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Today is just the beginning of Google I/O, which lasts through Friday as we continue to learn more about Google’s plans for the near future. We’ve already learned of a couple of interesting new features coming from the Mountain View company, including a new streaming music service, notification syncing, and the new and improved Google Hangouts – but that’s not all! Probably the most left field move that predictions expected to see today was the announcement of a Samsung Galaxy S 4 that runs like a Nexus.

When I first heard the announcement to release the stock Galaxy S 4 I found myself in minor shock – this is, after all, the first non-Nexus device that is able to receive this opportunity. Google also announced that it would be updated just as often as devices that are officially on the Nexus line, which basically makes it a Nexus without the Nexus name – not to mention it already comes with bootloader unlocked. It also comes with a much higher price tag than the last Nexus device, the Nexus 4, which sells for $299. But just how high is that price?

The price starts at $649 and the devices will begin selling on June 26. When Mr. Barra announced this price point, you could tell the audience was thrilled by the deafening screams of… absolute silence. I admit that I myself raised both eyebrows as the thoughts of owning a stock Samsung Galaxy S 4 quietly began to exit my brain, but then I realized that this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise at all.

This isn’t another Nexus device, this is a flagship smartphone from another company that was originally meant to serve as, well… as a Galaxy. Yet, since we’re being offered a Nexus experience, I think we all jumped the gun by assuming that a Nexus experience automatically comes with a Nexus price tag without question. To be perfectly honest, you’re still getting a discount because the price of the stock Galaxy S 4 is $50 cheaper than an unsubsidized regular Galaxy S 4, which sells for $699 without contract.

So the question the audience and we, the consumers, are asking ourselves at this point is: Is a stock Google experience worth $350 more than what the latest Nexus device can currently offer us? Let’s look at some of the differences and figure it out.

We know about the Google Nexus 4 by LG, and we know about the Samsung Galaxy S 4, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time spelling out all of the specifics. Instead I’m going to focus on some of the bigger differences between the two devices, which may or may not serve as a game changer on whether you would rather purchase the stock Galaxy S 4 over the Nexus 4 or not.

The first thing that’s completely debatable and up in the air, at least for me, regards the screen. While the Nexus 4 only has a 1280 x 768 resolution (320 ppi) against the Galaxy S 4’s 1080 x 1920 resolution (441 ppi) there’s still more than meets the eye when it comes to numbers, and that’s the fact that the Nexus 4’s WXGA IPS is remarkably easier to see in direct sunlight when compared to the Galaxy S 4’s AMOLED display. If you’re a vampire like me, then sunlight probably won’t affect your buying decision much – but for those that prefer to soak in the sun you might consider whether being able to clearly see your phone’s display in the sunlight is something that would bother you or not.

One of the more prominent issues regards the data speeds of each device. As many of you know the Nexus 4’s fastest speeds only amount to HSPA+ while the Galaxy S 4 offers LTE. Really this is going to depend on where you spend most of your time. I’ve heard numerous accounts where people have absolutely no beef with the HSPA+ speeds of the Nexus 4, and speeding it up by just a few seconds with LTE probably wouldn’t warrant spending an extra $350 on a device for many. However, not all people are lucky enough to live in an area with great HSPA+ coverage so if LTE works best for you and data speed is an important factor, definitely take that into consideration.

Then of course we have the issue of memory. Hands down the Galaxy S 4 has my vote when it comes to memory. The biggest issue I had with the Galaxy S 4 was discovering just how much internal memory TouchWiz took up with the Galaxy S 4 – almost half of the allotted memory in a 16GB version. Without TouchWiz, the amount of internal memory the software takes up will only be a fraction of that. The bloatware is gone, the space is freed up, and you might not even need a microSD card – or maybe you will. That’s the beauty that the Galaxy S 4 holds over the Nexus 4; it’s there if you need it.

