Among dedicated Android fans, there is a consensus that stock Android is the best experience. That being said, not everyone is smitten with the Nexus hardware. A new option for conflicted users is rumored to be dropping tomorrow at Google I/O. A version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 – dubbed the Google Edition – could be released with the latest version of stock Android on board.


If this is indeed true, it wouldn't be the first time Google has created a new variant of a Samsung product. Back at I/O 2011 Google handed out a special edition Galaxy Tab 10.1 with stock Honeycomb. Although, that device was never sold to the public. This Galaxy S4 GE is apparently slated for release in June with T-Mobile cellular bands. It isn't clear if this device (should it actually exist) would be sold through Google or the carrier. I have to think T-Mobile would be wary of confusing its device line-up in stores as it already carries the regular GS4. So a Play Store device? That would definitely make the Nexus 4 look like yesterday's news. And what about Motorola?

The GS4 doesn't have the most premium-feeling hardware, but the specs are a step up from 2012 flagship phones. Is a Galaxy S4 worth having without Samsung's software modifications? Well, there are plenty of users running AOSP-based ROMs, so maybe there's a demand.  If the Galaxy S4 GE is real, we'll know very soon.


Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Naga

    As one still using (and enjoying) a S2, I would jump on this. Getting stock Android is why I reROMed my S2 in the first place.

  • RBI411

    If this is on Verizon, than shut up and take my money.

    • NemaCystX

      Remember how Google doesn't like CDMA? The last time they gave away something at I/O that was CDMA was the HTC EVO but that was because Sprint is a Google partner (*cough* Google Wallet *cough*) Verizon is in no way a Google Partner to that extent... sadly but it is what it is

  • theKENDOG

    If this does indeed come out, the drivers and RIL stuff will be hella useful for the dev community. ROM development should hit the ground running.

    • NemaCystX

      I almost doubt that Samsung will let that stuff work with retail models already released. The S4 for I/O will likely be different hardware to make sure that doesn't happen. I mean especially if they have on-screen buttons. The reason I say they would try to enforce that is because they likely have special agreements with the carriers to be ALLOWED to have that same design on all the carriers and the limitations brought on by those carriers is what Samsung agreed to, to be able to sell the same design/model everywhere without variants involved.

      • http://profiles.google.com/robaymett Rob Aymett

        Why would it not have hardware buttons? It's a GS4, the way samsung made it, with AOSP. Samsung wouldn't waste money on redesigning the hardware, that's why they told the carriers they weren't changing the hardware for them anymore after the S2.

  • nsnsmj

    I don't see this being true unless it is a variant without the hardware buttons. The hardware menu button needs to die so modre developers can start implementing the overflow menu button.

  • Qbancelli

    I doubt it.

    Who would buy a Nexus phone then?

    • ins0mn1a

      this would probably be significantly more expensive.

    • NemaCystX

      It will still be controlled by Samsung still likely, but again that could also be why Google dumbed down the specs on the latest Nexus to make room for something like this with another OEM to give away at I/O and potentionally sell it to consumers?

      • disk Latvia

        Dumbed down specs? Please elaborate

        • Cuvis

          The only things that were "dumbed down" about it is that it doesn't have LTE and the camera is kind of weak. Other than that, it was one of the top smartphones on the market when it came out last year. Saying it was "dumbed down" to make room for a top-end product is just silly.

    • http://twitter.com/Meleagru Cristian Borsa

      Nexus phones aren't really meant for general consumers. At least, that's how it was initially. But tech is subject to fashion-like trends and Nexus phones have become very desirable.

  • Thomas Beckingham

    I'm very interested to see if this is for real... I think its a great move on their part, it probably will mean that Samsung will increase their market share even more this year... that's great for Samsung.

  • MW

    I really wish this is true. Just broke my Nexus 4 so I'd buy this on day 1

  • silver_arrow

    So the Galaxy Tab 10.1 that was released at I/O back then was before the Tab 10.1 was released. And when it was released it ran stock Honeycomb

  • Vandré Brunazo

    I just switched from the s3 to n4. It's a relief to have stable stock android without custom roms. But I miss samsung accessories a lot, specially the choice of covers. If there was an option to have stable stock android on the s4... that would be the best of both worlds to me.

