Google Play Edition devices whittled down to three (but really two) options

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The selection of Google Play Edition devices just got a whole lot smaller. Google recently yanked the GPE versions of the Xperia Z Ultra, LG G Pad 8.3, and the original HTC One from Google Play.

These three devices were out of stock for several weeks before being pulled, according to Android Police, the site that first spotted the removal. What's not clear, however, is whether the disappearance of these three devices means more smartphones are coming or if this is the end of Google's Play Edition.

Mining for Silver

With the HTC One (M8) available for a while now, getting rid of the original M7 makes sense. Debuting in late 2013, the G Pad 8.3 and Xperia Z Ultra aren't exactly spring chickens either—at least in smartphone terms. The Play Edition of Samsung's Galaxy S4, although still listed on Google Play, has also been sold out for weeks.

Motorola's Moto G and the HTC One (M8) were still available as GPE devices at this writing. There are also rumors that the Samsung Galaxy S5 will turn up as a Play Edition device, and perhaps LG's well-received G3 will show up, too.

But there are serious reasons to wonder if Google might be getting rid of Play Edition devices altogether.

Recent rumors point to a new program called Android Silver that may replace Play Edition devices. Under Silver, Google would partner with multiple device makers to offer flagship smartphones running plain vanilla Android.

That's close to what the Play Edition program is right now—one difference being that Silver devices would be allowed to have a small selection of non-standard apps pre-installed, all of which would be removable by the user.

Google has yet to acknowledge the Silver program, although the company's Android engineering chief didn't deny its existence in a recent interview with ReadWrite.

With Play Edition devices seemingly winding down and an Android L debut slated for the fall we may see Silver make an appearance sooner rather than later. Until then, or unless more Play Edition devices pop-up in the coming days, stock Android fans can still count on at least two devices to choose from beyond Google's own Nexus 5.

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