Today Google dropped by news of three new products hitting the Google Play store's device section, Google Play editions of LG's G Pad 8.3 and Sony's Xperia Z Ultra, and a Nexus 7 available in white. For those who haven't followed, Google Play Edition devices run software built by the respective device OEMs, but updated in a timely fashion to the latest version of Android, and a strictly stock UI without third party software preloads or skins. Before this announcement there were two other Google Play edition devices, the Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One which we've reviewed. All three come running Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box.

We've seen leaks and rumors to its effect, but the first is a Google Play edition of LG's G Pad 8.3 tablet which has an 8.3 inch 1920x1200 display and Snapdragon 600 APQ8064 SoC, the storage side is 16 GB of internal, and a microSD slot. There's also dual band WiFi, a 5 MP rear camera, and 1.3 MP front facing camera. It's an interesting tablet that should augment the Nexus 7 nicely for people looking for a slightly bigger display but aren't quite sold on the somewhat aging Nexus 10. The G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition is $349 and available only in the US. We've been working on a review of the LG G Pad for some time now, and are interested to see the differences with the Google Play edition. 

Next is a Google Play edition of the Xperia Z Ultra available for $649 in the US which comes with 16 GB of internal storage and drops the Xperia branding. This looks like model C6806 with pentaband WCDMA in addition to LTE bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 17 (meaning it will work on T-Mobile and AT&T LTE and WCDMA natively in the US) but running a GPe software load. The Xperia Z Ultra is a large smartphone with 6.4-inch 1080p display and based around the 2.2 GHz MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 SoC. I've been using an Xperia Z Ultra for some time now and am intrigued by the device and its form factor, having a Google Play edition of the device available just sweetens the deal. 

Last but not least is a white color option for the Nexus 7 (2013) which spices things up. Google has been a fan of white variants of its devices, usually reserving them for some special edition launch or I/O giveaway, I'm glad to see a white version of the Nexus 7 arrive in time. The white Nexus 7 is only available in the WiFi variant, 32 GB, and in the US, UK, and Japan. 

We hope to have hands on with all three within a few days, and a complete look at what's different for the two new Google Play edition devices. 

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  • Drumsticks - Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - link

    Oh that White Nexus 7 is nice... if it was the same kind of feel as the black I'd be tempted.
  • Flunk - Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - link

    If it's anything close to the feel of the white Nexus 5 it will be nice, but different.
  • blanarahul - Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - link

    Xperia Z Ultra Googlified would be really interesting as I hate Sony UI.
  • arashi - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - link

    As a user of the Z Ultra, I find Sony's UI embellishments on Android extremely minimal.
  • T2k - Monday, December 16, 2013 - link

    I agree.
  • hrrmph - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - link

    Intriguing phablet indeed... but once you head out into the suburbs and rural areas outside of the good ole USA, you will likely find the Google Play edition of the Z Ultra useless... least for 3G data and voice. Thus the lack of 3G GSM is appalling on this otherwise very capable device.

    So how did it get so effed up? One word: Telecoms.

    More specifically US telecoms enabled to engage in 18th Century styled business practices by a weak FCC and vapid legislature. Edison and rivals fought over electricity standards for decades before we decided on 110V while everyone else decided on 220/240V.

    So history repeats itself. The Rest-Of-The-World (ROTW) - you know, the part that doesn't occupy our 2.2% of the surface of the Earth - doesn't use CDMA bands.

    The ROTW (I'm guessing that would be about 97.8% of the surface of the Earth, or pretty close to it) uses GSM for 3G. 3G is what your phone 'bumps' down to when it cannot get a strong enough 4G signal. 3G is the most common signal actually experienced by most people - that is, when they aren't relegated to 2G.

    The ROTW does have super-fast 4G-LTE in the cities of course. But, nowhere in the world has complete 4G coverage of suburbia and the minor cities... not even the US and other industrial powers.

    So while you can comfortably travel on 3G GSM (with most phones that *aren't* sold by a US telecom) all the way across the US (thanks to AT&T and T-Mobile's good decisions to deploy reasonably open and standardized 3G GSM networks), then continue across the Pond, through the UK, down and across through Europe, Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Pacific, and back home again... if you buy a phone that has 3G GSM radios...

