The HTC One is one of our favorite smartphones, and happily it's available on almost every major carrier (sorry, not yet for Verizon Wireless customers) and unlocked direct from HTC. Now we've got yet another version, the HTC One Google Play Edition. Both the One and its archenemy the Samsung Galaxy S4 are now available on the Google Play Store running pure, unadulterated Android 4.2.2. No carrier customizations, no HTC software either. While I think many won't miss the carrier bloat, the HTC software from Sense 5 to Zoe are worth keeping around. Still, there are purists among you who want straight Android, no chaser. This model is for you. The price is $599, which is the same price as most carriers without upgrade and it's the same as HTC's own unlocked 32 gig model. There is currently no 64 gig model available via Google Play.
Google Play Edition devices are a new breed: these aren't Nexus products that are guaranteed to get OS updates first and for a relatively long time (as long as the hardware can still support updated OS demands). Google Play smartphones will get OS updates from the manufacturer (HTC in this case) instead of Google, so we're not sure what that means in terms of speed or duration. HTC has lately been doing a good job of supporting enthusiasts, even going so far as to release their own unlocked and developer models, so we're bullish on the GPE's potentials updates.
The hardware is identical to the AT&T version of the HTC One (minus the little AT&T logo on the back). It has the same cellular radio bands as the AT&T version and all other specs are the same as the other HTC One variants on the market. That means a very fast quad core 1.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU, 2 gigs of RAM, a GPS with GLONASS, WiFi 802.11ac, front camera and rear 4 Ultrapixel camera and a 2300 mAh battery. The phone is obviously thus a good fit for AT&T customers and it will work on T-Mobile (including their LTE 4G network) with one caveat: it lacks the 1700MHz HSPA+ 3G band, so if you don't have refarmed 1900MHz HSPA in your area, your phone might drop to 2G EDGE (or up to 4G LTE if you have coverage in your area). This is not a CDMA phone and it won't work on Verizon or Sprint. Since it's unlocked, you can use any GSM carrier's micro SIM card, so it will work overseas and with smaller GSM carriers. It's quad band GSM and EDGE, so you'll get voice and 2G data wherever you go.
The HTC One Google Play Edition and the AT&T HTC One
Since HTC Sense 5 is such a modest overlay on top of Android, I've never felt a burning desire to get rid of it, so the Google Play Edition isn't for me. Likewise I like HTC's apps including Blinkfeed and Zoe, and don't want to give up the AV remote and FM radio (they're all gone in the GPE model). One could argue that the simpler Gallery presentation in the vanilla Google Play Edition is preferable to the social-network polluted HTC customized version, and you do get quicker access to settings from the home screen with the GPE. Battery life and speed test results are the same as with the HTC One standard model. The Ultrapixel camera holds up well thanks to Google's updated camera app, at least in terms of image and video quality, though contrast is handled better by HTC's own camera software and you get more features with HTC's camera app too.
Here's our HTC One Google Play Edition video review: