When Google’s Hugo Barra announced at the Google I/O 2013 that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be offered directly from the Play Store as a “Google Play Edition” device running stock Android, many people got really excited. Later on, HTC also jumped on the bandwagon with the HTC One, giving you a choice between two excellently spec’d smartphones that offer the Nexus experience.
As planned, the devices went on sale on June 26 and almost immediately, an alleged Galaxy S4 I9505G unit was discovered that runs on the yet unannounced Android 4.3 Jelly Bean instead of the official Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. Shortly after, a ROM that any regular Galaxy S4 owner with a Snapdragon 600 (yes, including the regular TouchWiz version) can flash popped up.
And here we are today, presenting you a Samsung Galaxy S4 (I9505) turned into a Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition (I9505G) running the leaked ROM 4.3. So, how does it feel and what’s new?
Right after you power on the stock Android-loving Galaxy S4, you notice the new Android boot animation with the Google logo prominently flashing. Then, you’re greeted with a special-made live wallpaper for the Google Play Edition duo dubbed Sun Beam. It’s essentially the same as the Phase Beam, but is done in fire red. Welcome to stock Android 4.3 territory.
Depending on where you come from (TouchWiz 4.2 or vanilla Android 4.2) the user interface can feel either completely different or virtually unchanged. There are five homescreen panes that can’t be deleted nor moved like on the rest of the Nexus family. The notification drawer still has a shortcut for the quick settings and the bottom dock holds four customizable app shortcuts and the app drawer icon. In a word – stock Android user interface.
However, there are a few changes here and there. Google Keep for example now comes preloaded, as does Google Hangouts (replacing Google Talk). Google Now is now at version 220.127.116.111924 and as now comes with support for two new types of cards – TV and Offers.
Android 4.3 new camera UI
The other notable change is the new camera interface, which is much more usable. When you tap on the screen to change the settings, there’s a new arch above your finger that shows the quick settings – HDR, Exposure, Flash and jump to the front-facing camera. There’s a settings button, too, which shows more options in a similarly visual fashion.
We’ve made a hands-on video of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play edition running Android 4.3 Jelly Bean. Check it out below.
It’s not known at this point if this leaked Android 4.3 that’s running on our Galaxy S4 is even real – it might be an elaborate prank by a skillful developer who fused the leaked camera and gallery apps to the regular 4.2 ROM of the Galaxy S4 Nexus edition and modded the about screen to say 4.3. Or it might be targeted at OEMs to give them time to prepare their custom Android builds with the latest APIs.
We’ll know soon enough, as Google and people more familiar with the inner workings of Android speak out. Either way, the ROM is performing nicely, so at the very least it will give you a chance to make turn your regular Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4 into a Google Edition one in a few easy steps.