Google is once again trying to sell hardware directly to consumers by offering the Galaxy Nexus smartphone free of contract through the Google Play Store. The unlocked Samsung-built handset is available to residents in the US for $399.

Those in the market for a high-end phone should take this deal seriously. Not only is the price point very attractive but you will get the phone with a pure Google experience - no carrier-infused overlays that typically slow down Android. Instead you get Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich just as Google intended it to be.

The direct-from-Google Nexus is essentially the same phone that'd you get through Sprint or Verizon under contract, albeit with a few minor changes. Users still get the same 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display with a 1280 x 720 resolution, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and a 5MP rear-facing camera.

Google's handset is similar to the Sprint version in that it supports Google Wallet for mobile payments. If you are unfamiliar, Google Wallet is an Android app that turns your smartphone into a mobile payment system. As an added benefit, Google is throwing in a $10 Google Wallet credit.

The key difference between the contract versions through carriers and the Google version is the amount of storage. The direct Nexus ships with 16GB of storage while other carriers ship with capacities up to 32GB. It seems that Google discontinued the 32GB GSM Nexus back in February.