Galaxy S4: Google Edition is Samsung's phone running stock Android
If you want “pure Android” on your smartphone, you usually have a couple of options. You can either buy a Nexus device, or you can hack a non-Google device and install a custom ROM like Cyanogenmod. But for one of the biggest phones of the year, you'll soon have a third option. Google just announced the Samsung Galaxy S4: Google Edition, bringing stock Android to Samsung’s powerhouse phone.
Google didn’t explain the story behind this, but leading up to Google I/O, there were whispers that this was due to Samsung fulfilling an agreement with Google without producing another proper Nexus device. Whatever the reasons, the winners are customers who love Samsung’s hardware, but don’t want TouchWiz.
Familiar hardware, different software
Hugo Barra, Google's VP of Android Product Management, with the GS4 Google edition at this week's Google I/O developer conference
As far as details go, it’s probably just what you’d expect. Same GS4 (16 GB version), only running the latest version of stock Android. No Samsung software whatsoever. It has an unlocked bootloader, and supports LTE. It’s a GSM phone, which – in the US – means AT&T and T-Mobile.
The appeal of this new GS4, of course, depends on your take on Samsung’s and Google’s software. If you want the most features, you’re probably still better off with the standard Samsung version. It gives you most of Google’s features, plus a huge goody bag of TouchWiz features. But if you’re all about pure Google – no manufacturer UIs for you – then this is the new Nexus phone to own.
Unlike the Nexus 4, though, the GS4 Google Edition won’t come cheap. We’re looking at US$649 (off-contract, of course) exclusively from Google Play. The Nexus 4 starts off-contract at $300, so you'll be paying a pretty penny for that bigger 1080p screen, LTE, and other goodies.
The Google Edition of the Galaxy S4 will be available starting on June 26. For more on the standard version, you can check out our Galaxy S4 review.