A few days ago, Google formally unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition with pure Android. It’s a modified version of the flagship Samsung handset that we first saw announced back in March, and it stands to offer the standard Nexus user experience. What does this mean for Google’s actual line of Nexus phones? Is the Galaxy S4 with pure Android meant to replace them?
I’m not sure how long Google and Samsung sat through negotiations to try and get a product like this out the door. I think it may have been a long time coming. But it makes so much sense that you have to wonder, why didn’t they do this sooner? In fact, why don’t all Android phone makers release a Nexus-like device of their own? It simply baffles the mind.
What we have with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition is a device with absolute top-notch hardware paired with the best software that Android has to offer. It is, strictly speaking, one of the best Android phones ever — at least if you’re with T-Mobile and AT&T. The only thing that will keep it out of most people’s hands is its prohibitive price tag. And that’s where real Nexus devices have it beat.
Still, it makes a truly compelling case for an upgrade or a switch. It’s exactly what a lot of people want: a top-of-the-line phone with the latest version of Android. And it will be updated to even later versions of Android when newer ones start coming out. If Google wants to stop making new Nexus phones like the highly rumored Nexus 5, then the Galaxy S4 with pure Android is the perfect excuse. The question is, would Google really go that far?
The maker of the current Google Nexus phone, LG Electronics, managed to snag a mere 3% of the global Android market in Q1 2013. This shows that adding high-end hardware and timely Android software updates together doesn’t always result in a killer combination. The Nexus 4 does have a few glaring faults — such as lack of microSD card support and lack of 4G LTE — that might have contributed to its weak sales. But it really should have sold more units and the bottom line is that it didn’t.
Google’s end-game is, as we all know, to get Android into the hands of as many people as possible. So it makes sense for it to partner with the current market leader, Samsung. And as for why it was necessary to inject an already existing phone with Nexus DNA instead of delivering a new one with actual Nexus branding (which they’ve already done in the past)? Well, the Galaxy brand is a much bigger brand than Nexus. It has more clout, and might possibly lead to bigger sales which would then translate to Android getting into the hands of more and more people.
There’s also the fact that the Galaxy S4 trumps the Nexus 4 in terms of hardware and sheer performance, which makes it a sensible candidate to become the latest Nexus model.
Google’s Nexus effort, as a whole, doesn’t appear to have been very successful. On the other hand, Samsung’s Galaxy brand has been a huge success. Only last week, an exec at Samsung declared the Galaxy S4 to be the fastest-selling Samsung handset ever. It’s on track to hit the 10 million unit sales point by the end of this month. And now we have this, a pure Android version of the same smartphone. Can you imagine what will happen next?
In all likelihood, the standard Galaxy S4 — with TouchWiz and all — will go on to sell many millions more after the end of May. And all the other people who have been keeping an eye out for a true high-end phone with stock Android can now set their sights on the Galaxy S4 Google Edition, which of course in the end means even more sales for Samsung yet again.
The mere existence of the Galaxy S4 Google Edition solves a number of problems all at once. It takes care of the Galaxy S4 storage problem because removing TouchWiz and all the extra software features that come along with it means less storage space is taken up by “system apps.” It also ensures that Android users have a chance to really enjoy the best of the Android software, because the hardware in the Galaxy S4 is more than capable of supporting pretty much everything (except worldwide carrier support, of course, at least for now). Developers will also benefit because now they can treat this phone like a special developer version of the Galaxy S4 (it comes with an unlocked bootloader).
The Galaxy S4 Google Edition shows that Google is starting to finally get it. Google took a phone from Samsung and made it go from great to greater. Now, ongoing software support can help ensure that it sells fairly well despite the high price tag. But where does this leave Google’s Nexus line of smartphones?
If Google has plans of retiring the Nexus phone, now is the right time to do it. It just put the word out on a Nexus-ified version of one of the most advanced handsets ever, plus as we all know, it is supposed to be working on other high profile projects, such as its first smartwatch as well as the upcoming (still rumored) Motorola X Phone (not to mention Google Glass). Android phone makers are doing a good enough job of producing great models, and the world certainly doesn’t need more Nexus phones. If anything, there needs to be less phones with Android to cut out the issue of fragmentation.
