In a turn for the books and confirming a rumour many cast aside earlier in the day, Google has announced that it will be releasing a Samsung Galaxy S4, unlocked and running stock Android – you heard right, so long TouchWiz. Above and beyond just being network unlocked, it will also pack an unlocked bootloader and can be bought from the Google Play Store from June 26th in the USA at a stomachable $649 (£426.30).
Having just reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4, one of our biggest gripes with the incredibly powerful flagship is TouchWiz. Samsung’s custom user interface overloads the 1.9GHz Qualcomm 600 CPU and its 2GB of RAM to the point of occasional stutter. Sure, many will find the Smart Features like Air Gesture, Air View and Smart Stay worth it, but odds are, hardcore Android fans won’t.
Samsung has lost love in the developer community of late, so the move isn’t a total surprise. Moving further away from stock Android and making it difficult for devs to couple Samsung hardware with ever-popular custom ROMs such as Cyanogenmod, high profile dev figures on sites like XDA have made the leap to HTC from Samsung.
This announcement, at Google I/O is likely a well thought through PR stunt on Samsung’s part to safeguard the dev community relationship. Regardless of Samsung’s motives though, it will be music to Android fans ears, offering the latest version of the Galaxy S4 with no barriers to complete customisation.
Along with June 26th availability and $649 price, Google has also pledged that the device will get Android updates in a timely manner, likely more aligned with Nexus phones. One thing the big G didn’t do however was confirm a global release, let alone UK availability.