Powerful, pure Android phones

Whether it's a Google Play Edition device or an official Nexus handset, these smartphones flaunt the full power modern Android has to offer.

Sony Z Ultra GPE
An increasing number of Google Play Edition phones are cropping up, including the Sony Xperia Z Ultra GPE. Sarah Tew/CNET

It's no secret that Android smartphones are on the rise, having eclipsed Apple's mighty iPhone in terms of total market share. But there are more reasons for Android fans to cheer. First, Google's buyout of Motorola is finally beginning to bear tasty fruit, in the form of sweet devices such as the Moto X and insanely affordable Moto G.

Second is the greater number of Google Play Edition devices now available for sale, all of which run pristine versions of Google's mobile software. And I'm not merely talking about Wi-Fi tablets either, but honest-to-goodness unlocked cell phones sold directly through the Google Play online storefront with no strings attached.

So if it's the sleek metallic lines of the HTC One GPE, the Samsung Galaxy S4 GPE's vivid OLED screen, or perhaps the tablet-like (and waterproof) Sony Z Ultra GPE that gets your Android heart racing, chances are there's a Google Play Edition phone with your name on it. Here's a current list of phones that rock the pure power of Android.


Google Nexus 5
The most advanced smartphone in Google's Nexus line, the Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4 KitKat driven by a muscular Snapdragon 800 processor, plus a great-looking 4.95-inch IPS LCD screen. All that is packed into a compact and handsome chassis for a very affordable, and unlocked, price starting at $349. Read the full review of the Google Nexus 5.


Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition
Get the extremely popular Samsung Galaxy S4, along with its stunningly bright and colorful OLED display, but with squeaky-clean Android 4.4 KitKat operating system. Also part of the deal is the GS4 GPE's sharp 13-megapixel camera, removable battery, and SD card expansion slot. Read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition.


HTC One Google Play Edition
Google's special edition of the HTC One merges this phone's arresting, lovely all-metal design with pristine Android 4.4 KitKat. And while some may miss HTC's intuitive Sense interface that the company typically layers over Android, you'll be glad to find the same set of powerful stereo speakers here plus a quality 4.7-inch LCD screen. Read the full review of the HTC One Google Play Edition.


Google Nexus 4
Sure, the Nexus 4 isn't the freshest pure-Android device Google has in its arsenal. That said, if you can forgive its lack of 4G LTE support and slower Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, this venerable smartphone still has a few tricks up its sleeve. It now enjoys a recent upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat, has always been carrier unlocked (GSM and HSPA), and if you can scoop up one used for under $250, it remains a solid buy. Read the full review of the Google Nexus 4.


Sony Z Ultra Google Play Edition
Sony has officially entered the Google Play Edition program with its Xperia Z Ultra. Tagged the Sony Z Ultra Google Play Edition, this gadget's massive size shamelessly stretches what it means to be a phone or tablet. With sharp 1080p LCD screen that boasts a vast 6.4 inches of viewing real estate, the Z Ultra GPE is a mobile media-consuming monster. It also sports the same highly dust- and water-resistant design Sony's latest crop of Xperia phones use. Read the full review of the Sony Z Ultra Google Play Edition.


Motorola Moto X
Motorola's latest flagship phone might not technically run an absolutely stock image of Android software. Its software comes close though, and born from the union of Motorola and its fresh Google masters, the Moto X enjoys timely Android upgrades, not to mention a bevy of unique enhancements, including Active Display notifications, quick-launch camera, and premium design. Read the full review of the Motorola Moto X.


Motorola Moto G
If you want Android for a ridiculously affordable yet unlocked and unsubsidized price, the Motorola Moto G is your ticket. Compact and well-crafted, the Moto G comes packing Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out of the box with a promise of a fresh update to KitKat around the corner. Best of all the Moto G starts at the rock-bottom asking price of $179. Read the full review of the Motorola Moto G.


Motorola Moto G Google Play Edition
For purists who demand pristine Android KitKat software but don't want to pay a lot for the privilege, the Motorola Moto G Google Play Edition is the just what the doctor ordered. Starting at the same unbeatable $179 price as the standard Moto G, there's simply no better Android bargain than this little number. The Moto G GPE also flaunts identical parts and quality design as its Motorola-branded doppelganger. Read the full review of the Motorola Moto G Google Play Edition.

To see more options, check out our always-current list of the best Android phones available.

About the author

Brian Bennett is senior editor for appliances at CNET and reviews a wide range of household and smart-home products. These include everything from microwave ovens, blenders, ranges and coffee makers to personal weather stations. An NYC native, Brian now resides in bucolic Louisville, Kentucky where he dreams of someday owning the sparkling house of the future.


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