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The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play (aka the "Playstation Phone")  (Source: Sony Ericsson)

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro  (Source: Sony Ericsson)

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Neo  (Source: Sony Ericsson)
Sony Ericsson's campaign to regain global smart phone marketshare seems off to a legitimate start

Today at the Mobile World Conference 2011 in Barcelona, Spain, Sony Ericsson took the wraps off three new Android smartphones.  Sony (Ericsson), as you may recall, recently dropped out of the top five in global smartphone market share.  Takings its place were Apple and Chinese Android phone vendor ZTE (RIM was also bumped from the top five).

I. The Xperia Play -- at Last, the "Playstation Phone"

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, the saying goes and Sony seems to be doing that and then some.  Leading its new Android legion is the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, better known as the "Playstation Phone".  

The specs for the device have at last been officially announced, and they line up widely with the leaks from the past month or two.  The phone is powered by a second generation Snapdragon 1 GHz core from Qualcomm, with an on-chip Adreno 205 GPU.  The initial OS will be Android 2.3 "Gingerbread".

The phone is capable of basic 3D gameplay at 60 frames per second (think Playstation/iPhone quality).  There's a 854x480 multi-touch ready 4-inch screen.  Included with this atraditional slider is a full slide-out (flattened) landscape-mode playstation controller.  There are two simulated analog stick at the center, start/select buttons, the arrow pad, the triangle/square/circle/"X" button pad, and a single pair of shoulder triggers.  L2/R2 buttons are included in virtual form on-screen.

The package is rounded out with stereo speakers and the typical fare -- a 5 MP camera, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.  Onboard is Sony's Timescape UI (analogous to HTC's Sense UI, etc.).

While the phone is technically no more powerful than a number of the recent and upcoming Android models -- less powerful than some, in fact -- it has the advantage of being backed by Sony, who promises to offer it exclusive gaming support.  The phone will come preloaded with a "legendary" PS One game, which was revealed on Sunday to be Crash Bandicoot.  

At launch Sony promises 50 titles from 20 publishers.  Launch titles displayed at MWC '11 include Star Battalion, FIFA, and Asphalt.  Sony says it will begin to slowly roll out the entire Playstation software library, launching a new set of classic titles on a weekly basis.  Multiplayer titles will allow you to play games with friends over Wi-Fi.

Sony promises up to 8 hours and 25 minutes of talk time (on GSM, slightly less on CDMA), 5 hours and 35 minutes of gameplay time, or 30 hours and 35 minutes of music playback on a single charge.

The phone will be available on the Verizon network in the U.S. in the "early spring".  As the phone comes in both GSM and CDMA forms, it is possible that it may become available on other networks as well.

II. The Xperia Pro

Amid the Playstation Phone hoopla, two other solid looking Android phones were also aired [press release] by Sony.  The first of that pair is the Xperia Pro.  Like the Xperia Play, it is a landscape slider, but it packs a keyboard rather than a gamepad.

It packs an identical resolution in a smaller 3.7-inch screen.  And it also packs a 1 GHz Snapdragon (the MSM8255, presumably the same model as is in the Play).  And like the Play it's powered by Android 2.3 "Gingerbread".

Talk time is nearly two hours less than the Play.  But it does make up for it somewhat by offering a higher resolution 8.1 MP rear camera, and an extra 2 MP front-facing camera for video chat goodness.

III. The Xperia Neo

The final Android phone of the trio is the Xperia Neo.  It will offer the same resolution and version of Android (note a trend here?).  And it also features an 8.1 MP rear camera and 2 MP front camera.  But unlike its sibling Pro, it has no slide-out keyboard.

The phone has 1 GHz processor, but according to Engadget Sony says it will be an older 1GHz Qualcomm MSM7630.  Despite having 512 MB of memory, Engadget reports that the phone's interface feels "extremely laggy".

The Neo is sort of the light-weight, low-price companion to Sony Ericsson's other touchscreen non-slider smart phone, the Xperia Arc.  While the previously revealed Xperia Arc is a gorgeous 4.2-inch beast, the Neo offers a smaller, more demure 3.7-inch screen.

Still you can't have a solid lineup with out having a high a middle and a low, so while the Xperia Neo may be scoffed at by hardcore Android fans, it may end up seeing the biggest sales of the lineup (though we're guessing the Xperia Play will earn that distinction).

IV. Thoughts

What's the iPhone got going for it these days?  Well, other than a slick design, it has probably the best game library of any smart phone.

Android's been chipping away at that, but it's still a distant second in that category.  That's why the Xperia Play is a bit exciting.  While it doesn't offer too much new an exciting hardware-wise (see the Atrix 4G for exciting hardware), if Sony can make good on its promise to port the library of PS1 titles for Play enjoyment, Apple may at last have met its match.

