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.

"This week I got an iPhone. This weekend I got four chargers so I can keep it charged everywhere I go and a land line so I can actually make phone calls." -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

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