Back in May, Google announced that it would sell a "Google Edition" version of the Samsung Galaxy S4. Unlike the regular Galaxy S4, the Google Edition device runs a stock version of Android, free from any Samsung-specific features and apps.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy S4 Google Edition is only sold in the US through the Google Play Store and is not available in Australia. However, if you're keen to use the latest version of stock Android on your Galaxy S4, there is a way to install the software manually, provided you are using a Windows PC.
We've written an easy, step-by-step guide that includes images to help you through the process. The installation should take you less than 20 minutes to complete overall.
Backup your data
IMPORTANT: Before you go ahead you should ensure you backup your Galaxy S4 and save any important data (such as photos and videos) you want to keep. This manual software installation will wipe any data on your handset.
To back up your Galaxy S4, navigate to Settings > Backup & reset and ensure the "Back up my data" checkbox is ticked.
To back up other files that won't be saved through your Google account there are a few options. For photos, we recommend the excellent Dropbox app. Navigate to the camera upload menu and you can choose to sync the images in your camera roll that you want to keep.
The best way to manage this in an ongoing manner is to use the automatic camera upload feature in the settings menu of Dropbox. When this is switched on, any new photos you take with the Galaxy S4's camera will automatically be uploaded to Dropbox.
To backup your text messages, we recommend the SMS Backup+ app. It can back up your text messages through your Gmail account and can be set to backup automatically, or at predefined time periods.
WARNING: Good Gear Guide takes no responsibility for anything that might go wrong during this process. We are not liable for any faults or damages caused by any of the procedures in this guide. If followed correctly, these instructions should ensure a hassle free process but you are ultimately advised to attempt this at your own risk. Do note that rooting your device and installing a custom ROM is likely to void your manufacturer warranty, so attempt this at your own risk.
This guide will work with the GT-I9505 version of the Galaxy S4 sold in Australia by Telstra, Optus and Vodafone and various other retailers. Do note that it will remove any Australian telco customisation such as included Telstra/Optus/Vodafone apps. It will also remove all Samsung-specific features such as dual-camera, S-Voice and Smart Scroll.
Before you start, make sure you have the Samsung USB drivers installed on your PC. You can download the drivers here.
Step one: Root your Galaxy S4
This method will require your Galaxy S4 to be rooted. There are a number of methods to root your device but we used the popular Chainfire Root (CF-Root for short). You can download CF-Auto-Root by clicking here.
Once downloaded, unzip the file. We recommend extracting the file to your main hard drive. In our case, this was the C:\ drive. You should see a .tar.md5 file once unzipped.
To root your Galaxy S4 you'll also need to download Odin, a small program that allows you to flash software to Samsung Android devices. Click here to download Odin 3.07, the same version we used.
Once downloaded, unzip the file. Double click on the "Odin3 v3.07.exe" file. It should look like this:
Turn off your Galaxy S4. Put the phone into bootloader/download mode by holding the power button together with both the home and volume down buttons. Hold these three buttons simultaneously until you see this screen:
Press the volume up button to continue and you'll then see this screen:
Plug your Galaxy S4 into your PC using the USB cable. The phone should automatically be detected by your computer and will be displayed in the ID:COM box on Odin. (On our PC the port is COM8, but it may be a different number on your computer). The ID:COM box should be highlighted yellow or blue.
Click the "PDA" button in Odin, and select the CF-Auto-Root .tar.md5 file you downloaded earlier. Press Start on Odin. You should see a progress indicator on Odin and a progress indicator bar on your Galaxy S4.
Ensure you DO NOT remove the USB cable from your Galaxy S4 while your phone is being rooted. Once the process is completed, your Galaxy S4 should restart as normal.
Step two: Install a custom recovery
Once your phone is rooted you'll need to install a custom recovery. This is a replacement for the stock Android recovery and allows you to flash new ROMs to your device.
There are number of custom recovery's available, including the popular ClockWorkMod Recovery (CWM for short) or TeamWin Recovery Project (TWRP for short). You can use either of these, but we used PhilZ Touch 5 Recovery, which you can download here.
Once downloaded, unzip the file. We once again recommend extracting the file to your main hard drive. In our case, this was the C:\ drive. You should see a .tar.md5 file.
You'll need to flash your custom recovery via Odin, so you can follow the same process in step one, just with the different file.
Turn off your Galaxy S4. Put the phone into bootloader/download mode by holding the power button together with both the home and volume down buttons. Press the volume up button to continue.
Plug your Galaxy S4 into your PC using the USB cable. Click the "PDA" button in Odin, and select the custom recovery .tar.md5 file you downloaded earlier. Press Start on Odin. You should see a progress indicator on Odin and a progress indicator bar on your Galaxy S4.
Ensure you DO NOT remove the USB cable from your Galaxy S4 while the custom recovery is being flashed. Once the process is completed, your Galaxy S4 should re-boot straight into recovery mode. Select "reboot system now", then select "yes" when prompted with the "disable flash recovery" screen.
If the phone reboots normally and not into recovery mode, repeat the exact steps above but untick the "autoreboot" check box item in Odin.
Step three: Install the Google Edition 4.3 ROM
Once you're rooted your Galaxy S4 and flashed a custom recovery, you are now ready to install the Google Edition 4.3 ROM. There are various versions of this ROM, but one of the best we've come across is Janjan's version which can be found over at the Xda-developer forums. The ROM is a direct port of Android 4.3 without any changes.
To install the Google Edition ROM, download the latest version from the Xda link above. We used the latest v.1 version, but previous versions are also available to download.
Once you've downloaded the file, DO NOT unzip it. Plug your Galaxy S4 into your PC and copy the zip file to the internal storage on your device.
Disconnect the Galaxy S4 from your PC, then turn off your phone. Now you'll need to boot into recovery mode by holding down the volume up, home and power buttons until you see the Samsung Galaxy S4 logo. Release the buttons when you see the logo. Don't hold them for too long, otherwise the phone will start as normal.
Once you're in recovery mode, use the volume buttons to select wipe data/factory reset. Press the power key to confirm. Then select clean to install a new ROM from the internal SD card storage on your phone. Scroll down to the zip file you copied to your phone earlier in this step. Press the power button to confirm.
Select "reboot system now", then select "no" when prompted with the "disable flash recovery" screen.
Your phone should now boot as per normal with the latest Google Edition Android 4.3 software installed! If your device gets stuck on the Samsung logo screen, boot into recovery mode again, wipe data and reboot again.