The moment Google announced the Google Play edition of the Samsung Galaxy S4, you could almost hear the buyer's remorse from millions of people who had already picked up the regular version of the handset. Not only is the Google Play edition of the phone free from bloatware, but it also benefits from timely updates similar to Google's line of Nexus devices. Suddenly, that pricey new phone you signed a 2-year contract for isn't looking as lustrous as when you first got it.
I do have some good news, though: Thanks to Android's flexible nature, you too can get your regular Samsung Galaxy S4 looking like the Google Play edition—without voiding your warranty.
Getting things started
The first thing you're going to want to do is clean house: Look through the apps that came preinstalled on your phone and uninstall all of the ones you don't want. You can do this by pressing the Menu button while in the App Drawer and selecting Uninstall, or by going to the Application Manager in the Settings app. The number of apps you'll be able to uninstall will vary depending on which carrier you're on—Sprint generally lets you remove more pre-installed apps than Verizon, for instance.
If there's an app you can't uninstall, don't worry too much about it. Just make a note of it—we'll deal with it a little later on.
When you're done ousting any unwanted apps, head on over to the Settings and get ready to do the same to most of the Galaxy S4's marquee features. Under the My Device tab, tap on Motions and gestures and turn off all of the options inside. Do the same for Smart screen, Air view, and Voice Control. These last few steps are completely optional, though they will help in getting that authentic "Android feel" and could potentially help you conserve your battery.
New coat of paint
Now that you've freed up some space and turned off any annoying extra features, it's time to download the apps you'll need to make it look like your phone is running stock Android. Jump into the Google Play Store and download Nova Launcher (free), Google Calendar (free), Google Keyboard (free), and WidgetLocker Lockscreen ($3).
Nova Launcher is a launcher replacement app that lets you customize your home screen and app drawer. It gives you extra functionality not found in Samsung's TouchWiz launcher, such as the ability to personalize your app icons, and overall feels much faster than Samsung's offering.
WidgetLocker Lockscreen is like Nova Launcher, but for your lock screen: It lets you add custom shortcuts to your lock screen and allows you to choose how you phone behaves when you wake it up. It's the only paid app on this list, but it's well worth the $3 entry fee to remove the bland Samsung lock screen and its grating sound effects.
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