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Summary:

HTC will reportedly reverse course and offer a “Google Edition” HTC One phone, with the official announcement expected next week. That could give HTC a boost by getting more marketing help and making pure Android fans happier.

HTC One silver featured

With 5 million sales already, the HTC One is on its way to help HTC reverse its downward sales and profits trend. Counting on a single product to effectively save a company is a risky strategy though. Perhaps that’s why HTC is now planning a “Google Edition” version of the HTC One even though it previously denied any such Android device.

Stock Galaxy S 4Paul O’Brien of MoDaCo reported the change in strategy on Friday, with multiple sources saying the phone would be announced next week. Like Samsung’s Galaxy S 4 “Google Edition”, announced last week at Google I/O, the HTC One would lose HTC’s Sense software and run a plain, or stock, version of Android. This would be akin to the Nexus 4 phone, which Google sells directly through Google Play.

According to O’Brian:

“It seems as though the very existence of the Google Edition device has created considerable internal turmoil at HTC. There is a deep seated belief within HTC that Sense provides the best possible Android experience and there’s no reason to offer anything different – unifying behind a consistent message. HTC has always been a company however that is driven from the top and it appears as though the new device has been sanctioned by none other than Peter Chou himself, no doubt influenced by arch-rival Samsung’s recent announcement.”

It’s possible that turmoil is related to the key executives and resources that have left HTC as recently as this week, but that could be coincidental. There’s little, however, that HTC knows it needs to make major changes in product and vision if it wants to stay relevant in the Android marketplace.

Nexus 4 in hand

A “Google Edition” HTC One could actually bring multiple benefits to help the situation. The current HTC One on sale now is an outstanding piece of hardware; possibly the best designed and built Android phone on the market today. But some have shied away from buying the phone because of HTC’s Sense user interface. A “pure” HTC One with nothing but Android on it could generate additional sales.

Another benefit could be found in marketing; an area where HTC greatly lags its peers. A “Google Edition” phone would likely be sold directly by Google in the Play store, meaning Google can help market the phone. It would also remove carriers from the equation and give HTC a little more control over the phone, pricing and software updates.

  1. Maybe I missed this, but which carriers would this likely be? Or is that question premature?

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    1. I suspect a GSM version is the safest bet – certainly with AT&T band support with T-Mo as a less likely option. With Samsung bringing their Google Edition to Verizon (which actually surprised me) it’s possible HTC does the same. Just educated guesses for now, though! :)

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      1. Thanks for the response. I’d missed the news about Google S4 having a Verizon version.

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  2. Maybe they are trying to reach the small core of folks who demand stock Android and quick updates.

    Maybe they are trying to curry favor with Google.

    Maybe they are testing whether they can afford to drop development of UI skins when Android margins evaporate altogether.

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    1. Maybe at some point they’ll offer optional (but carrier sanctioned) vanilla OS updates on older models which would otherwise be left behind?

      But a year or two ago I remember some discussion going around of people actually paying a few bucks extra to have phones without all the bloatware. I think the discussion was focused more on not having apps like “Blockbuster” as opposed to camera apps, but this is sort of what was envisioned.

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  3. Is a subsidized Verizon version even possible? I’m not quite that familiar with Google Edition phones

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    1. Actually, the Google Edition phone for Verizon (a Samsung Galaxy S 4) won’t be subsidized at all; you’ll pay $649 for it. I would expect the same for an HTC One model.

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  4. I like the specs on the Samsung G4 but there is not one for CDMA in the Google Play store. It’s GSM. I would guess HTC One will also be GSM in the Play store. That leaves Verizon and Sprint users out of the picture b/c they use CDMA technology. Is GSM open source and CDMA is not? What’s the deal here?

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  5. WOW. I would buy one as it would also keep the “innovations,” “competition,” and “pay” Samsung back for all these years of their abuse of customers. I have the org G1 by HTC and while my GalaxyS has kept me current (now running 4.2.2) none others have removable batteries, SD cards, easy to unlock, etc.

    I have been holding off for all these years in hopes someone would have all the above “features” and NOT SAMSUNG. I used to have all SAMSUNG (TV, Cam, etc) products and have now purchased all new equipment by others(4 tvs, 3 Monitors, etc) as SAMSUNG lost my trust when they both lied about updates and cause such hassles for customers, even that their phones were outstanding, TRUST once last cost more to earn back is a lesson SAMSUNG needs to learn!

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  6. Nice going HTC… Finally listening to the real Android users. Great move HTC, you should have announced this right after the S4 news instead of playing with my feelings :-).
    In a couple years, the fragmentation that we see today might just as well be the thing of the past.

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