The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is a smartphone which combines Google’s Android operating system with Sony’s PlayStation brand to create a mobile device centred around mobile gaming.
Sure, the phone includes the usual web browser, email and app functions common on the platform but, as the presence of the slide-out console style controls testifies to, this phone is all about gaming and it’s this feature which will dictate its fortunes.
Overall the phone looks and feels good with a nice bright glossy screen but it’s pretty thick, – somewhere between 1.5-2 times the thickness of my iPhone 4 – in order to accommodate the control pad.
Those game controls are THE selling point of the phone and they’ve been nicely realised on a silver slide-out but they’re also curiously retrograde and I’m genuinely uncertain if they really bring anything ‘new’ to mobile gaming.
Flying a space fighter in the bundled Star Battalion game by pressing separate up/down/left/right buttons felt like a backwards step compared to titling my iPhone or iPad in the direction I wanted to go.
It also doesn’t seem like the bundled games have been optimised for the device – FIFA 10 game uses the control pad OR an on-screen touch ‘joystick’ to control players but even when you use the pad the joystick graphic remains on screen.
I also had issues with The Sims which suffers from fairly blurry and small onscreen text in its dialogue boxes which made them hard to read at times.
Sound from the built-in speakers is pretty decent and they’ve been discreetly placed out of the way so there’s little chance of them being accidentally covered up by hands or fingers.
Away from the games, there’s also a fairly nice looking media player for your MP3s and videos so you can sit back and relax between gaming sessions.
As impressed as I was with the hardware it felt like corners had been cut in the bundled games, none of which really seem to make full use of the hardware.
That’s a shame because it leaves Sony Ericsson asking people to commit to a contract simply on the trust that other, better games will come along. I hope they do because the Xperia Play shows what can be done on the Android platform if handset makers look beyond desire to make cheap iPhone-a-likes.
If they can make the next version lighter and thinner, I reckon Sony Ericsson could be on to a winner.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is available from Three on their The One Plan