When it comes to cameras on the device, the average user who is still taught to focus on the megapixel race might assume that the 13-megapixel shooter on the back of the Galaxy S 4 automatically trumps the Nexus 4’s more standard 8-megapixels. Is this true? Honestly, neither phone is going to kill a decent compact camera. The best way to describe it, in my opinion, is to just say that the Nexus 4’s 8-megapixel camera is good, and the 13-megapixel camera on the back of the Galaxy S 4 is pretty good. Keep in mind that you won’t be getting all of the fun, frilly editing options that the normal Samsung Galaxy S 4 would have given you, which we saw during the Galaxy S 4 announcement back in March. It really just boils down to how important megapixels are to you.

Last but not least, we’ll talk about the internals. Without getting too boring and specific since it’s stuff we already know, the Galaxy S 4 has faster and more updated specs – you have to expect that with a device that’s 6 months newer than the Nexus 4. However, the processor on each device is pretty darn fast, so unless you do a benchmark test I wouldn’t think you would notice a huge difference during everyday experience – certainly not $350 worth, in my humble opinion. But the $350 higher price point is something you will want to consider with the device in its entirety, not just the processing power.

So I asked myself “Would I pay $350 more to get a stock Google experience on the Galaxy S 4 over the Nexus 4?” In the end I would have to go with no. I would save a lot of money by going with the regular Samsung Galaxy S 4 and rooting it, or even getting a similar experience at less than half the price with the Nexus 4. You can’t argue that price vs. performance can play a very close game in this case, and potentially either side could win.

However, in the end, if you asked me if the price justified the performance of the phone, I would ultimately have to say yes – because that truly is what a full-price, unsubsidized phone costs. We just got lucky and spoiled with the price on the Nexus line because Pimp Daddy Google makes it rain on the…  customers. If you give a mouse a cookie…

Readers, I’m interested in your opinions: Would you pay $649 for the stock Galaxy S 4, or would you rather wait for the next Nexus device? Do you think this throws out any possibility of an updated Nexus 4 showing up during the rest of Google I/O? Let me know your thoughts!

Image via ToTheMobile


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47 Reactions to this post

"Does the price of the stock Galaxy S 4 surprise you?"


