The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play has landed off of the back of so much hype and so many leaks, it’s hard to believe that it’s a device that’s only been official for less than a week. The so-called PlayStation Phone combines gaming controls taken directly from the PSPgo with Android 2.3 Gingerbread to offer a package which should be more than capable of mixing it with the very best smartphones going. But does the Xperia Play really have a USP?
We ask because, having taken it for a spin at a dedicated London event last night, we’re still not convinced. It’s not that the games aren’t impressive, even if the early build software made the two titles we played, Bruce Lee Dragon Master and Gun Bros, judder somewhat and appear a bit awkward. It’s more that the Xperia Play is filling a need which, with the forthcoming arrival of the PlayStation Suite Android games store, doesn’t really exist. Sony’s gaming boss Kaz Hirai has already said that PlayStation Suite will be ‘hardware neutral’.
That means you’ll be able to potentially get it on any Android device, no matter who makes it. So if you want to play old-school PSP titles, you simply don’t need the Xperia Play. Next-gen Android phones will fulfill that need for you and eschew the dedicated gaming controls that we’re not particularly convinced are necessary. This is a personal preference, but with touchscreen tech so good these days, it’s hard to see why you’d want to cart around extra bulk on your phone just to have some analogue controls.
The build of the Xperia Play is very plasticky and worryingly reminiscent of the PSPgo: the shoulder buttons are flimsy, the D pads placed so low down that your thumbs cramp up after playing a game for ten minutes. Not ideal if you’re settling down for a lengthy session. Throw in Sony’s planned release of the PSP 2, or NGP, which is due by Christmas and comes with 3G built-in, and you really have to wonder whether the Xperia Play has been released to simply fulfill gadget fanatics’ fantasies and act as a trailer for PlayStation games on Android.
It’s by no means a bad mobile phone. But surely PlayStation Suite is a bigger deal. It’d be great to see more put into the latter, what with software becoming such a vital part of the smartphone business. If Sony comes good on its promise to roll out PlayStation Suite to a slew of Android devices, you can bet that the Xperia Play will become pretty outdated, pretty quickly.