Here it is! The long-awaited “Playstation Phone,” the SE Xperia Play. I got a thorough demo and walkthrough of the phone from the product manager, Pedro, which I captured on the video embedded here. Then I grabbed a demo unit and mashed some buttons for myself.
In a word, this is my favorite thing I’ve seen at MWC thus far. Is it the phone I’d choose to carry around every day? Maybe not – it is rather chunky, though it feels quite light for its size (4″ display) and pretty good in hand. But I loved playing games on it. Why? Buttons! Touchscreen gaming, to me, is just not the same as playing with button-based controllers. While Xperia Play lacks a proper joystick – it would have made the phone even thicker, amongst other problems – playing FIFA 10 and Asphalt on a real gaming controller made me so much happier than playing the same/similar titles on touchscreen-only phones.
Sony claims the device can achieve up to 60 frames per second of 3D gaming thanks to its 1 GHz processor and embedded GPU. In general my experience with the device was quite smooth, though I’m pretty sure I caught one quick but major hiccup during a visual effect while playing Asphalt. The controller was comfortable and responsive, though I mainly stuck to the buttons and didn’t get much of a chance to test the dual touchpads that stand in for analog sticks.
And oh yeah, it’s also a full-fledged Android OS smartphone featuring Sony Ericsson’s latest software and UI goodies.
Hardcore gamers may scoff at the touchpads and the fact that Xperia Play won’t run PSP games, but instead will run Android games downloadable from the Android Market, direct from developers like EA, and a few months after launch, a new Playstation Store. But me, I enjoyed the graphics, the gameplay, and – I’ll say it again – the repetitive stress-inducing joy of pushing buttons with my thumbs over and over.
Look for Xperia Play to ship globally in March and hit the US as a Verizon exclusive “sometime this Spring.” Also look for much more on the device and its software at Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco early next month. I may just have to head over the bridge to GDC to get a little more thumbs-on time with the phone.