The decision to release the Galaxy S4 Google Edition may be part of an experiment to see how the market reacts. If successful, we may never see another Nexus branded smartphone from Google ever again.
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Shame it is restricted to 16Gb though. 32Gb should now be the minimum given the graphics capabilities and processor powet. Sevral hidef games are now around 1Gb each and data is ever growing.
At least it has more initial available space than the original S4
Both of them have terrible storage while at least with the s4, you get 7 or 8GB for apps and your choice of microsd card for anything else you may want at your disposal. While the nexus 4 has a maximum of 15GB for everything. if their goal is to really put android in more people’s hands sticking a phone with a maximum of 16GB doesn’t quite accomplish that.
Keep in mind that many people are using this storage for music on their mobile devices. And Google just released All Access, which is about keeping more stuff in the cloud.
How much people is “many people” i for one don’t want to stream my music even if i had all access to access . I prefer having the hard copy on my device.
You actually *can* store any of the albums locally from their All Access service. They’re just not available for the user to transfer off the device. It is actually a very compelling service.
Compelling really MS has been doing this with Zune now xbox music for years alls google did was copy it.
hopefully 32GB versions for the nexus 5 at the end of the year…..get rid of the 8gb altogether!
lol, i want 64GB.
Yep, one of the added benefits of ditching all the extra software thingies is more internal storage space for whatever the user wants to store on there.
I dislike the idea of retiring the Nexus line.
Even if Nexus devices don’t sell as much, those who do get a Nexus phone are appreciative of the low price. Considering the fact that the Nexus 4′s internal specs are in the high end, it’s definitely a great deal. I think it’ll get better with the next release.
Don’t think the nexus line is going anywhere. Just 3 months back Google added the devices tab and added the nexus 4/7/10 to it and have been announcing more to come. Just for pure consistency’s sale you think a mega corp like Google will reverse decisions on a dime like that? What is likely to happen is the nexus experience will get extended out to other flagship devices from HTC lg etc to represent the pure Google experience while Google keeps releasing the nexus hardware too yearly or bi yearly
Nexus 4 costs half the price of galaxy while having decent hardware. Can’t see their roles overlapping. The only reason I can see that nexus isn’t selling much is that non-techies are not aware of it.
I agree, just the other day a manager at my work asked me what kind of phone I had, I told her a Nexus 4, she never heard of it. I explained all about what it was and what made it great. She was totally wowed by it’s speed and performance compared to her Sprint S3. I even showed her how to order one and which pre-paid services were available in our area, but she kept asking if she could get it at the sprint or verizon store or if she could buy it from google and use it on her sprint contract. It was right then that I realized most people don’t put much thought into their phone purchases and can’t even wrap their heads around a non contract phone.
nexus 4 would sell a truckload in a price sensitive market like india. however, it’s priced around $475 in india rather than 349. that’s sad.
Nobody wants to buy the Nexus 4 in Denmark where I live, because the price is at $600 instead of the original price of the N4. Stupid prices :(
oh true so so true
they should now look at full fledged operation in countries outside US esp india for their nexus phones and tablets …. its here that money matters and contracts are unheard of ….
To be honest, i’m just happy it is now available…
actually, even at that price it’s not a bad deal per se. but when you compare it to the US prices, you feel bad to shell out an unreasonable amount of money
Yeah, this really makes you appreciate how much google subsidised the nexus line…
Same, but still you can’t help but balk at the pricing.
I feel you. The Nexus 4 also sells for close to $500 over here.
Totally agree. I just left sprint a few months ago. T-Mobile rocks. Have the Nexus 4 with no contract for $60.
can you insure the device? I’m about to bail on Verizon & go with the N4 but worried I’ll need a replacement at some point. Also what does your TM plan include? Thanx.
Goes to show how well the marketing efforts fr carriers work and they have all non-nerd buyers wrapper around their little finger. The basis for competition for mobile smart phones has long changed (at least for two years now) and yet buying a new device is about choosing a carrier first.