    ... And you will go nowhere far or near with CDMA... at least outside the borders of that good ole 2by2 spot of land that we occupy on the gorgeous shell of this great blue orb.

    To whit: get in a boat and go a mere few tens of miles offshore of the US with CDMA and you are 'dead-in-the-water,' so to speak. Unless neighboring island nations were silly enough to follow in our footsteps and install CDMA (don't count on it).

    So once again our telecoms (primarily Verizon and Sprint, along with a few minor players) have royally shafted us with their works-no-where-else but on their locked overpriced overhyped networks.

    You know... the ones which control our mortgaged / enslaved mutant versions of the manufacturers' otherwise well-made phones and tablets.

    Now thanks to Brian's helpful listing of the bands included on this variant of the Ultra Z, we can see that even the nominally neutral Google Play versions of some of these Asian manufactured devices are getting effed up by deference to this madness. This is all because our telecoms couldn't play by the international rules of reality (as in interoperability *is* an important parameter to be respected) and now their unwanted influence is skewing the configuration of devices sold here. For what?

    Heck, even Papua New Guinea's cell system is sometimes operative and it works with 'normal' GSM phones. I can tell you from personal experience that those beautiful jungle mountains are about as close to anarchy and lawlessness as any place I've ever imagined being in. But, my phones worked there... and in dozens upon dozens of other places over the past decade or so.

    For more info, Sascha Segan has an excellent article over at PCMag about this miserable situation. He reports that this is predicted to last at least until the year 2020 in the US. He details how Sprint is even trying to mess up the standardization of the 4G telecom system by going with non-standard equipment and phones that won't work anywhere else, but on Sprint of course.

    My only objection to Sascha's article isn't really his fault: he repeats a misnomer that has become widespread in that he refers to GSM phones as 'Worldphones.' To the ROTW they are the default 'standard' phones. To just about everybody worldwide, they don't know what a CDMA phone is and we're the people holding the one-off weirdo phones that don't work properly.

    So if you have any hopes and dreams of using your passport and your phone at the same time and place, then do as I always have: buy unlocked, never buy from a telecom, and never buy mortgaged / contracted. Contracts are a disease - you'll start getting better as soon as you liquidate them (as in better quality product at better prices).

    Never buy anything without 3G-GSM-Quad Band. Yes, really! All it takes is 4 bands to reliably cover the world, including the USA, at 3G speeds. And lately, do buy phones that offer 4G bands in the areas that you frequent the most - for most reading this, the good ole USA. There are phones out there that do all of this - good 4G-LTE coverage in the US and as close to ubiquitous 3G GSM coverage as you will find with any system. You might even find some that add 2G CDMA radios for when we just have to be... well, different.

    As Brian mentioned, the Google Play Ultra Z got the 4G bands right for US coverage. What he didn't mention is that the 3G bands are very restrictive if you hope for your phone to work outside the US.

    Why Google / Sony didn't do better with this fascinating phablet is a mystery.

    I hope that someday, AnandTech will dive deeper into this subject and find out what is really going on with the telecoms in the US.

    Is it really physics? Is there really a scientific reason why we cannot have what so much of the world already has in terms of reliable seamless 3G coverage?

    Is 4G in the US really doomed to be another non-standardized mish-mash of incompatible technologies?
  • hrrmph - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - link


    Good news: Google Play reports the presence of all 4 GSM bands (GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)... it should be :0
  • fellabusta - Thursday, December 12, 2013 - link

    I cant believe you wrote out a frickin wall-of-text essay on something you simply missed the details of. Ha
  • mikeru - Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - link

    dude it says WCDMA right there
  • jjj - Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - link

    Just the other day Newegg had the G Pad at 280$ and that was almost not crazy. Too bad this version is still an absurd 350$. At this rate Android will allow windows to accelerate it's growth and take a serious chunk of the market. Google really needs to push prices down on above 7 inch tablets ,they already lost a lot of time on the tablet front and they always seem to be behind the curve.When Windows devices with more NAND and not free software are cheaper than Android devices something is off. Ofc one major problem for Google is that most tablet makers are also PC makers so they don't really care about pushing Android - Google here should go with phone makers for Nexus tablets above 7 inch and push prices for very good 10 inch tablets at 300$.

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