Google essentially makes the Moto G as it is – they own Motorola’s handset business, and both the Moto X and Moto G were designed and built under Google’s parental supervision. But that hasn’t stopped Google from creating a Play Edition Moto G.
The Play Edition strips out the few non-stock elements of Android that were still present on the Moto G to begin with, but keeps the same $179 price point for an 8GB version and $199 cost for a 16GB model. Like other Play Edition devices, it’s U.S.-only (at least at launch) and will work on both AT&T and T-Mobile networks. Remember that the Moto G is 3G-only, too, if you’re considering picking one up.
The main advantage of a Play Edition Moto G would appear to be its ability to get timely updates. The first Android 4.4 KitKat update rolled out to Moto G devices just last week, which means that it trailed the original 4.4 launch by a couple of months. The Play Edition will likely get updates much faster, so users who want to stay on the cutting edge would do well to opt for this variant. Motorola has introduced some slick software additions to the standard Moto G, however, so it really comes down to preference in this case.
I suspect Google is also motivated by a long-term desire to make Play Editions a consumer option for just about every major Android phone. If consumers start gravitating towards them, they get greater control over the pace and consistency of software updates. If they don’t, at least some developers will be pleased with the option.