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There is a difference. The Nexus is running pure unadulterated Android. The Google Play Editions apparently still use the manufacturers kernels, but do not have the bloatware and the UI stuff on top of Android that both Samsung and HTC love to skin their devices with. From what I understand, the Play Editions may also not be updated as fast as a “pure” Nexus device, although that is conjecture at this point. I would rather have a Google Play edition than the "standard" versions, but the Nexus is still the flagship pure Android device.