I almost agree with you, but the lack of micro sd support kills this phone for me.I wouldn’t buy any phone that doesn’t support an sd card.
A number of people I talk to suggest this as a flaw, although its not an issue for me. With the 16 GB and unlimited internet its more than I will ever need. 8gb though is probably a bit too tight. I can see this being an issue for tablets in cases where you want to watch movies on a plane or something, although micro USB card slots are quite cheap.
You mention something else that a person like might take for granted but is actually a highly valuable and fairly limited/scarce resource in other places: unlimited — and fast — Internet. As another commenter mention in one of our previous articles, 32GB should really be the standard.
As George pointed out below, and as I also mentioned in the article, the thing about the Nexus 4 is that it’s not really up to snuff in terms of hardware and overall features when compared with something like the Galaxy S4. It lacks even basic stuff that should be (are) taken for granted in most smartphones nowadays, such as support for external storage. It’s less expensive, sure. But that’s because you’re getting much more with the more expensive alternative.
Its a matter of prioritizing what you really care about. Sure if external storage matters to you a lot you can now(or on June 26) opt to get the gs4 nexus. But for other users the nexus 4 will do just fine. And that is what I feel Google is trying to do – create an entire array of products co-opting the flagship phones of manufacturers under the nexus brand to have a complete umbrella of products. A nexus for all needs.
I feel you have missed the point of nexus phones. A 600 dollar phone is not the answer.
Please, people from around the world, hearken to me:
The manufacturer put a price tag to the phone (any phone) and the country add taxes. If a Nexus 4 costs 600$ in your country instead of 349$; expect a Samsung S4 or Iphone 5 to be around 1200 $; so the difference in price stands as a very good reason to purchase a Nexus 4.
Here in Brazil Nexus 4 costs more than US$ 600.
It’s about US$ 800, 850, and Galaxy S4 3G costs US$ 1,200.
These prices are without any contract.
Well the Nexus 4 costs $600 in Denmark.. :(
Nexus 4 costa $900 in Brasil.
To all those whinging about the cost. The nexus 4 is a mid range device subsidized by google.The SGS4 is arguably the best phone available.
Compared to the Nexus 4 it has
Bigger better screen
13MP camer vs 8MPA
A lot faster processor and graphics
Triple the battery life
Multiple additional software and hardware features.
Next gen devices will have better specs but no way can you call a nexus4 a mid ranger
This is true, but of course the overall point is that, though the Nexus 4 is less expensive, it’s also less feature-rich.
The Processor and the graphics are not that much faster.
The CPU is a bit faster (1.9GHz vs 1.5GHz, and slightly newer architecture), the GPU is basically the same with slighty higher clock speeds (Adreno 320). Considering the S4 has to render 1080p instead of 720p, i doubt it isbe a better performer in games (unless the Nexus throttles)
Triple the battery life is just bullshit. Its better, but both will get you through the day.
And removable battery is nice, but the S4 just looks and feels cheap – its a trade-off. And most of the software features are just gimmicks, only a few of them are useful and most of these a replaceable with Apps from the PlayStore.
Whats really better in the S4: Camera, 1080p Display, MicroSD and ofcourse 4G (atleast in the US, in most other countries LTE coverage is so bad that it doesnt really matter). But keep in mind: the S4 costs around 600€ in my Country, the Nexus 4 only 350€. Thats a 40% difference.
All I can say is wow. That is truly ridiculous.
Don’t rush into conclusion, let’s see how this SGS4 Google Edition turn out, reviews later might reveal pro/cons of this pure nexus galaxies.
One thing I’m sure, other manufacturer will follow suit sooner or later, expect HTC One GE or Xperia Z GE in future.
That’s pretty much what I’m waiting for — the day all the other big name OEMs get their own “Google Edition” phones out the door. Then it will be a matter of who can make the best-looking, most powerful, and most marketable handset of them all.
what happens to Android if Samsung decide to ditch Android some time in future .. Nexus are there to stay …
All I know is that Android will take a huge knock
google doesn’t need Samsung. if Samsung is gone to tizen Samsung is done. an they will be coming back begging to google.
