effectively satiated elsewhere (i.e. updated N7, or other, actual Nexus devices).


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creccaj #15

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Posted Jul 2 '13 @ 5:52 AM

Agreed, that is why in the past 2-3 days of me contemplating this I have been considering going with a Nexus 4 instead.  Yes its last gen tech, but I would be spending roughly half the price for a phone that was meant to be a Nexus.  Not a phone that was made into a Nexus because people wanted it too.  Only thing that is stopping me is the overwhelming reports of broken glass.  


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Photopaul65 #16

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Posted Jul 23 '13 @ 4:13 AM

While I mostly agree with the OP, for me it's all about two things: consistent and timely updates and pure core OS functionality.

Being a Verizon customer, I'll likely never see a Nexus again (though when I dream about Google having Verizon execs strapped to chair and beating them into submission, it makes me smile), but just because a phone isn't a Nexus doesn't mean I should have to put up with the crap we deal with now.

Consistent updates is still iOS's biggest advantage over Android, and that needs to change with a minimum of two years support, even if Google themselves needs to come in and help the OEM and carrier get it done. Period.

And while Touchwiz and Sense aren't terrible, the thing that drives me crazy and is a complete deal breaker is screwing with core OS functions like the Notification Shade and the Settings screen.

STOP THAT!! Those are two core features of the Android OS that should not be touched and should look and feel exactly the same between all phones! OEM features need to compliment them, not displace, rearrange and totally screw with them to the point that it confuses users. 

Example: My wife recently upgraded to a Note 2, and while I like the size and hardware (mostly, Super AMOLED still makes me shudder), that god-awful notification shade makes me want to throw up! I'm not sure whats worse, the horrible neon green oversized toggles or the fact that the notifications she wants are all pushed down to the bottom and unreadable. No, I'm sure. It's the notifications pushed down to the bottom, the very reason why I opened the shade in the first place! <insert scream here>

HTC is no better, screwing around with the settings screen, even differently between release of Sense. Drives me insane.

So, in conclusion, there are a few great OEM features (and lots of gimmicks) which are nice to have, but for Pete's sake, make them compliment the core OS experience, not trash it. And if they do this, guess what? It might make it easier for them to update the DAMN PHONE.

(rant over)


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dmmarck #17

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Posted Jul 25 '13 @ 1:33 PM

While I mostly agree with the OP, for me it's all about two things: consistent and timely updates and pure core OS functionality.

Being a Verizon customer, I'll likely never see a Nexus again (though when I dream about Google having Verizon execs strapped to chair and beating them into submission, it makes me smile), but just because a phone isn't a Nexus doesn't mean I should have to put up with the crap we deal with now.

Consistent updates is still iOS's biggest advantage over Android, and that needs to change with a minimum of two years support, even if Google themselves needs to come in and help the OEM and carrier get it done. Period.

And while Touchwiz and Sense aren't terrible, the thing that drives me crazy and is a complete deal breaker is screwing with core OS functions like the Notification Shade and the Settings screen.

STOP THAT!! Those are two core features of the Android OS that should not be touched and should look and feel exactly the same between all phones! OEM features need to compliment them, not displace, rearrange and totally screw with them to the point that it confuses users. 

Example: My wife recently upgraded to a Note 2, and while I like the size and hardware (mostly, Super AMOLED still makes me shudder), that god-awful notification shade makes me want to throw up! I'm not sure whats worse, the horrible neon green oversized toggles or the fact that the notifications she wants are all pushed down to the bottom and unreadable. No, I'm sure. It's the notifications pushed down to the bottom, the very reason why I opened the shade in the first place! <insert scream here>

HTC is no better, screwing around with the settings screen, even differently between release of Sense. Drives me insane.

So, in conclusion, there are a few great OEM features (and lots of gimmicks) which are nice to have, but for Pete's sake, make them compliment the core OS experience, not trash it. And if they do this, guess what? It might make it easier for them to update the DAMN PHONE.

(rant over)

 

I do agree wholeheartedly with this statement.


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creccaj #18

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Posted Jul 28 '13 @ 5:26 AM

Google gives too much freedom if you ask me.  Yes its a good thing that they give the OEMs this much reign over their devices but Google really should have a final say over a device so that they can't put out a crappy phone that is filled with bugs and lag and have it associated with Android.  


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dmmarck #19

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Posted Oct 18 '13 @ 4:11 PM

So I was wrong. uploadfromtaptalk1382141501611.jpg

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C Sab #20

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Posted Oct 18 '13 @ 7:38 PM

Dylan has converted to Stock. :P

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dmmarck #21

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Posted Oct 19 '13 @ 6:12 AM

Dylan has converted to Stock. :P

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Yup.  Google Play Edition.  Very fast, very smooth, and an overall better experience than CyanogenMod.


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C Sab #22

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  • Device: Nexus 5, Nexus 10, Nikon D3100

Posted Oct 19 '13 @ 6:14 AM

My Nexus 10 gives me my stock experience which allows me to use non-stock Android on my other devices.

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Ahowe125 #23

Ahowe125
  • Nerd of everything Tech
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  • Location: Grand Rapids MI
  • Device: VZW HTC One

Posted Oct 19 '13 @ 8:03 AM

 

Dylan has converted to Stock. :P

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Yup.  Google Play Edition.  Very fast, very smooth, and an overall better experience than CyanogenMod.

 

 

You are making me want to get one very bad. Just saw Verizon Online has an extra $50 off right now making it $150. Assuming I can get my upgrade transferred and not lose unlimited this is really starting to call out my name. I just don't know about the battery size of the One.  I love my Razr Maxx and its all day battery life. 


| 32GB Verizon HTC One - S-Off, Unlocked and Rooted on NuSenseOne-Kitkat RC-1.4 |
| 16GB Nexus 7 (2013) - Unlocked and Rooted on Stock 4.4.2 |
| Jet Black Pebble Smart Watch (Red Slickwrap) - Official SDK 2.0.2 |

dmmarck #24

dmmarck
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  • Location: Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Device: NEXII

Posted Oct 19 '13 @ 8:06 AM

 

 

Dylan has converted to Stock. :P

Sent from my GT-S7560M using Tapatalk 4

 

Yup.  Google Play Edition.  Very fast, very smooth, and an overall better experience than CyanogenMod.

 

 

You are making me want to get one very bad. Just saw Verizon Online has an extra $50 off right now making it $150. Assuming I can get my upgrade transferred and not lose unlimited this is really starting to call out my name. I just don't know about the battery size of the One.  I love my Razr Maxx and its all day battery life. 

 

 

Doing a full day test of the battery right now.  The past few days have been rough--Aviate is not too kind re: battery life.  I'm eager to see how the One's battery handles optimized stock software and being on custom roms (CM10.2 nightlies) since early August. 


  • 7stringer likes this

tacsig513.png

UNLEASH THE BEAST: General Nexus 5 Hackery


LG NEXUS 5 - Black 16GB, Android 4.4 KitKat, Unlocked, Rooted, franco.Kernel

ASUS NEXUS 7 (2013) - Black 16GB, Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, Unlocked

 


Malik Suleman #25

Malik Suleman
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Posted Nov 16 '15 @ 2:05 PM

yeah very fast and smooth edition