  • Christopher Robert

    Is this a nexus device or just a debloated S4?

  • Aymen Fadhel

    Or they can just replace the menu button with multitasking, just like CM does.

  • http://twitter.com/donzzycdo ♜Donzzy™

    So what will happen to all TW functions?

    • guest

      That bloat will be gone

  • TY

    I would prefer a Google Edition 64GB HTC One. I mean, dual front-facing speakers...yeah. Com'n, HTC.

    • squiddy20

      Yeah, but those wonky capacitive buttons though... (having the HTC logo not be a button and that big ugly pop-up bar for when apps don't have an overflow button (the 3 dots thingy))

    • Ryan Uselmann

      Hell yeah! HTC One with stock android would be awesome!

      • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

        Hell yeah! HTC One with stock android and on screen buttons would be awesome!

      • mgamerz

        That's the one thing thats keeping me from seriously considering upgrading my gnex. And onscreen buttons.

        • http://www.twitter.com/LeDavidMoreno HappyNacho

          Put CM on it and modify the build.prop file to have onscreen.

          • mgamerz

            That's pointless cause the hardware buttons still exist, and I find pure aosp to now have all the features I need without being buggy like every ROM I have ever tried on a device.

          • http://www.twitter.com/LeDavidMoreno HappyNacho

            deactivate capacitive buttons and there are ROMs like Bugless Beast on GN that take stock android and make it smoother. Zero addons.

          • Hanz Y

            Unfortunately, I find AOSP ROMs to be quite buggy overall with my multiple ROM experiences. But they are darn smooth.

      • Kevin Guinn

        Minus all the dead pixels!

  • NemaCystX

    A Google Edition? Minus the ugly home button and running stock Android 4.3? That would be nice, but its almost a pipe dream.

    Remember how the I/O Galaxy Tab 10.1 started with Stock Android 3.x and then got upgraded to TouchWiz?

    Now, if this Google edition does become real and is available for ANYONE to buy, I'm all for it, but if its only for Attendees, then thats a deal breaker.... bleh

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Cameron Summerson

      The I/O Tab was never updated past stock Honeycomb (in fact, I'm not sure it got even one OTA). Only the retail versions of the Tab 10.1 (which launched with stock 3.0) received the Touchwiz update several weeks after the initial release.

      • http://profiles.google.com/robaymett Rob Aymett

        Actually, I remember getting several updates on the I/O Tab

        In fact, you even wrote about one: http://goo.gl/PDky6
        And Artem wrote about another: http://goo.gl/WhQPO

        There may be more, that was just a quick Google...

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          The I/O tab may not have gotten the official updates, but it was flashable to regular tab 10.1 builds just fine. Mine went to ICS after it changed ownership to a friend of mine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/asanka.amarasinghe.503 Asanka Amarasinghe

    Yes please. I would love to have one of these... (only reason I'm not buying Samsung is the touchwiz & this will definitely fix that)

  • ins0mn1a

    assuming this is true, the burning question: who provides the OS updates? it's not a nexus, so probably samsung. and suddenly my initial enthusiasm is deflated.

    • http://www.facebook.com/asanka.amarasinghe.503 Asanka Amarasinghe

      I still wouldn't care as much, given how much i hate touch-wiz look!

    • jonathan3579

      I'm suspecting it would be Samsung. I mean, some of the Galaxy Nexus' were updated by Samsung so I think it's a safe bet to assume *if* this is real, it'd be updated by Samsung. It shouldn't be so bad though if it's released with 4.2.2 though.

      • https://steamcommunity.com/id/m-p-3 m-p{3}

        Those which were updated by Samsung could be flashed with the stock image from Google if you were tech-savvy enough. This way you'd get the system updates faster.

        • jonathan3579

          That's true but it was also an unnecessary step for a Nexus device. And for the very few people who I know who have Samsung updated devices, they're still not on 4.2.2 yet. (I don't know why...)

    • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

      Refer back at how the Xoom updates was handled. It's a similar situation -- a non Nexus, stock Android device officially endorsed by Google.

