The Galaxy S4 with stock Android is a sort of perfect storm for the techy. Packed with the same 1080p, 441 ppi display, speedy quad-core processor, and 13 megapixel shooter as Samsung’s skinned S4 superphone, the stock Android version comes with a pure and unmodified installation of Android 4.2.2 and will receive future updates directly from the Mountain View mothership itself. Oh, and it has an unlocked bootloader for the extreme modder.
We had caught wind of a possible Nexus-like Galaxy S4 previously, but we were naturally a little skeptical because good old Sammy wants to capitalize on its products and craft the signature Samsung experience with its own customized skins and software implementations. I personally wished upon a star for it to be true, but had trouble believing it. Until, of course, Google made this dream device a reality yesterday at Google I/O.
The beauty of this vanilla Android device is more than skin-deep.
The S4 with stock Android packs some fantastic hardware, but the real beauty of this device comes in the coupling of the powerful, sleek hardware with the utility and flexibility of stock Android. Some may argue that what makes a Galaxy a Galaxy is the custom software experience implemented by Samsung, which will be true for a sizable part of the Android-weilding public. There are bound be some who will choose the Samsung experience over the stock Google experience, but for the developer (for whom this device is tuned, if you haven’t guessed by the name), the tinkerer, or the lover of minimalism, this phone is the phone to have because it arrives untainted by skins and themes, and will have no pre-installed carrier or Samsung apps.
Don’t call it a Nexus, though. Google and Samsung have both abstained from calling this device a Nexus phone. Google itself had no hand in the design of the S4’s hardware, which is a hallmark of a Nexus phone. The dev edition packs identical hardware to the carrier versions (with the exception of radio variations available across the globe), very much making this device a Samsung device. Also, unlike the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy Nexus before it, this device will have no Nexus branding, and also lack Google’s heavy subsidy.
Unlocked In Every Sense
Along with pure Android and an unlocked bootloader, Google and Samsung are following in the footsteps of Nexus devices by offering this device as a GSM-unlocked handset with a pentaband radio. The S4 dev edition’s radio will support virtually every GSM carrier, at least up to HSPA+, including T-Mobile. Also on board, we find… wait for it… LTE support! While the technical details are scant, we do know that the S4 with stock Android will support at least T-Mobile and AT&T’s LTE bands, and possibly more global-friendly bands, though the frequency bands haven’t been released and that’s just speculation.
Which brings me to my next point: prepare to lighten your wallet. Lacking the Nexus branding, this device will also lack the Nexus price tag. Google will not be subsidizing this device for us, my friends. And since this is a Google Play Store exclusive handset, don’t expect to see be able to get your hands on it through Magenta’s financing or with an AT&T subsidy. The Galaxy S4 developer edition will launch as an unlocked, unsubsidized GSM device on June 26th for $649. As with any GSM-only phone, this phone will not interface with Verizon, Sprint, or any other CDMA carrier’s network.
I myself am very excited about this device, and would love to get my hands on one, but the $649 price tag is out of the budget right now. What do you guys think? Will this be your next phone, or will you be passing over the Samsung Galaxy S4 Developer Edition?