Yes I know, but at first Google will still take a knock. But I also think Samsung might run back
Fortunately, there are more than a few other OEMs that might step up to the challenge in case the unlikely event of Samsung abandoning Android ever happens.
Samsung will not ditch Android. They make a shitload of money because of Android – also, users would be really mad if they did and that would definitley lower their sales. Its not just software, its an eco-system – users invested money in it.
I think the author of this article forgot one very important item. The Nexus line is designed for developers to help push Android forward. I doubt Google will forgo the Nexus line. The Samsung/Google collaboration with the S4, I believe, is the two companies making nice with each other for the time being, until Tizen becomes Samsung go to OS which I believe Samsung will do.
I don’t think Tizen is anywhere near Android. It’s not a viable candidate for now.
Also, the Nexus program is a necessary evil. In the ideal world, Google wouldn’t need to worry about hardware, manufacturers would only provide their hardware skeleton files for aosp support, and users would be able to choose between different is versions/flavors of Android.
Ideally, of course… that’s qhy I up voted you.
I think the only way we’ll really see what Tizen can do to compete is when it finally hits the streets and gets onto the hands of consumers.
Do consider that one of the biggest causes of fragmentation in Android is the existence of far too many models — with even more always in the pipeline. Imagine for a moment that the Nexus didn’t exist. If there weren’t as many different OEM-made phone models then maybe Google could work with these OEMs for scheduled software updates. With everyone on equal footing in terms of software, the fight would then move onto the hardware front. Nothing will stagnate if the Nexus were taken out of the picture, because instead of Google working to update the Nexus, they can update flagship handsets from phone makers instead — if it was somehow possible of course.
While the Nexus line hasn’t really done well in sales, its really gaining recognition.
I mean when I had a Nexus one, no one knew what it was. “Why would you want that?” I always get asked. Fast forward to now, lots of people know what a Nexus 7 or 4 is and you see them a lot more than before. They might not sell well, but I still consider them as a good benchmark to what android should be.
The nexus 7 sold about 6 million, it is one of the best selling tablets
Opps, my bad ^^”
I would say the Nexus 7 is a hit. It was the shot in the arm that the 7-inch Android tablet market needed.
I’d point out that google doesn’t sell the nexus line for profit, clearly shown the price of the nexus 4 and 7, in my perspective they do it to show the android how google envisioned it, not how samsung, lg, htc or even motorola. They created it to not only show androids true colors but make it a developer friendly phone to help boost the image and support of android from roms to apps. So the chances that google would retire the nexus line is, in my opinion, highly unlikely. Also the GS4 GE doesn’t even have onscreen buttons.
If only a they also made Verizon version that received updates from Google. But Verizon isn’t as needy as T-mobile and AT&T to go for that. Verizon does exactly what it wants pretty much.
T-mobile and AT&T have nothing to do with the updates. This is off contract and unlocked. The only reason you can’t use it on Verizon is because you can’t put unlocked phones on a CDMA carrier I think. Which is partly why I wish all US carriers were GSM carriers.
Google withheld the Nexus 4 from Verizon, not the other way around. Verizon wanted it but after treating the Galaxy Nexus like a second class phone(which I think it was) Google withheld the current Nexus from them. Besides, CDMA is dying, Google is all about GSM, just like the rest of the world.
I’m guessing software keys (the “nav” bar) are either not included, or hopefully an option.
nxus series phones are not launching in every country…either its launched too late…
Android is dead.
“iOS” is dead and has been for some time
get lost apple fanboy!
Fuck of ISheep go back to to your tiny shitty crapple phone
this is likely Samsung simply testing the demand for what every tech geeks have demanded for years.
nexus was never meant to sell well, it’s a reference device, one which no one really follows, every oem still does their own thing.
You think U$649 expensive?
Try to buy smartphone here, in Brazil.
S4 costs U$1250 free contract.