      • ins0mn1a

        they were handled by google, right? also, i am thinking: why go into the business of announcing a device at I/O if they have no intention of managing its software. so it could be google after all. that would make this thing way more attractive.

    • xmichaelx

      Anyone with this phone should really be modding, not waiting for carrier/manufacturer updates. Otherwise, just get the vanilla S4.

      • ins0mn1a

        actually i think it's exactly the opposite: if you are going to install a custom rom, no reason to wait for the GE, just do it with the regular S4, for all we know the hardware is the same.
        it's perfectly plausible for a person to be too busy to mess with modding, but at the same time have an intense aversion toward touchwiz. trust me on this ;).

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      And now we know it's Google.

      • ins0mn1a

        yes! so my initial enthusiasm recovered, until they mentioned the price... i didn't expect it to be cheap, but $650+tax+shipping is too steep for this device.

  • geust

    Why does el goog have such a hard-on for T-mobile?

    • squiddy20

      Well, I imagine Google pretty much hates Verizon after the Galaxy Nexus debacle. Sprint is only slightly better (GV integration and GWallet). And history has shown Google prefers the more open GSM standard, leaving only AT&T or T-Mobile, the former of which is probably very pushy and hard to work with.

    • Freak4Dell

      T-Mobile doesn't get in Google's way like AT&T would.

    • mgamerz

      I can't imagine verizon or AT&T give you a boner.

    • xmichaelx

      Verizon and the others are too big to deal with. "We'll do the phones the way we want" is their mantra.

      T-Mobile is small enough to still want to work WITH (or even FOR) Google, rather than trying to dictate specs & features.

  • john

    this makes sense considering the interview earlier in the week where sanjay had a s4

  • http://petercast.net Peterson Silva

    "The GS4 doesn't have the best hardware"

    OK, hang on a sec, when it comes to specs? So what is the best hardware? (it's a genuine question).

    • http://www.facebook.com/joeyklatzko Joseph Klatzko

      I had the same question. There is nothing out there definitively better than the S4 except maybe the HTC One....but that's a matter of opinion.

      • http://twitter.com/Meleagru Cristian Borsa

        Spec wise, the S4 has the best hardware.

        • Fellwalker

          Nope, it doesn't have the two front facing speakers of the HTC one

          • Mandeep Singh

            But it does have micro sd expansion as well as replacable battery

          • http://twitter.com/Meleagru Cristian Borsa

            I meant pure internals. No screen, speakers, build, just the raw computing power. For example the S4 had DDR3 RAM, while the One only has DDR2.

          • ithehappy

            And you are gonna play what, Absolution or Crysis 3 on it? Or are you gonna rip 1080P videos?
            Be practical, for God's Sake, for once at least?

        • Hanz Y

          Yeah, that was a weird statement. Sounds more like a typo. I think when they are talking about specs, they are talking about the SoC. Too bad it's not the Exynos octo-core on this.

        • TejasEric

          When I read the statement I take it to mean the phone in it's entirety. in the context of the entire phone I agree with the statement. In my view the screen is inferior, it has inferior speakers and the general design and feel is inferior to the HTC One. Although some aspects I prefer over other phones such as the removable battery and SD card expansion slot.

    • navjot

      He probably meant the physical design of the phone, which is still a matter of opinion.

    • New_Guy

      I was thinking the same thing. Thought I was going crazy there for a second, so thank you.

    • RyanWhitwam

      My intention was to allude to the device construction/feel. But point well taken. Changed the wording to be less confusing.

  • Detonation

    So what about all the new software features that are some of the main selling points of the GS4? Seems like a lot of those sensors would be going to waste.

  • Alexander Procter

    What is the source of this rumour?

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Russell Holly, who's relatively reliable when it comes to Google rumors. He didn't even pose it as a rumor - just a straight up "it's coming." If he put his reputation on the line like that, I would want to think he knows what he's talking about or else it's going to be severely dinged.

      • flosserelli

        I will believe it when I see it.

        Samsung has invested tons of money & resources developing Touchwiz, and they are simply throwing it out the window? I doubt it.

        • http://www.charmedproductions.com/ kizza42

          Really? It doesn't show...

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          How about now?

