May 16, 2013, 1:06 PM

Google will sell an Android version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone

Google may be able to lock users into Android with top-of-the-line phone, an expert says.

Google Inc. announced yesterday at its Google I/O 2013 event in San Francisco that beginning next month it will begin selling a version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone that uses Google’s Android operating system. The smartphone as it is sold by Samsung uses a proprietary interface called TouchWiz. Google is differentiating its version of the high-end smartphone by using Android and setting it up to operate easily within the Google mobile ecosystem, which includes the app store Google Play and Google Music.

“The key difference is Google’s Galaxy S4 will run a cleaner, natural Google Android user interface experience akin to Google Nexus phones; this experience is preferred by many power Android users,” says Neil Shah, senior analyst in the global wireless practice at technology research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics Inc. “The other benefit being devices promoted by Google receive the important and bigger platform updates promptly. So if consumers are looking for Samsung’s cutting-edge Galaxy hardware incorporating a pure Google experience then this new Google Samsung Galaxy S4 is a great option.”

Samsung holds a commanding 95% of profits made from Android smartphones, Strategy Analytics says. And the Galaxy is the top of the line. Google may be able to attract a lot of smartphone buyers to the high-end Android phone and with it replicate the kind of brand loyalty to the Android operating system that Apple Inc. commands with the iPhone, Shah says.

“Google gets to offer its core experience now on one of the best and most advanced pieces of hardware on the market and win brownie points from users by offering this option, influencing users’ future mobile purchases by locking them into the Android ecosystem,” Shah says. “The user buying a smartphone is now all about the overall device hardware and software experience, the ecosystem. If a user can get faster and timely software updates on the best hardware on the market then definitely that user is likely to buy more Google-branded devices and services in the future to enjoy a classic Google ecosystem experience.”

Google will sell its Galaxy smartphone for $649.99. It will be unlocked, meaning it can work on multiple wireless carriers. But it will be unsubsidized, meaning it will be sold without being attached to a wireless carrier contract, making it a better deal for consumers than a $650 phone that required a two-year contract.

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