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AT&T opens Galaxy S4 pre-orders, phones start shipping April 30

The long-awaited Samsung Galaxy S4 phone has a launch date: April 30 on AT&T, with other carriers expected to follow suit soon after.

Samsung Galaxy S smartphone fans can soon stop panting for the next generation of the popular handset.

AT&T will be the first U.S. carrier out of the gate with the next generation Galaxy S 4. On its S4 web page Tuesday, AT&T announced it would start shipping the units on April 30.

The company began taking pre-orders for the handset today.

AT&T is offering the S4 two 16GB models of the handset --one in white frost, the other in black mist.

The company's unsubsidized price for the phone is $639.99. With a two-year contract, the phone sells for $199. Shipping is free if the phone is purchased online.

T-Mobile's and Verizon's release plans were tipped off Monday when Engadget posted a putative document from Staples listing the dates the retailer expects Galaxy S4 inventory to start arriving in its big box stores.

Tentative launch dates for the S4 in select Staple stores were May 1 for T-Mobile and May 30 for Verizon, according to the document.

The document also indicates that Staples expects the Galaxy S4 to be a hot item and will start taking reservations for the handsets. Those reservations--as many Windows Surface Pro shoppers already know all too well--are not a guarantee that you'll get a handset on launch day, only that you'll get a phone call when a phone is available.

Samsung, too, reportedly has big retail plans for the Galaxy S4. It's setting up a number of "mini" stores at select Best Buy outlets to hawk the company's mobile products. The stores-within-a-store will be manned with Best Buy employees specially trained to explain the unique features of Samsung's products.

The Galaxy S4 is expected to be another best seller for Samsung. One analyst has predicted the company will ship 10 million units during its first month on the market and 70 million by the end of the year.

Shipments aren't sales, though, and it remains to be seen how many of those S4's will wind up in the hands of users. Judging from the buzz surrounding the phone, however, it's likely to be lots of them.

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