The best cellphone hardware has been crippled by manufacturer and carrier bloatware and skins, and Google's Nexus lineup has been hamstrung by a lack of LTE and somewhat inadequate specifications. But we've just gotten a look at the big surprise of Google's I/O keynote, a Samsung Galaxy S4 running stock Android, and suddenly we have visions of a world in which we don't have to choose between features and design, between timely updates and cutting-edge specs.
We tracked down Android VP Hugo Barra as he traipsed around the Moscone Center, and grilled him about his S4 while snapping a few pictures along the way. Details are still somewhat scant — as is what's sure to be an interesting backstory — but Barra said simply that "it's pretty awesome." Battery life is great, he told us, and the phone was fast and responsive as he toured us around the operating system. It's not a finished product, he said, having really only come together in the last week. (Barra knows his Android, by the way – he quickly rearranged his home screen icons to their default position before showing us the device.)
We liked a lot about the Galaxy S4 as it is, but now that Google has coupled Samsung's great camera and display with the purest form of Android (and LTE support), this Nexus phone might quickly find our pockets $649 lighter come June 26th.
Dieter Bohn and Nilay Patel contributed to this report.