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Should you buy the Galaxy S4 Google Edition?

Is the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition worth buying? Or is it better to go for another phone — such as the Nexus 4 — and save some money in the process? We explore the pros and cons.
May 21, 2013
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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.