Sure, Google is rolling out big numbers and the expected streaming music service. (See the Merc’s live blog.) But a tweet by the Merc’s Brandon Bailey from the I/O conference today was particularly intriguing: “Google selling unlocked Samsung S4 that gets auto Android updates.” But here’s another but: The price is steep — $649 — compared with about $200 when bought from carriers, which subsidize the cost of phones.
One common knock on Android is the fact that wireless carriers, not Google, control when updates to the operating system are pushed out to smartphones. This can be an issue when phones fail to receive software patches that fix security flaws in a timely manner. Last month, the ACLU asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the issue. “Google’s Android operating system now has more than 75% of the smartphone market, yet the majority of these devices are running software that is out of date,” wrote Chris Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst with the ACLU, in a blog post. Ars Technica has reported that Android owners sometimes wait as long as 15 months before receiving an update.
The Galaxy S4 would be (an expensive) way around the lack of timely updates. It joins Google’s Nexus phone and tablets, which also automatically get OS updates when Google makes them available. The unlocked S4 will be available on Google Play starting June 26, and will work on AT&T and T-Mobile.
Google executive Hugo Barra unveils the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Edition at the I/O conference Wednesday. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)