The premium handset, which will run a stock edition of the Android operating system, will cost $599 when it officially launches in the US.
Sundar Pichai, Google's head of Android, made the announcement during his talk at the D11 conference, currently underway in California. "I'm carrying an HTC One in my pocket. This is running the core UI on Nexus phones," he said with extreme nonchalance.
Pichai explained that one of the biggest challenges facing the Android operating system is its sheer size: almost 1 billion devices use it globally and Google has a responsibility to improve and unify user experience -- something for which he conceded Apple is currently peerless: "The scale and scope is pretty breathtaking. The challenge is, Android is designed to be completely open, so from a Google perspective, we deeply care about the user experience -- how do people use Android -- so how do we have a guiding hand to get the user experience to all the people."
One approach is to partner with manufacturers to build Nexus phones and tablets that are standalone devices. The other is to work with other phone makers to promote the Android OS.
The HTC One Google Edition will run a stock version of Android 4.2.2 out of the box and, according to HTC Developer Evangelist Leigh Momii, "will be available in the United States (initially) and supported on GSM networks." She also confirmed that it will receive timely Android updates from Google.
HTC also said it will strip the handset of a number of its features, such as its blink feed news service and custom interface; its audio-boosting Beats By Dr Dre technology will remain as a form of hardware optimization, but the graphic interface supporting the feature will be removed.
The HTC One will line up in the Google Play Store alongside its biggest direct rival, the Samsung Galaxy SIV, which will also go on sale in the US on the same day as a Google Edition. However, at $649 it will be $50 more.
Universal remote control?
The confirmation has sparked a new rumor regarding updates to the Android operating system. Both the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy SIV support "IR Blasting" -- they can be used as infrared remote controls for other electronic devices, a feature not currently supported by Android itself. But with version 4.3 expected to roll out very shortly, many in the Android community believe that a universal remote control feature will be one of its stand-out features.
In the same talk at D11, Pichai suggested that the future of Android lay in finding ways to help bring the latest technological innovations to as many consumers as possible in as consistent a way as possible.
"In the larger context, we are trying to think about where computing is going in the next five to ten years and set up Android for that. People are going to be wearing watches, we have Glass, sensors are being added to these devices and users are increasingly spending money and adopting them. If you go to Korea and see flexible displays in factories, it's amazing. We want to set ourselves up to be consistent, to update across all these devices and to have a common user experience across these devices."