Google is offering a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4, arguably one of the top current Android devices, with Jelly Bean 4.2 unlocked on Google Play beginning June 26, the company revealed at I/O today. The news is big because it’s the first non-Nexus device to get blessed with this opportunity, and Google says it will be updated in time with all other Nexus devices.
The Galaxy S4 will cost $649 with no contract, and will be usable on both AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S., Google said today. At that price it isn’t exactly cheap, but people are probably willing to pay for an untouched Android experience on some of the most powerful smartphone hardware available.
The S4 is not only carrier unlocked, but it also has a fully unlocked bootloader. That means that owners of the device can load their own software on to the device, including things like CyanogenMod, which allows for extremely deep device software customization options. In other words, this new unlocked S4 will essentially be the ultimate developer plaything, but again it’s likely to have more or less niche appeal because of the high price tag.
What’s interesting about this is that Samsung emphasized all its software additions to the stock Android experience at the Galaxy S4 launch event, and this is basically stripping all that away. Reviewers seemed more or less overwhelmed by Samsung’s software smorgasbord, so this might result in a much better device overall.