Which do you prefer: Google Play edition or Nexus?

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: September 29, 2013

Following the hints that a release of the rumored Google Nexus 5 is coming soon, those who are fans of either fairly priced devices or stock Android are getting pretty excited to see exactly what the next generation Nexus device will bring us. The Nexus 4, released October of last year, has been one of the most popular Nexus devices yet. By running on stock Android with good specs, unlocked and priced at just $299, the Nexus 4 was arguably the best "bang for your buck" deal of the year. But that was then, and this is now. This year things are a little different. This year we also had the introduction of Google Play edition devices.

We first heard of Google Play edition phones back in May during Google I/O. During the keynote, they introduced what exactly a Google Play edition device was. The first device announced was the flagship Samsung Galaxy S 4 smartphone, one of the hottest flagship smartphones of the year. The Google Play edition of the Galaxy S 4 pretty much gave anybody who loved the Galaxy S 4's hardware a stock Google experience out of the box, almost like a Nexus. So if you really hated Touch Wiz, this device might seem like a dream come true. You might be losing certain functions that pretty much made the phone so popular in the first place, but for Google purists who may not have been entirely pleased with all the Nexus 4 had to offer (lack of LTE was kind of a downer) a vanilla Google experience on a phone with specs like the Galaxy S4's was droolworthy. Unfortunately, there was a catch; and that catch happened to be a fairly high price tag. The Google Play edition Galaxy S 4 would sell for $649.

So, alright, $649 is pretty steep. But that's because the device wouldn't be subsidized, which puts it about on par with other flagship devices in the same spec range. Plus, since it would be running on stock Google you could expect to see updates roll out much sooner than if you were waiting for updates on a phone running with a custom skin over it like Touch Wiz. But even while you're sitting there trying to justify the price of this awesome sounding phone, that little voice in the back of your head is still going, "Dude, the Nexus 4 is $350 cheaper." It might not have the best specs, and it might not be from Samsung, but it is something to consider that not only could you purchase a Nexus 4, but you'd probably have enough left over to buy next year's Nexus model, too.

I really like the idea of Google Play edition phones. I think it's cool of Google and these manufacturers who choose to offer Google Play edition devices to bring a stock experience to people right out of the box. So often you hear people who don't like Sense or Touch Wiz, and if they could just get stock Android on the device they would have bought it in a heartbeat. In my humble opinion, though, I couldn't justify spending the money on a Google Play edition device myself. It's just too much money for too little benefit. Maybe I only feel this way because I already know that no matter what the device comes with out of the box I'll end up rooting it and installing ROM after ROM eventually, but even if I wasn't I still find the Nexus line of devices more fitting, and I'm not saying that just because it's cheaper.

I think it's mostly just the fact that I know what I can get for $300, and for an extra $300-$350 I have a much higher set of expectations, most of which could not be met with the Google Play edition devices.

I think Google Play edition could have been a big thing if it had been introduced before the Nexus line had been. The Nexus 4 might not have had the best specs, a removable battery or an external microSD slot, but I can't help but feel that what you're getting for the price seems like a steal compared to Google Play editions. There just isn't $350 worth of extra features there for me.

What are you feelings on the Google Play edition devices versus the Nexus? Are you more excited to see more Google Play editions, or are you more keen on Nexus? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Products mentioned