There should always be a Google Play edition optionEvan Selleck - Contributing Editor
In today's world, consumers know what they want, just as often as many don't. If you spend any time within a retail wireless location, whether corporate or not, you can usually tell just by watching people whether or not they've come into the store knowing what they're going to walk out with. That doesn't even necessarily mean a specific phone. I've found, more recently than ever before, that the question, "What are you looking for?" has come down to just a few specific answers.
And that's a good thing! The fact that our devices now have such stand-out features, ranging from the camera to the display to pretty much every other little detail, is amazing. Watching someone fall in love with a certain camera, or that camera's results when tested out, or even a specific display size is always worthwhile. It's even better when it happens to you.
Unless you're someone who just wings it when they buy a new phone, and by that I mean buying a device online before you mess around with it, then you know what I'm talking about. That sensation you get when you go into a store, find what you're looking for, and walk out with that product in hand. Ever since I started to realize that the camera is my most important feature, I've really enjoyed switching between shooters on devices, and trying to figure out which one I like the best overall.
So, everything's perfect in the mobile world these days, right?
I wouldn't go that far, no. Things are good, maybe even great, but we're far from that perfect place. To get there a lot has to be done, and maybe it happens one day. Everything's eventual, right? As it stands right now, there's one thing I want to see addressed for the consumer that wants it: choice. Specifically, more than what we've already got.
But not in the way you might expect. First, before we get into this, let's just get one thing clear: we're never going to see companies stop filling the spots for their lineups. We won't see Samsung stop adding devices to their Galaxy Note lineup, ranging in screen sizes and what not, and we won't see Apple stop doing it in their own way, either. This is one way that companies try to target a variety of specific, niche markets and individuals, and so far it's worked. Someone who doesn't like only having 16GB of storage on their iPhone has two other options to go with, even if everything else about the handsets are the same.
And maybe someone doesn't want an 10.1-inch tablet? Maybe they want a 12.2-inch tablet. You could use this mentality with just about every other physical characteristic of our phones, and there's no arguing that this strategy has worked. It's one of the reasons Samsung has succeeded where others have failed. They've jumped on niche markets, and filled every single gap in the process.
We've talked about devices running multiple operating systems in the past. Dual-booting platforms seems to be something that could gain some traction in 2014, or it could very well get nowhere -- just as it has in the past. While I'm not a huge fan of it, I know others are, especially because it opens the possibilities for choice and options. But, since dual-booting offers such a polarizing experience between platforms, having other kinds of options is the best bet.
That's where I think the Google Play edition devices come in.
Motorola recently unveiled the Google Play edition of their Moto G, and along with it there were a lot of people scratching their heads. "What's the point?" I saw folks asking around the Internet's social media avenues, and I understand where they're coming from. When it comes to the Moto G (and Moto X, by extension), there's not much difference between those devices and a "stock" version of Android. Yes, Motorola included some proprietary applications, and even some core features that you can't get on a stock Android device, but they aren't a full proprietary system overhaul as we've seen from Samsung, HTC and just about every other manufacturer out there. (Just like Motorola used to do.)
Options. Sure, there may not be a big difference between the standard Moto G and the Google Play edition device, but it's just options. And this is a good route for manufacturers to follow, I think. Just like we saw with the HTC One and Galaxy S 4 from Samsung, offering a GPe device could be an easy way to appease a lot of people who are clamoring for that "stock Android" experience. And that way you don't have to worry about selling a device that can turn off your proprietary software (like the HTC first, which only stood out as a device when you turned off its Home placement).
Two things, though: First, you sell both devices at the same time. So when HTC gets around to unveiling the One successor, they should show off the Google Play edition version as well, as another option for consumers. I would expect HTC (and other companies) to show off why their proprietary software makes the experience better.
And, secondly, you price them the same -- or the GPe version slightly less. If you want people to believe that you're adding value via software with your custom stuff, then you should be pricing it accordingly. But don't get crazy with it. I mean, a $50 up tick in the price tag wouldn't be too bad, if you ask me. And it adds an obvious differentiator between devices, other than just the software.
That's just my two cents with the GPe devices. I think it'd be a nice option for consumers, especially if manufacturers could get around to selling them at the same time. But, what do you think? Let me know where you stand on the launch of Google Play edition devices.