Of course, PS1 games aren't all perfectly suited for touch, not everyone wants their slider to be a game pad, and casual gamers may be more interested in the iPhone's fresh games that the Play's largely legacy library.  Those things said, the Play offers Android's most concerted effort to challenge the iPhone in the gaming department.

As for the other phones, they don't exactly overly excite in terms of hardware or software, but they should give some decent new options at the medium and low end for those curious about picking up an Android handset.  Given the deluge of big announcements (the Samsung Galaxy II), we expect anything but the Play to be quickly forgotten by most.

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PSX Zombie ?
By cokbun on 2/14/2011 6:15:09 AM , Rating: 3
the playstation phone might be a win if sony release new titles for the ps 1. but for games i already played 10 years ago ? besides theres an app for that already ( psx4droid & fpse )

RE: PSX Zombie ?
By RjBass on 2/14/2011 9:24:01 AM , Rating: 3
This ^^^

We have been playing classic NES, SNES, Sega and PS games on our Android phones running 2.2 for some time now. It seems that unless SE starts pumping out new games for this thing, they won't get to many people coming over to them from their current phones.

Now I do see a good market here for SE with the kids. Kids will see this phone, with it's slide out controller and want to have it. Once 1 kid in a school gets one, all the other kids between grades 3 and 8 will be lining up. If future updates to this phone will incorporate some kind of PS3 functionality like MS did with Win Phone 7 then SE may have a true contender here. As is, I know of a plethora of high school kids flocking to Win Phone 7 because of the XBox functionality. In that regard MS got a win.

RE: PSX Zombie ?
By MozeeToby on 2/14/2011 3:44:51 PM , Rating: 3
The only selling point worth mentioning, IMO, is the controller. True, I've been playing NES, SNES, Sega, and GB Advance games on my phone since the week I bought it, but it just isn't possible, for me at least, to play action games without a decent controller. Even something as simple as Super Mario Bros is just to inconsistent to have fun with.

That's mostly fine with me, as I happen to be a big RPG fan, but it would be fun to have more options than just turn based RPGs and Strategy games, I'm starting to run out of decent ones to play if nothing else. Earthbound, Dragon Warrior, FF1-6, Advance Wars, Fire Emblem... all fun, but some true action titles would be fun too. Oh well, maybe someone will follow their lead and make a phone with decent specs and a quality controller, in the meantime I'll make do with what I have for a bit longer.

RE: PSX Zombie ?
By RjBass on 2/14/2011 3:57:42 PM , Rating: 3
Personally I think a universal controller that you can plug into any Android device, something with switchable/interchangeable USB connections would be cool. So then you lay the phone down or prop it up on a kickstand, plug in your controller and your good to go. That would be sweet. Something like that could be used on multiple devices and work well for all kinds of game.

RE: PSX Zombie ?
By someguy123 on 2/14/2011 10:27:50 PM , Rating: 2
sort of defeats the purpose of it being a portable console, though. sure it would still be technically portable but it wouldn't be fun to try a setup like that on a train, or even in the backseat of a car. flip/slide out is the way to go imo, even if it thickens the device.

RE: PSX Zombie ?
By Stoanhart on 2/14/2011 12:50:02 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, but does your phone have a PSX gamepad? Also, I'm under the impression that the PSX emulator is really pushing the limits, with high end phones just barely mustering playable framerates in some games.

I disagree ...
By thrust2night on 2/14/2011 12:35:04 AM , Rating: 4
Sony Ericsson's campaign to regain global smart phone marketshare seems off to a legitimate start

... with your statement. All SE is doing is trying to stay in the game by releasing something. Sorry but releasing phones at this time with 500MB of internal storage and a single core processor with Adreno 205 gpu is shameful. What kind of specs is that for a gaming phone (Xperia Play) especially when it is being released against phones like the Thunderbolt that comes with 8GB internal memory and a 32Gb microSD card and a dual core Tegra 2 processor?

This is like Carrot Top going into a fight with Tony Jha.

RE: I disagree ...
By SSDMaster on 2/14/2011 7:47:38 AM , Rating: 2
I begrudgingly agree with you.. I wanted this phone to be awesome but single-core makes this phone outdated before it's even released. Sure it will play games decently but consumer's aren't looking for a current gen phone. They want something that's going to last. And that's hard to get from a phone.

It's amazing that phones only need to last 2 years, while my computer has lasted 6+ and still runs "acceptably" fast. I feel once ARM matures and dual-core's are standard we won't care quite as much about next months latest Android handsets.

RE: I disagree ...
By nafhan on 2/14/2011 10:08:39 AM , Rating: 2
Same here. Maybe that's why they're pushing it as "Xperia" instead of "Playstation"? Before it's even released there are phones with more powerful gaming hardware.
I think this also means there probably won't be compatibility with NGP games - effectively gimping both the NGP and Xperia Play. It seems like it would have been a good move to give them the same hardware - one with a phone and one without.
The only good thing out of all this is it sounds like there will be a Playstation store that's coming to all Android devices (i.e. including non-Sony). If the games are priced reasonably, that's something I look forward to.

