GS4 Pure price
Google made a lot of noise when it first announced the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, a Nexus-ified version of Samsung’s latest flagship smartphone. We’ve already talked about why it’s a big deal and what it spells for the future of Google’s Nexus line of handsets. But one thing we still haven’t talked is the big one: is it really worth buying? Or are you better off spending your smartphone money on something else?

Over the past week, many readers have commented to answer this exact same question. For some, the move to release the Galaxy S4 Google Edition is a step in the right direction, seen as something that might open the door for more existing flagship handsets from other big name OEMs to get the Nexus treatment. Others see it as entirely unnecessary, and that it somehow takes away from the Nexus name.

It’s worth remembering that plain and bloat-free Nexus phones have existed before the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, and they are likely to keep on existing long after it. With that in mind, what is it that really sets this one apart and makes it worth buying?

It’s not a Nexus

If there is only one thing that you can take away from all of the Galaxy S4 Google Edition noise, it is that it isn’t a Nexus. Although it might as well be the Google Nexus 5, it technically isn’t even a Nexus device. The design is a pretty big indication of this — they kept the standard Galaxy S4 design, which means that the physical Home button right below the display is still in its place.

There’s also the matter of the phone’s pricing. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition comes with a $650 USD price tag, which exemplifies pretty much the opposite of what the LG Nexus 4 stood to represent: smart and feature-rich yet very inexpensive.

But then again, it’s not a Nexus

The Galaxy S4 Google Edition offers support for external storage through a microSD card slot, has a removable battery, and works with 4G LTE. None of these things can be said of a real Nexus — that is, the Nexus 4. The Galaxy S4 is the superior handset hardware-wise in most every way.

It is more expensive, as pointed out above, and it isn’t hard to see why because of the hardware features. But in terms of software, it should be on the same level as the Nexus 4. Do all those hardware improvements really make it worth the extra $300?

Reasons to buy the Galaxy S4 Google Edition

It’s actually more than just a matter of whether or not the extra hardware stuff makes it worth the additional $300. If you buy a Galaxy S4 Google Edition, you will get a fully unlocked GSM phone with an unlocked bootloader, which means that you will be free to use it wherever and however you like. Here’s a list of some of the things that make it worth buying:

  • Stock and bloatware-free Android experience
  • Software updates coming directly from Google itself
  • More user-available internal storage space
  • Full support from Samsung as part of the Galaxy brand

It offers all of the above things and at the same time, it also retains the standard Galaxy S4’s best qualities. It has a bigger screen at 5-inches (higher resolution, too), a better camera, a more powerful processor, and longer battery life. If you’re still holding on to the notion that it shouldn’t be priced as highly as it is, consider that it’s priced the same way as other unlocked phones.

Reasons not to buy the Galaxy S4 Google Edition

And how about disadvantages to buying the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, are there any (besides the higher price tag)? As a matter of fact, there are quite a few.

  • No TouchWiz features
  • Internal storage is still maxed at 16GB
  • Will only be released through T-Mobile and AT&T
  • Only available in the U.S. (for now)

It’s also worth pointing out at this point that new handsets with much better hardware than even the powerful Galaxy S4 are expected to come out later this year, such as the Galaxy Note 3, the Optimus G2, Google’s X Phone, and the actual Nexus 5. And there are reasons to wait for those.

So what’s the verdict?

To conclude, we’d like to say that deciding to buy — or not to buy — the Galaxy S4 Google Edition is a fairly simple matter. If you want to get your hands on the best combination of smartphone hardware and Android software right now, then it would be an excellent choice. But if the software side of things somehow weighs more to you, or if you want to see what kind of stuff will be on offer in the next quarter before pulling the trigger, then it would be wiser to just wait things out for a while.

Besides, some clever developers will probably be able to take the stock Android OS from the Nexus-ified Galaxy S4 and make it compatible with the standard one. And when that happens, all bets are off. Users will then be able to flash normal units and turn them into their Nexus-like counterparts. As always, we’ll be there to let you know.

Do you think the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition is worth buying? Or is it better to go for another phone — such as the Nexus 4 — and save some money in the process? Take it to the comments section below.

David Gonzales
David is a mobile computer geek who firmly believes that in order to stay healthy, one needs to eat daily doses of gadgets for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Join him as he indulges his passion for technology and fascination with all things Android.
  • If you can look over that price, get it. If not get a Nexus 4. I still prefer the design of the Nexus 4

  • monkeypox69

    For $650? No.

    • jlczl

      If you buy the version from at&t you’re actually pay more for it through the life of your contract. If you buy the version from T-Mobile you’re actually paying more for it outright once you add the tax. Either way the Google Edition is actually cheaper.

      • ryan

        You aren’t buying it from att or T-Mobile. You’re buying it outright from Google. Carriers have no say in anything.

        • I assume @jlczl was referring to the non google edition currently available on contract.

    • And if I tell you that $650 it’s half of the original version price, here in Brazil?

  • Price doesn’t matter to me. I have a nexus 4 which is cracked and I really like the flip cover design, the camera, and the screen of the s4. I don’t know if it makes sense to buy the at&t model and get the Samsung software or will I just see it as bloatware after coming from nexus and iPhone so wait for the s4 GE. On contract is $400 less. What do you think I should do?

    • Oli72

      Keep your money. Keep the nexus 4.

  • Johnathan Katz

    It seems like a nice phone, unlocked on top of an unlocked bootloader makes it a fairly formidable foe, but the price point is a little high.
    And to be honest I don’t see how the lack of a TouchWiz UI is a bad thing, I’d take stock Android any day.

