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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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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.

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