Samsung’s take on the Android operating system, in the form of the Samsung TouchWiz design, has been around for a few years now and is generally seen as a solid addition to Google’s underlying platform.
However, it seems that some buyers are more interested in experiencing an undiluted Android experience on their Galaxy S4 phones and would rather not have to tinker under the bonnet to achieve this in a DIY sort of manner.
That is why Samsung announced that a Nexus S4 is on the way, with none of the Samsung TouchWiz design frills that fans will have come to expect. So does the way the Samsung Galaxy S4 deals with Android feel like it has been compromised in its Nexus format, or is the unadorned approach to user interface ultimately more practical?
There are plenty of interface features that are exclusive to the Samsung TouchWiz design and thus absent from the pure Android Galaxy S4, such as Samsung’s Air View, a popular feature of the Samsung Note 3, which lets you hover over content to get a preview without actually opening it fully. You also will not be able to take advantage of the eye-tracking capabilities, which are designed to let the Galaxy S4 automatically pause a video when it detects that you are no longer looking at your screen.
Of course while the Nexus S4 will not get such capabilities, you could argue that these are merely gimmicks in the first place and not vital to the overall experience, particularly as they are imperfect and do not always operate quite as they were intended.
While both iterations of the Galaxy S4 will use the same underlying camera hardware, the native apps available will be quite different. Google’s relatively powerful but ultimately quite basic camera app is not as fully featured as Samsung’s bespoke take on it that comes with TouchWiz and lacks certain functions such as being able to capture images with the front and rear cameras at the same time. You can add plenty of camera features via third party apps, so the Nexus iteration of the S4 will not feel like it has been overly hampered in this area.
One of the main reasons that people choose to buy one of Google’s Nexus-brand devices is because there is a sense that the user has greater control over their phone experience. Instead of getting a homescreen that is cluttered with apps and widgets from the word go, you can formulate your own interface arrangement in a clean, unfussy environment.
At the moment it seems likely that the Nexus Edition of the Galaxy S4 will be coming to the UK in the near future, with US availability already confirmed. It will be interesting to see whether Samsung’s handset is as popular without the Samsung TouchWiz design on board.