PS.: USA people gain more than here in Brazil, anyway we are the second market of Samsung smartphone.
lol really 1250?
That SUCKZ big time
Dont you understand?? They just made that google edition s4 because they are waiting on apple for their next move. If they made a new nexus then it should have latest specks which are not that better from the nexus 4 so it’s good to wait and i think that if apple makes a great ios combined with a great iphone on specks then google will answer with a new nexus device
I’m not entirely convinced that Google or even Samsung for that matter is worried what Apple is doing at this point. They’ve far surpassed those guys from Cupertino, as the numbers for sales and market share have shown.
will it be possible to use this version on any mobile carrier in the world?
I have the same question. Can you use this phone in Europe and China? It is GSM right — is that used overseas?
It will be released first for AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.
Next year at Google I/O – Motorola X Phone/ Motorola Nexus.
Google has released a device so that they don’t need to put any effort into making a completely new nexus and this also means that the X phone when it eventually comes out will be priced at $649 (or more). IMO they have released the S4 Google edition to kill time and when the X Phone and other phones in the future release for $649, the price doesn’t seem outrageous. My opinion. Let me know what you guys think?
I agree, I don’t think the Nexus line will be retired, but maybe it’s time google made it more mainstream and put some marketing into it…
They won’t do that considering Nexus devices are highly subsidized. It’s more money out of their pockets. Google may be planning to get out of the the phone subsidy business and that’s why the S4 cost full retail price.
I see your point
This is a very good point, thanks for pointing that out.
Bring it to the UK money isn’t an issue.
And the reason the price is high just remember it isn’t a nexus device.
Look how much the chrome pixel costs compared to other chromebooks.
I don’t like cheap plastic phones
I don’t like Samsung
I don’t like the poor screen technology called AMOLED
The nexus 5 will spray sh!t all over the S4.
LG’s IPS+ display are the very best on the market that won’t change. Pick up a G pro if you disagree
Google pulls a smooth again! A Nexus phone at double the cost.
It’s totally the other way around: all major manufacturers of smartphones are offered the nexus label so it doesn’t matter when Google releases a Motorola Nexus.
The author of this article is being completely ignorant. Until now Google couldn’t release a Motorola Nexus because of favouritism. Now the path is clear to do so.
It’s all about Motorola!
Well I’m totally looking forward to the Motorola X Phone, that’s for sure.
Hell NO! NEXUS FTW!
I like the iphone 5 :)
You like small phones that are made for morons
was testing the maturity of all you android users. got my answer thanks!
who cares??? this is all about Android! besides… iOS is just second from Android.
God, this is one of the most ridiculous articles I have read in a long time
The article misses the point of the Nexus program. It is not meant to be a blockbuster retail device. The fact that it has some limited retail appeal only helps to subsidize the true purpose – to get the latest OS into the hands of developers.
When a new OS is released it can take 6 months before the OEM’s get it into the hands of consumers, and perhaps 18 months before there is wide spread adoption. A Nexus device lets app developers stay way ahead of the curve by putting AOSP releases in their hands before wide market adoption – a big advantage if you want your app to be compatible. It also helps OEM’s prepare their wrapper OS versions and provides Google with thousands of free beta testers, no different that Apples does with developer releases.
The main reason that the Nexus program isn’t going anywhere is that Google still needs to develop AOSP. To do that, you need a phone. And after you spend months testing software to work on a device there is little point in just mothballing it. There will always be a testing device, and that device will always go to market because you don’t throw away something of value.
will we see no nexus? :sad: :( :(
Unless carriers pick this up to sale it a discounted price, I don’t see this selling too much. Not everyone can afford to spend over $600 in one day.
Of course the Nexus isn’t dead. LG is already making the Nexus 5, duh.
Great that you have a choice of a high end nexus spec phone, about time.
I still haven’t found any Nexus4 user who can tell me if they have their device insured.. 650$ for an unlocked phone w no carrier contract means no insurance option, like Asurion, right?