RE: I disagree ...
By BladeVenom on 2/14/2011 10:12:49 AM , Rating: 1
Who would trust Sony? If they will disable Linux on your PS3, maybe they'll disable Android on your smart phone.

By Motoman on 2/14/2011 9:41:26 AM , Rating: 3
I agree with others that some of the hardware feels a bit dated the processor.

On the other hand, I think they missed a key design feature by including the 2 virtual analog sticks.

If they had used the space in-between the d-pad and the action buttons for a Blackberry-style keyboard instead, they could have aimed the device at truly everyone - including people who text and do email from their phones. I seriously doubt that the 2 virtual analog sticks add much to the gameplay aspect of the device - nor would losing them detract from it.

Add in a keyboard, and bump the hardware a smidge for the 2.0 version, and you could truly have one phone to rule them all.

RE: Kinda
By ShaolinSoccer on 2/14/2011 3:40:36 PM , Rating: 2
The keyboard is on the touch screen.

RE: Kinda
By Motoman on 2/14/2011 5:31:03 PM , Rating: 2
Precisely my point.

RE: Kinda
By ShaolinSoccer on 2/15/2011 6:32:56 AM , Rating: 2
I own an HTC Evo and don't mind the touch screen keyboard. I don't text that much, though. What I REALLY want is the Sony NGP with cellular support but have it look like the Xperia Play lol. Oh well, maybe they'll add that in a year or so.

By Pessimism on 2/14/2011 1:09:57 PM , Rating: 2
Wonder how well this will sell in the US with the 30% obesity rate. How many adult men will be able to effectively game with their ham-fists on the tiny controls? I am tall with long fingers and this thing looks like hand cramps after about 5 minutes.

RE: ergonomics
By ShaolinSoccer on 2/14/2011 3:42:57 PM , Rating: 2
It's a hell of a lot better than trying to use a slide out keyboard to play those games...

RE: ergonomics
By nikon133 on 2/14/2011 5:10:29 PM , Rating: 2
I think it is still much better than iPhone and Android touch-screen-only-controls.

Unrelated to your post - one should not forget that Sony does have proper handheld console in the shape of NGP (plus PSP production might go on for a while even after NGP is available). This is something for Angry birds and likes, with full phone functionality of course. Personally, I'm finding it tempting. Regarding smartphones, I do fine with on-screen keyboard, but can't get used to on-screen joystick/pad/whatever, so I end up playing on my phone only games like Airfield, Angry Birds, Shipwreck... so having hardware controls would expand my phone gaming much more than faster hardware but with same senseless touch screen controls.

RE: ergonomics
By ShaolinSoccer on 2/15/2011 6:36:24 AM , Rating: 2
I agree. On screen controls are extremely difficult for the majority of games. The only games I don't have too much of a problem with the on screen are RPG's.

Good luck SE
By Aloonatic on 2/14/2011 3:00:19 AM , Rating: 3
But I wont be with you.
it has the advantage of being backed by Sony, who promises to offer it exclusive gaming support.
I wonder how many people who bought into the previous Xpera range, the X10 especially, will be willing to trust those promises.

Personally, I'll be surprised if the exclusive gaming support will be worth the premium that the Xperia Play phone will no doubt be sold at, or that it wont be abandoned pretty quickly.

For everyone who bus into this, I hope that I'm wrong, but, I doubt that this will have any more success in the marketplace that Nokia's N-Gage efforts did. SE just don't have a big enough, or trusted enough, presence in the mobile phone market, which at least Nokia had at the time when they tried the gaming phone thing. Not forgetting that they are about to release the PSP2 too, so loyal Sony mobile gaming fans are surely going to invest in that anyway.

By Omega215D on 2/14/2011 1:08:26 AM , Rating: 2
It seems that Sony will finally go with a modern Android version on their Xperia Play and very likely to hit Verizon Wireless to which I, as a subscriber whose contract ends when all the best phones debut, am very excited about.

Hopefully that they'll update the Xperia Play in a timely matter unlike their other line-up of phones.

Now this leaves me with a problem of deciding between Droid Bionic, Palm Pre 3, and Xperia Play (iPhone 4 is old and not sure if iPhone 5 will come to Verizon same time as ATT).

How Long Will The Features Last?
By alphadog on 2/14/2011 10:33:30 AM , Rating: 2
Here's what will happen: Sony will release a delicious, feature-rich, beautiful phone.

But, as soon as hints of it being ever so lightly hackable come around, they will peel back feature after feature until the phone is nothing but the digits 0-9. Also, you can only use you phone after you get the necessary DRM... erm, updates installed. Being attacked in an alley and need to make an emergency call? Please wait for progress bar to reach 100%...

"Can anyone tell me what MobileMe is supposed to do?... So why the f*** doesn't it do that?" -- Steve Jobs

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