Google and Samsung: French Kissing Again

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- I told you so.

And they had been doing it all along, just as I said.

The only hardware Google ( GOOG) announced at its annual developer conference Wednesday was a Nexus version of the much-beloved Samsung Galaxy S4. So much for Google and Samsung not getting along!

Recently, I reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the headline was "The Best Android That's Not Nexus."

The article ended with the following paragraph: "Here is what Samsung should do: Make a Nexus version of the Galaxy S4. That would be the ideal smartphone in the Android world today. Until then, we buy the Nexus that actually exists."

Little did I know that Google would announce just this product the following day! It will be available June 26, and it will work on LTE on both T-Mobile and AT&T ( T) -- and of course every other GSM-based network in the world.

The price is $649, which is identical to the 16-gig version of the iPhone. The one difference here is the Nexus version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 has expandable storage, in the form of the industry-standard MicroSD card.

Based on everything else that is in the market today, there is no need to review this product. Why? Because it's obvious that it is going to be the best Android in the market -- however temporarily, and assuming no other relevant flagship Android device being introduced before June 26.

As I wrote in my review of the Samsung Galaxy S4, it is the best Android hardware in the market today. The problems with the device are the inferior Samsung software, plus the way it's sold (SIM-locked).

I wrote that if you could just pair this industry-best hardware together with Nexus software, you would have the ideal Android smartphone imaginable. In other words, Samsung and Google listened and decided to make it!

The only remaining question is this: The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a hardware button, flanked by two software buttons: a menu button (on the left) and a back button (on the right). This arrangement is, per definition, inconsistent with Nexus software.

Nexus software has three software buttons -- a home button in the middle, a back button on the left, and a multitasking button on the right.

I have asked Google for clarification as to how this will work on the Nexus version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 hardware. As of this writing, I have not received anything more than "Nobody seems sure; we're looking into who might know the answer."

There are three main alternatives for how this hardware-software conflict could be resolved:
  1. Samsung could re-spin the hardware, simply removing its buttons and allowing the Nexus software to work on the screen, just like any other Nexus.
  2. Samsung could keep the hardware but "double up" with the three Nexus buttons on the screen. Would look a bit inelegant and goofy, but it would work.
  3. Samsung could alter the Nexus software so as to fit with its existing three buttons. This would "work" but would it really be a 100% Nexus at that point?

I wouldn't be totally surprised if I find out the answer to this pressing question even before this article has been published. Somebody from Google will probably clarify this soon enough.

The other question that arises here is: How does this Nexus compare to the current Nexus -- the LG Nexus 4?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Nexus is $649, versus the $349 for the 16-gig version of the LG Nexus 4. How is the $300 -- nearly 100% premium -- price difference justified?

The Samsung Nexus has, compared to the LG Nexus:
  • Expandable storage (MicroSD card)
  • Removable backside (removable battery)
  • Bigger battery (2600 vs 2100 mAh)
  • Functioning LTE, although that could change -- in part -- on the LG, with a potential future software upgrade that is far from a given, and if so, only on T-Mobile, not AT&T.
  • Bigger and better display: 5 inches, 1080p vs. 4.7 inches, 720p
  • Faster CPU/GPU: Qualcomm ( QCOM) 600 vs. previous-gen Qualcomm processor
  • Better camera: 13 megapixel vs. 8

In particular, I appreciate the bigger battery in combination with the plastic removable backside. Clearly, the Samsung is the vastly superior hardware. Does it justify the extra $300? Not yes, but hell yes! No doubt about it, in my view.

If you are in the market for an Android smartphone, and you don't need a BlackBerry ( BBRY)-style hard keyboard, this looks like it will be the device to get -- by a wide margin -- when it becomes available on June 26 for $649, SIM-unlocked, contract-free. Get it directly from Google online.

See, that was easy, wasn't it? Thanks to Google and Samsung for listening to my demands.

At the time of publication the author was long GOOG, BBRY and AAPL.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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