Will this phone have all the same prepaid plan options as the Nexus 4
in the US? Will it work on all the Tmobile and AT&T MVNO’s out
there? If you travel internationally, will you be able to pop a local
sim in it and use it in countries outside of the US? Thx
I would cry if discontinue the nexus line. I have had nothing but nexus phones for 3 years. Google knows how to push a manufacturer into making absolutely gorgeous hardware. I would not buy a GS4 with stock android even if it was 350! Its ugly (minus the 1080p display) I can stand the stupid iphone-ish button that samsung for some damn reason just can’t let go of!! Nexus 4 is one of the sexiest phones I have ever seen and its because of Googles influence. I pray they don’t stop making nexus!
How is a $650 Galaxy S4 Google Edition a replacement for a $350 Nexus 4? I just can’t see them discontinuing Nexus line altogether. It’s nice to see Google using Galaxy brand name to promote Nexus-ified experience and it should be interesting to see how they plan to differentiate Galaxy S4 Google Edition, next gen Nexus and Motorola X phone.
Galaxy is a stronger name than Nexus and also TouchWiz is most usable and known than stock Android.
Google is simply using the Galaxy brand to make the stock Android a more interesting alternative.
touch wiz is getting old outdated and super laggy
NEXUS FTW! Samsung s4 is garbage no thanks. Samsung screen is more than garage you cant see anything in the sun and the colors are stupid fake
David Gonzales must be crazy. The world doesn’t need more nexus phones? As of now there is only TWO choices for people that want a high end stock Android. One is beautiful and well priced, the other ugly and extremely expensive. And you want to take one of these two options away from us? The good looking one we can actually afford? I’m actually a little offended by that. Hopefully Google isn’t as stupid as you seem to be.
Will never buy a Samsung phone. Ever.
high on cider it seems
Not sure what convincing Samsung to release a dev phone has to do with killing the Nexus program, but it seems like they’re waiting until the holiday season to release their Nexus lineup. Even the “X Phone” could easily be a neXus.
but wont this device have samsung under pressure for updates
the vanilla android version recieving the update before the touchwiz s4
Btw this is the developer edition, this has happened before so relax
besides samsung is doing this to reach out more to developer community, because the last time i remember, cyanogemod officially declared that they will not work on the S4
Totally stupid article
Always appreciate a well-thought-out response.
Why bother with all the s4 sensors and hardware if your running stock android it’s a developer’s handset, nothing more nothing less
This would be extremely sad. My next phone will deffo be the N4 or htc one, but most probably the N4 because of the price and how beautiful and fluid it is. I’m already waiting for the next nexus… They just seem brilliant to me
Since it’s AT&T and T-mobile only, other than the people who must have LTE I see no advantage to the Nexus 4.
The way I see it is the nexus experience will be Google’s “Intel inside” that gets applied to the major flagship devices released by the likes of Samsung lg and HTC(if they don’t die). In this scenario the nexus phones themselves will keep getting manufactured by Google in collaboration with a manufacturer while the brand gets extended to other devices too with the “nexus experience” “sticker” on top.
I think no brand can’t match Samsung or Apple in numbers because those two are available worldwide. Especially the Nexus, which is only available in some countries.
For example here in Perú, the HTC One X just arrived a few months ago, the Optimus G (no pro) just started its advertising campaign and the Nexus is only available as grey market import, but the S4 and the iPhone 5 were available days before the international launch
The Nexus is dead, Long live the Nexus! The S4 will cost $649.00 not everybody can afford to buy a phone at that outright price so as long as the Nexus is attractively priced starting at $299, is a world phone with good design and fresh google it is NOT Dead!
If they’d had a decent stock of them when they released the Nexus 4, I think they could have made a more significant impact on the market. I just bought a new Nexus 4, but would have definitely considered the S4 Google edition if had come out a little sooner. But hey, I ordered my 4 on Thursday and the white version, with free bumper, was announced Friday. What can I say?
I think Galaxy S4 Google Edition will be lack of native features like the Air Gestures, Smart Pause etc. Now, what’s the use of the many sensors along with the device?
I think we will see a google edition for each new galaxy s even the next galaxy s5