Stock Android Jelly Bean on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition premiers with a new live wallpaper dubbed Sun Beam, which is the popular Phase Beam but with a warmer maroon red twist. Stock Android has never looked livelier on another display. The 5" 1920 x 1080 Super AMOLED on the Galaxy S4 just brings out the entire OS to a whole new level.
Colors are vibrant and punchy, while blacks, which are heavily used throughout the interface are pitch black. There's one thing to note, however - there are no screen modes or scenarios like in TouchWiz. You cannot choose Dynamic or Adobe RGB setups, you're stuck with the default setting. That said, the default setting is nicely balanced - it's not as oversaturated as Dynamic mode but it still packs some warmer, more saturated colors than the HTC One, for example.
At over 440 ppi the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition's screen looks as sharp as it gets and you can't notice the individual pixels with a naked eye. Everything is perfectly sharp down to the smallest UI item.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition screen under a microscope
The brightness levels of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition screen are on par with the rest of the company's AMOLEDs, which is to say, they are not very high. However, due to the screen's low reflectivity, this doesn't affect outdoor performance. Keep in mind that enabling the auto tone setting in the screen option limits the maximum brightness to under 300 nits, so if that matters to you, you better keep it off.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|Samsung I9505G Galaxy S4 GPE||0||201||∞||0||404||∞|
|Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4||0||201||∞||0||404||∞|
|Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III||0||174||∞||0||330||∞|
|Sony Xperia Z||-||-||-||0.70||492||705|
|Oppo Find 5||0.17||176||1123||0.51||565||1107|
|Samsung N7100 Galaxy Note II||0||215||∞||0||402||∞|
|LG Optimus G Pro||-||-||-||0.41||611||1489|
|Nokia Lumia 920||-||-||-||0.48||513||1065|
|LG Optimus G||0.14||197||1445||0.33||417||1438|
|Apple iPhone 5||0.13||200||1490||0.48||640||1320|
Much like with the rest of the S4 variations this is easily the best screen on a mobile phone today.
Since the software has been changed you should expect differences in the controls pattern of the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition. But these changes are not drastic and you'll hardly ever notice the difference.
Below the display you get the same three keys as on the TouchWiz Galaxy S4 - the capacitive Menu and Back buttons plus a regular Home key.
Upon a long-press of the Home button you'll not be taken to the Task switcher menu but instead Google Now will be launched. In order to get to the Task switcher you need to perform a double-press of the Home button.
The menu key does exactly as advertised and opens on the contextual menu in each app or part of the OS while the back key gets you back to square one.
Above the display we have the earpiece, as well as a bunch of sensors. The traditional ambient light and proximity sensors are joined by an IR gesture sensor, which doesn't really do anything with the stock software. There's also a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera for video calls and a status LED up there.
The left side of the Samsung Galaxy S4 features the volume rocker, while the power/lock key is on the right - no changes there either.
The top of the Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition features the 3.5mm audio jack, the secondary microphone and the IR blaster that allows you to use the smartphone as a remote control for your home appliances. Thankfully, the IR remote control feature is still available even without Samsung's TouchWiz enhancements.
The microUSB port at the bottom is used for both data connections and charging. Not only does it support USB host but it also comes with support for the new MHL 2.0, enabling 3D 1080p output and TV connections without an external power source just as the regular S4.
The last item to point out at the bottom is the primary microphone pinhole.
The back of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition is where the 13 megapixel FullHD-capable camera lens is located. Much like on the regular Galaxy S4, the LED flash is right beside it, and the loudspeaker grille is located on the bottom left edge of the device.
Removing the battery cover reveals the microSIM slot, the ample 2600 mAh removable battery and the microSD card slot. The memory card slot is hot-swappable, too.
Our battery test showed that the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition doesn't differ drastically from the TouchWiz Galaxy S4. It managed almost the same web browsing battery life at 7:13 hours, then it was almost a perfect match in the video playback department with 12:32 hours and finally, put out a respectable 12:37 hours in our dedicated call test.
Unfortunately, the overall endurance rating for the Galaxy S4 GPE fell from the 69 hours of the I9505 Galaxy S4 down to 63 hours because of the lesser talk-time and stand-by scores. And occasionally we would experience strange battery drain when we left the phone on stand-by overnight.
A 63h rating means you can expect the phone to typically last this amount of time on a single charge if you stick to our test regiment of using the phone for an hour of calling, an hour of video watching and an hour of web browsing a day and then leaving it on stand-by during the rest of the time. Of course, your mileage will vary depending on your usage pattern and network environment but still, it's our standardized way of producing comparable results across smartphones by different manufacturers.