Google Edition Phones Aren't the Answer You Were Hoping For

Google Editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4—phones devoid of manufacturer skins, running pure Android—were supposed to be the solution to one of Android's biggest problems. No longer would premium hardware be left behind when platform updates happen. That was the idea, anyway. But today we found out that's not quite the case.

While announcing a slew of updates this morning in San Francisco—a new Nexus 7, Chrome enhancements, Google Play growth—Google detailed its latest and greatest version of Android. And while this new iteration of Jelly Bean isn't earthshaking, there is one surprising aspect: Nexus devices will be getting it today, while Google Edition devices won't. They'll be getting it "soon."

In and of itself, "soon" isn't the end of the world. "Soon" is fine. It's a minor update, after all, one that most Android users won't even notice. But it's also terrifically vague, and more importantly, it's not now. A Google Edition phone is an expensive proposition, but built into that price is the assumption that your pure Android phone will be first in line with Nexus devices for new goodness. You're not getting that today. And it could be days, weeks, or months before you do.

Google Edition phones are still a wonderful thing; pure Android beats any manufacturer skin on the market. But finding out that they're not going to keep up with Nexus devices is like finding out that the horse you bet on will only ever place, not win. And while it might just be a few days on a minor update now, it sets a precedent for an endless wait on a major upgrade down the line. And I don't think anyone shelled out $600 for an afterthought.