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First Look: Google's Samsung Galaxy S4 in all its minimalistic goodness

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First Look: Google's Samsung Galaxy S4 in all its minimalistic goodness

2:46 /

Though it sports the same high-end hardware (5-inch 1080p screen, quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, 13-megapixel camera), the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play edition forgoes the TouchWiz user interface for the skinless Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS.

Hello everybody. It's Lynn La from CNET, and today, I have with me the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play edition. By now, you should be pretty well acquainted with the device given that it's been available from carriers for a couple of months now. However, Google's unlocked variant just hit stores, and you might be wondering what the difference is. For the most part, not much. Physically, you won't see a carrier logo or the words Galaxy S4 on the back. In addition, hardware specs are all the same. This includes the same beautiful 5-inch 1080p touchscreen, the same 2.6 ampere-hour battery and the same quad-core Snapdragon 600 processor, previously seen in the US model. So what exactly has changed then? Well, for one thing, you won't get Samsung's TouchWiz UI. Rather, this GS4 runs the skinless 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS, which I frankly find more elegant and user friendly. You also won't get the usual slew of carrier and Samsung-branded bloatware, just your usual lineup of Google apps, like Chrome, Gmail and Maps. This does make a difference in terms of the amount of available space you get out of the box. True, the GS4 does have expandable memory up to 64 Gigs and you could always uninstall some of the apps that come preloaded, but with the 16-Gig model at least starting out, you'll get 12 Gigs of storage with Google's S4 compared to about 9 Gigs from carrier editions. Unfortunately, with Samsung's branding stripped away, so goes a lot of cool software features that some users might find really useful. For instance, you won't get those neat eye control functions that automatically pause videos or keeps the display lit by sensing your eye movements. Earlier versions of the GS4 also let you use the touchscreen with gloves on, and it could simultaneously display more than one app on the screen at a time. These features and many other photo features for the 13-megapixel camera won't be natively available on the handset. The 4G LTE device is optimized for GSM networks like AT&T and T-Mobile, and while it's not a Nexus-branded device, Google has confirmed that their S4 will receive updates as quickly as any other Google edition handset. Now, the smartphone does come at a pretty penny however. And while at $649 price tag isn't uncommon or even unusual for a top-tier unlocked phone in the US, it is still a steep price compared to S4's under contract. Ultimately, if you're a diehard Android enthusiast, or someone who wants total freedom from a carrier, or someone who can simply afford it, you won't be disappointed with the device. For everyone else, however, it may be more economical to get the GS4 with the carrier. Again, I'm Lynn, and you've been checking out the Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play edition.

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