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Christmas Gift Guide

Google's S4 hits the Play store

Some subtle differences

All about the label

Stylish metallic trimming

No TouchWiz here

Minimalistic notification shade

Keeping the lock to a minimum

Same powerful 13-megapixel shooter

No camera goodies, however

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Caption by / Photo by Josh Miller/CNET
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