      • cowgar

        well in that case it would really help in porting/developing CyanogenMod for (hopefully) Qualcomm variants out there (if it won't be octa core) even though the development has been miraculously smooth even now - considering sources are out just few weeks...

        it would make (original) S4 really well supported device among 3rd party ROM devs (with the 'nexus S4' sources out) If that rumor will be true - Samsung's version would be still superior in HW (Nexus definitely won't have microSD card for instance) as Google can't endanger neither Galaxy name nor its sales so would still prefer it...

  • nickem

    Well, tbh Nature UX has been great as of JB and really love my SII with it(only thing missing is the toggles in stock JB). It has a lot better address book, calendar, music and video player, browser and generally runs smoother than any "stock experience" rom I've tried and I've tried quite a few. I'm actually surprised Samsung is not pushing even more customizations into touchwiz.

  • GraveUypo

    why do people like on screen buttons? i fucking hate them. one more useless thing taking precious screen real estate

    • http://www.twitter.com/LeDavidMoreno HappyNacho

      customizability and they hide in landscape.

      • cowgar

        yes and than I need 2 clicks to done the simplest thing (say back button)

        I've been there I've seen that (even PA pie control) but no thank you, don't eat my screen...

        • http://www.twitter.com/LeDavidMoreno HappyNacho

          > yes and than I need 2 clicks to done the simplest thing (say back button)

          I dont even...

          Software buttons can be whatever you want them to be more easily. you can map them even to kill an app, lock the phone or even put a 1x1 widget in there. I don't find the logic in "do the simplest thing as back", back is one of the three STANDARD buttons

    • http://twitter.com/Meleagru Cristian Borsa

      On screen buttons don't wear, don't break, are silent, are versatile, are customizable, are less prone to accidental presses and they give the phone a sleeker look.

      • Thomas’

        And they change whenever an OS update demands it (e.g., removing the menu and search key).

      • Hanz Y

        I agree with Grave. I love the physical home button. Not the biggest phone of the back button, i brush across it a bit too often. I really don't like my screen space taken by soft buttons. But PARANOID roms do it well, everything in one bar.

      • ithehappy

        And this one is an idiot.
        Do you have the brain to understand that those buttons are called on screen for a reason? That is it fucking wastes the screen area.

    • FrillArtist

      It also allows for less bezel.

    • Fellwalker

      On my Nexus 4 and 7, the screens are designed longer to allow for the buttons. I far prefer them to the physical buttons (I've had experience of a physical button giving up the ghost). However, Grave, it is not an issue I'd swear about. It is less bezel (FrillArtist) but the same space is taken by dedicated screen space so that isn't a reason for me. My Nexuses (Nexi?) have absolutely black fronts when off - lovely - so it is aesthetically pleasing too (at least for me).

      • ithehappy

        And another.

    • ysan99

      Try Nexus 4 for week and you'll notice the advantage of having onscreen buttons. They are most intuitive.

      • ithehappy

        There is a kid.

    • ithehappy

      People doesn't like on screen buttons, it's either the kids or the idiots, but the former mostly.
      On screen buttons: The worst idea I have ever seen or could ever be made, goes with iOS perfectly.

  • Google_Is_The_Higgs_Boson

    The only thing I would want to know... Will this get updates like a Nexus?

  • Joshua deVille

    I honestly think if this rumor is true this is the XFon everyone was thinking motorolla was going to make. think about, the physical home button, the IR Blaster, the Sensor for S Features none of them will be needed because they are all Touchwiz Features, not android.

  • Jason Bailey

    We one things for sure a google product would never support the external micro sd. So if it is true lets hope its readily available in the higher storage options. Having said that with stock android the 16gb version would have far more available storage than Samsungs one version lol

    I just can't see this happening though... Especially at the "nexus" price point. I don't envisage samsung wanting to dilute its sales with cheaper hardware unless google is subsidising it.

  • Stephen

    Only neckbeards care that much about a menu button

  • OMGgary

    Well, we know now that it is real. This should make Galaxy S4 a huge hit with stock android fans if the Google edition ROM can easily be installed onto "normal" edition.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Glad this rumor panned out. We felt pretty good about it, unlike most rumors, hence the post.