    • David Gonzales

      TouchWiz does have those extra software features, and taking it away in effect makes the Galaxy S4 Google Edition less feature-rich, if you get what I’m saying.

  • Has expandable storage = not a nexus device.
    I can’t understand Googles fear of micro SD cards.

    If the nexus 4 had an sd slot I would have bought one. I’ll wait for more details on nexus 5, x phone and keep my fingers crossed.

    • William

      That one reason has kept me from getting a Nexus device.

    • maxfrix

      Google wants to store your data and charge you to access it. That is their long term plan.

      • I suspect it has more to do with how linux and android handle mounting of drives and root access. I don’t doubt Google wants our data in the cloud so they can analyse it.

        Charging people to access their data. Thunk about how that sounds to the consumer. There’s no way you can spin that and keep your customer base.

        • maxfrix

          Seems to me the the very first synopsis I heard of Google’s perfect internet experience for the world was that everything was already on the web.That was a long time ago though. Your device, whatever that might be, phone, laptop, long before tabs, would access your data. The infrastructure they are building seems to be as they are still working that plan. The downside that I see is that once all your data is in someone else’s hands you are at their mercy to access it

    • Kapil

      Google said that they did not include micro sd slot to simpify consumer’s life. Micro SD card only creates more confusion. My mother has galaxy grand and often there is confusion on where are the files downloded

      • I had the same prob finding files before I put an SD card in my phone. Androids file mgmt is just crummy regardless of the inclusion of removable storage.

        • I agree, see my comment above.

        • David Gonzales

          I agree, see my comment above.

      • I believe that’s a problem with the software, in other words something that needs to be addressed on the Android OS itself. It’s like they designed the file system with the express intent of confusing people, if you look at it.

      • vgergo

        I never understood this argument. The card slot is just an option. If you don’t put a card in it, your phone is just like one without a slot. Just don’t tell novice users. If they don’t know about it, they won’t use a card in it so they will not be confused. Or warn them, if they put a card in there they should understand what it’s about.

        Is it confusing that our phones can be rooted? Would it be better if they could not be? Simmilar thing.

        Please give the choice to us.

        • Kapil

          Choice is good, and that’s what sets android apart from ios but I think google was right to remove sd slots from nexus devices. If you think what I said was not a proper argument then just think of it as my choice.

      • David Gonzales

        I believe that’s a problem with the software, in other words something
        that needs to be addressed on the Android OS itself. It’s like they
        designed the file system with the express intent of confusing people, if
        you look at it.

      • Isn’t there any way to make both SD card and internal storage “looks” like only one?
        I don’t know, maybe some kind of RAID. It would be a lot easier for people like Kapil’s mother.

        • Kapil

          ya, lol

  • Ron Rossman Jr

    Is ATT really going to sell it SIM unlocked? Knowing ATT and the fact even the cheap ass simple dumb phones without even a camera are SIM locked I find this hard to believe

    • Infinite7154

      You’re not buying it from AT&T. It’s being sold on Google Play. You can use an AT&T sim but AT&T will have no say so over this one

  • Stephan H. Wissel

    The really interesting question: can a owner of a regular Samsung S4 “sidegrade” to a Samsung S4 nexus edition. I don’t care much about the Wizbang UI and find the amount of control you can exercise lacking in comparison to CyanogenMod which I ran on the S2. With stock-barrel Android S4, a GyanogenMod seems not too far fetched

  • jayydoggy

    So guys help me out here? If I buy the S4 GE will I not have have all cool camera features of touch wize ect? , smart scroll ect?

    • Kapil

      I think you should buy s4 GE because camera features can be owned through any play store app but no app in play store can ensure timely updates and faster experience.

  • t

    But most software features in S4 are now coming to S3, whats the use of buying google edition unles you are a developer..

    • I saw that some of the cool stuff in the camera and so on isn’t coming..

    • taz89

      Not really you only get things like lock screen widget and expanded notification toggles with the new tw launcher.. You get none of the s4 major stuffs like the new camera and features, no air gesture, hover modes etc… You get none of them social wouldn’t say you are getting the main features of s4 but just the basic 4.2.2 features.

  • porter86

    “Reason not to buy: No TouchWiz features”
    I think that’s a reason TO buy, not not to buy!

    Looking at a comparison though between the S4 and the HTC One it really is in the S4’s favour –

    Such a hard choice.. Does the superior design make up for it do you think?

    • Well design is a matter of taste, so it would be quite difficult to give you a straight recommendation if that’s what you’re going to base your decision on.

    • Fuck Apple

      Actually most of the things that make the S4 shine are the TouchWiz features, like the finger hovering for example

    • David Gonzales

      Well design is a matter of taste, so it would be quite difficult to give
      you a straight recommendation if that’s what you’re going to base your
      decision on.

    • I totally agree with you.
      The worst part of a Samsung phone it´s Samsung’s software, mainly TouchWiz.

  • Reason I’m not buying, is because all the Samsung stuff is gone. I’d rather take touch wiz then, and get cool stuff like the camera features and air view.

  • Save 20k and buy lumia 820…watch video on YouTube compared of wp dual and @ndroif okta core s4..

  • Peter

    I want to buy one but google is so stupid that it is not for sale in Europe (Netherlands).

  • ThePhoneSeller!

    I have been reading all of your comments and really I think it’s a great idea to get this phone I sell phones for a living so when I heard about the google s4 I was all excited I was going to buy the regular s4 but I travel alot for work in and out of the United States through Europe and Asia so having it unlocked is fantastic idea! I can’t wait for this phone too come out I am definitely getting one but if you do not have the money like most people then yes just get the regular Samsung Galxy S 4 they both be fantsastic phones!