When Google announced the Nexus Experience Galaxy S4 (which shall henceforth be referred to as the NES4), information on exactly which hardware variant Google was using for the device left something to be desired. We know that it includes 16GB of storage, has a removable battery, a microSD slot, appears to retain its physical button configuration and has access to T-Mobile and AT&T LTE. By process of elimination, we’re fairly certain at this point that the NES4 is merely a software modded T-Mobile Galaxy S 4.
What makes us think the NES4 is a T-Mobile Galaxy S 4? Good question. After poking around online, in my own personal research, I found that the T-Mobile Galaxy S4 is the only variant of the device capable of supporting all the necessary bands for T-Mobile and AT&T. Both AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s Galaxy S 4 variants are essentially the same phone, but AT&T has some locks in place that keep the S4 stuck on AT&T. I wasn’t positive how these locks worked, or if that even was the case, but research from AnandTech’s Brian Klug seems to confirm and explain why the SGH M919, or T-Mobile Galaxy S4, is most likely the same device as the NES4.
SGH-M919 has always included support for LTE on Bands 2, 4, 5, and 17 (that's 1900 PCS, 1700/2100 AWS, 850 Cellular, and 700 Lower B and C) and WCDMA on Bands 2, 4, and 5. At another level, this is the same hardware as the AT&T variant but without the arbitrary RAT (Radio Access Technology) locking that AT&T has put in place to restrict use of Band 4 WCDMA which T-Mobile needs for a good experience. This translates to that support for AT&T and T-Mobile LTE and WCDMA. That also means Snapdragon 600 (APQ8064AB) and no Exynos 5.Brian KlugAnandTech
The chances that the NES4 is an entirely new model of Galaxy S4 are slim to none. There’s no way Google is having Samsung manufacture a new model of GS4, just to keep the same exact hardware configuration. Hugo Barra, who was spotted walking around I/O with the device, said the software wasn’t finished yet. Another good sign Google simply took an existing device and is working away on it.
At this point, you may be wondering what this means for you. If the NES4 really is an SGH M919, then a simple software flash should turn your T-Mobile S4 into Nexus Experience device, complete with updates directly from Google and all. If the NES4 is an entirely different device, which again, we don’t think it is, then you’d be out of luck. There are still AOSP ROMs for the T-Mobile S4 as it is, so it won’t be that big of a change either way. Still, for someone like me who doesn’t mess with custom ROMs much anymore, an Odin flash to a Nexus Experience device where Google will take care of the updates sounds very nice. Especially on a device that can be bought with T-Mobile installation plans, not $650 upfront.
We’ll be following news around the Nexus Experience S4 closely, so stay tuned for more.