The phrase "stock Android" brings to mind the purest Android experience: an interface free of OEM skins and overlays, a device free of carrier restrictions and delayed software updates, and software that provides the type of experience Google meant Android users to have. Unfortunately, it's rare to encounter stock Android outside of phones and tablets that feature the Nexus branding—especially in high-end phones like Samsung's Galaxy S 4.
So when Google announced in May at its I/O Developer Conference that it would be releasing a stock version of the S 4, we were delighted. The Galaxy S 4 handset is a great phone that is slightly bogged down by too much excess Samsung baggage. For both developers and enthusiasts, the new Google Play edition phones present a unique opportunity. You no longer have to choose between a modern, high-end Android phone or a seven-month-old Nexus device. With both this and the stock edition of the HTC One, you can have both.
And that got us thinking: does Samsung's TouchWiz Nature UX 2.0 overlay actually affect the performance of its Galaxy S 4? Because while the benefit of stock Android might matter to a developer, why would the common, inexperienced Android consumer choose one over the other? When we ran the benchmarks in the initial review, the handset performed the best out of the three devices currently fueled by Snapdragon 600 SoCs. So we were curious to find out whether the Google Play edition of the Samsung Galaxy S 4 could outperform its former self—and whether consumers should seriously consider one over the other.