xperia play

[MWC] The Xperia Play has been leaked and wrote about for so long that you might feel like it is official, but in fact, Sony just announced it at their Mobile World Congress event tonight.  We had some play time with it, and here’s the feedback from the front-lines: the Xperia Play is the closest thing to a gaming phone that you’ll get today. It has the same PlayStation controllers that many of you have gotten used to (although the buttons are a little smaller).

Sony Ericson says that the Xperia Play features leading-edge graphics performance, thanks to the Adreno 205 graphics processor (GPU), which is part of the SnapDragon system on a chip (SoC) from Qualcomm – but other phones use that same Qualcomm chip (codenamed Scorpion). It might not be faster than Tegra 2, but it’s hard to tell just by “eyeballing” the frame-rate. In the meantime, it was fast enough to run the graphics-intensive games that were demonstrated today, and it looks much better than most Nintendo Wii games…

You can call me old, but besides things like Angry Birds (and the likes) I haven’t spent much money on touch-display games. That’s my personal preference obviously, but what I like about the Xperia Play is that you really get both: native touch games and PSP-like games in one package. And clearly, there is a lot of good content that could be ported to an Android device that has/is a real controller.

About the games: are we talking about PSP games? Not really, you’ll hear a lot about “PlayStation Games”, but games on the Xperia Play will be Android games. As such, they’ll even work on competing handsets, but without the controller it will be really hard to play properly. The idea is that Sony Ericsson expects to have a mix of native Android games, and games ported from the PSP when the phone launches in the spring (March or a bit later). Sony Ericsson will do everything that it can to promote games that run better on its hardware, but all apps should be available from the Android market, and Sony will simply promote and point to that location.

In time, you can expect competitors to come up with controllers too, but none of them will be plugged into the PlayStation store, which is a huge branding advantage that nobody can take away from Sony Ericsson. On a pure hardware side, you can imagine that someone else can come up with a potent competitor with controllers and a powerful chip like Tegra 2.

This is a new genre that Sony Ericson is building with the Xperia Play, and it’s true that some customers might not want to carry two devices (phone+game), or might not have the means to buy both. Either way, this is an answer to that challenge. Will Sony Ericsson dominate this corner of the Smartphone territory? It’s too early to tell, but the company has a headstart and possibly exclusive content from its studios down the road. The immediate challenge is to sell a lot of units to attract game developers.

The phone will launch worldwide this Spring (March or a bit later) on Verizon in the USA, and various carriers around the world. Sony Ericsson has GSM models too, so it’s technically possible that AT&T and T-Mobile get the phone later in the year .

Specifications Highlights

1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor
4″ touch display (480 x 854)
Android 2.3
Slide-out gamepad – 4 directional keys, 2 analogue touchpads, 2 shoulder buttons, 4 PlayStation buttons (Cross, Circle, Triangle, Square)
5.1 Megapixel Camera
Bluetooth (stereo), WiFi, WiFi Hotspot,
3.5mm audio jack
8GB microSD (included)

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