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Monday, February 7, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play finally official

After literally years of rumors, leaks, pictures, videos, etc., Sony has finally decided to make the device official. All the leaks look to have quite accurately predicted how the device would look and perform. While it does take quite a few design cues from the PlayStation, it is not called the "PlayStation Phone" as many predicted. Instead, it is branded with Sony's Xperia line of entertainment TV devices, and is called the Xperia Play.

The device features a 4" screen atop a slider mechanism similar to sliding keyboard phones, but instead of revealing a QWERTY keyboard, this slider reveals game controls. Those two flat circles in the center function as touch-sensitive analog sticks, allowing dual analog control without needing actual sticks. It is powered by a 1GHz single-core processor and dedicated graphics chip. It also has the usual stable of hardware specs like WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, 5MP camera, etc.

The Xperia Play, surprisingly, is powered by Android 2.3, Gingerbread. Whether it will be updated down the road remains to be seen, but it's good that it's launching with the latest version available. The device does appear to be thicker than other phones, but remember that it's designed to be gripped like a game controller, so some extra heft might be a good thing.

Engadget got a great hands-on review of the device a few weeks ago, which you can check out here. Now that it's finally official, Sony says that the device will be formally unveiled at Mobile World Congress next week.

The rumors of a PlayStaion phone have prevailed for so long and have taken so many forms that it's actually a relief to see it finally happen. It looks like a great device and definitely has a lot going for it. But there's a lot stacked against it, too. It only has a single-core processor, which is fine for now, but with all the dual-core monsters coming out this year, it will likely be left in the dust very soon. Second, even if Sony launches some kick-ass games for this, will that be enough? Good games alone might not be enough to convince people to switch carriers, or break contracts just to get this.

Then again, PlayStation has a huge following, so maybe they've got a winner in this device. I think it will ultimately depend on carrier agreements, device pricing, and all that. Maybe Sony will pull the same magic Samsung did and launch this on every US carrier at the same time. That would certainly help sales.

I think it's interesting that they decided to go with the Xperia branding instead of PlayStation. This definitely seems like the kind of thing where they would want to focus in on those PlayStation devotees. And with so many other popular handheld gaming devices out there, I would think this definitely has the edge with also being a very capable smartphone, even if it's not the most highly powered one available. That still gives it a big edge over the competition as far as functionality. So while this phone isn't for me, I think enough people will be interested to make it a success, especially if it's priced reasonably.

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