Samsung Galaxy S4 strips off its TouchWiz for Google (pictures)

Already a hit among Android users, the Samsung Galaxy S4 unlocked Google variant packs a huge hardware punch (for a high price) without the bloatware.

Lynn La
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Google's S4 hits the Play store

Available today for the steep price of $649, the unlocked Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition runs a simplified and elegant Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS, unlike its TouchWiz-sporting original. But, it still retains all the powerful hardware specs we're familiar with.

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Some subtle differences

One minor physical difference in this S4 is the lack of either a carrier logo or the words "Galaxy S4" emblazoned on the battery door. This absence is the only quick indicator that you're carrying Google's variant.

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All about the label

If you want to dig even deeper, the usual FCC label that sits underneath the 2,600mAh battery will say "Distributed by Google."

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Stylish metallic trimming

Google's Galaxy S4 is physically the same as the original. It still has the same crisp and bright, 5-inch 1080p touch screen, the cool metallic edges, and what we previously dubbed a "pinprick design" on the battery door of the white frost version.

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No TouchWiz here

Once you purchase a device, you're usually bombarded with preloaded software. Google's S4, on the other hand, offers a whole lot of nothing -- and that can be a very good thing. For example, it starts you off with 12.21GB of space out of the box, while other carrier versions average around 9GB of initial storage.

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Minimalistic notification shade

Because it doesn't feature Samsung's TouchWiz UI, you won't see all of the 16 system icons available on your notifications shade. Instead, only eight shortcuts for actions such as adjusting brightness, turning on and off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Airplane mode will be shown.

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Keeping the lock to a minimum

Similarly, you won't be able to use Samsung's new options for the lock screen, which includes flashy graphics, a customizable and colorful message, and app icons. What you will have is an elegantly minimalist lock screen and the ability to access the camera and other apps by swiping left and right.

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Same powerful 13-megapixel shooter

In general, don't expect photo and video quality to change with the 13-megapixel rear-facing camera (above) and the 2-megapixel camera. Both will still be able to take exceptional images swiftly and smoothly.

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No camera goodies, however

However, the camera's interface will be simplified, and just three icons will display on the screen (shooting mode, the shutter button, and camera options), along with a circle graphic that shows up whenever you pinch zoom.

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