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Jeff Jacques When compared to the HTC One Developer's Edition price point, which is also carrier and bootloader unlocked it's reasonable, from a pricing perspective. These are both the best Android phones currently available. Is a "Nexus" phone worth $649? Probably not, unless you are a developer or someone who prefers to own unsubsidized smartphones.
Michael Katz Sprint will not be getting it. Only T-Mobile and AT&T will be getting it.
Gibby Garcia Basically you are getting a Galaxy S without the fun stuff....so if you are just after the pure Android experience, get the Nexus...
Gary Bollinger they will
Gary Bollinger what does that mean?
Andrew Bissel Its a galaxy phone. Its going to be double googles price don't worry.
Paul Warner subsidized..
Waii Hui A lot of cash.. Out of my price range
Mark Carruthers Not a chance, I'd buy the Nexus 4 in a heartbeat!
Austin Montiel Hernandez What part of unlocked do people not understand?
Wen Pai if HTC one yes, but GS4 no. hell no
Pirarre Miller I'll just keep my 64GB HTC One :-)
Glenn Rubio Urrea I like the idea of an S4 with stock Android. I believe that every unlocked phone you buy should come with stock Android with the manufacturer skin as an option.
Jerry Parker Compare to the price of other similar phones, it doesn't come as a shock to me
Lanh Nguyen price is just way to high and that isn't even including shipping and tax. You can add an automatic 13.99 for shipping 2 day air.
Tanner Emmers With half memory yea, bad market strategy
Vicente Reyes Garbage, price shouldn't be that high for the hardware. Samsung sells there stuff mainly on features, not hardware.
Michael Katz I hope Sprint gets this.
Jason Vargas Yea. You don't get all the software that Samsung offers. But you pay the same price. They should've gone $499
Mike Tunac I'm not too sure what to think but I'd probably go for rooting and ROM options though I would like to see a review on it.
Mark Belkowski Im betting google will be slowing down their release cycle to limit fragmentation.
Charlie Ebner Not shocking, but a little over priced, yes, especially for 16gb. $499 or $549 might have been a better contract-free price. At the current price point, it absurdly obvious that they're going after the iPhone.
Reese Woodson As a S4 and Nexus 4 owner, I can say I like Touch Wiz over stock Android because it has more features. So this stock Android S4 doesn't impress me or make me want to return my week old S4. That's just my opinion though.......
Karl Wuscher Is a B.S. price to keep the phone out of those who would get it most.
Juwon Donte Nope still not impressed by Samsung so I'll stick with my nexus 4
Christopher W Sanders Totally over priced, totally!
Danny Cvengros Lets see what the S5 has in store.
Steven Basso Get a regular s4 and put a stock Android custom rom
Christopher Manic Johnson I'm glad Google didn't rush to put out a new device, but rather refined the services they have now. It's a smart company, which is why I support them wholeheartedly.
Matthew Munson Maybe add another 16gb to it and it would be worth the 649.
Christopher Manic Johnson It's not a device developed purely for stock experience, hence, it's a special edition S4, rather than a Dev edition S4. If Google and Samsung worked closely for developing a Dev edition device, I doubt it would have been $600+. Just look at the price of the Galaxy Nexus compared to the prices of an unlocked GS2.
Gary Bollinger IT IS ONLY $200 FOR at&t!!!
Mark Belkowski I assume they are working on key lime 5.0 and it wasnt ready to be shown.
Mark Belkowski They always announce a new android at io so nice try. I assume all the talk of 4.3 and new nexus devices were BS. And in case you missed it that moto x phone is headed for at&t. It just passed through the fcc is you do a simple search. io sucked, plain and simple.
Juan Gonzalez no, the phone wasn't meant/sold as a stock experience so why would they sell it at that.
David Juarez @ Mark Bellowski : They've been speculating Google I/O for what weeks now? Even the CEO came out and disclosed that they werent going to be talking about new products, or updates. The moto X is a rumor and began as a speculation. That does not mean it will come true. People's expectations of technology these days are through the roof. Im glad they didnt surprise us with a new update. They need to make sure that majority of phone running ICS get at least one version of JB before they launch something new. I do somewhat agree with you about the sales of the new SGS4. I think for regular customers it might confuse them, but i think the majority of those purchasing this device will be those interested in rooting or modding the thing. If you scour the tech forums the major topic since the SGS1 has been AOSP and CM. You could say that about tother phones also that are skinned. Id rather have my SGS4 launch with stock android and be ablet o install tw or another launcher over it than the other way around.
Michael Pitts I personally want the HTC DEV Edition more but with being on T-Mobile I feel like I might not be getting the full service that the carrier locked model would be getting.
Michael Pitts @Mark Belkowski the only problem I see with the HTC DEV Edition is that it does not support the 1700mhz frequency of T-Mobile, if it did then I would say the HTC One is a better value, Then you have to think which device will receive updates quicker?
Ricardo Aguila Cuenca No! Plastic piece crap!!!!!
Jesse Ling Samsung is becoming more like crapple so i shall say no
Abram Wenevermet Dennis Why do phones cost more than tablets?
Tim Moore It's what most unlocked phones cost so not a surprise. However still a lot.
Mark Belkowski also google io sucked. no new nexus 7 or nexus 4 announced. no mention of that new moto x amd no android upgrade.
Tony Allen Yes and no.. I mean since they're not licensing all of Samsungs proprietary software stuff, shouldn't it drive down the price of the device?
Mark Belkowski why get it when u can buy a dev edition htc one with 64gb for the same price. i dont see this stock gs4 selling well. if anything it will help development on the exsiting ones.
Brandon Thompson if it was a stock HTC One...yes it would be worth it. S4 build...no




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