The debate over the potential (or not, depending on your perspective) for cellular handsets to supplant dedicated portable gaming consoles was already at the 'dull roar' stage when Steve Jobs unveiled the first-generation iPhone in January 2007. Successive iPhone iterations, along with iOS ecosystem expansion to the iPod touch and iPad, have upped the argument amplification a notch or few, as have competitive offerings based on the Android, RIM, WebOS and Windows Mobile (now Windows Phone) operating systems.

Sony's approach to addressing the standalone-versus-cellphone debate is, if nothing else, intriguing. The multi-subsidiary company includes the game console division, of course, which is determined to do its utmost to maintain a lucrative dedicated-function portable hardware business. Yet Sony Computer Entertainment is also responsible for a plethora of game software titles, whose developers are likely challenged to sell as much content as possible, ideally but not necessarily exclusively running on Sony-branded hardware. And then there's Sony Ericsson, a joint venture company chartered with maintaining and expanding its status as a top-tier cellular handset manufacturer.

On one end of the strategy spectrum, Sony has to date produced four different models in its PlayStation Portable line; the original PSP-1000, PSP-2000, PSP-3000 and PSP Go. The upcoming PlayStation Vita successor, formally unveiled at June's E3 Conference with availability (beginning in Japan) slated for later this year, aspires to one-up even the most powerful current-generation smartphone with features such as a SoC containing a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU (clock speed currently unknown) and quad-core 200 MHz Imagination Technologies SGX543MP4+GPU, not to mention PS Vita's 5" OLED display. On the other end of the spectrum is Sony's PlayStation Certified program, unveiled in late January, which conceptually enables generic Android-based hardware to run PlayStation Suite content.

And in-between these two extremes is the subject of this particular writeup, Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play gaming cellphone:

The mythical 'PlayStation Phone' had been rumored for several years, but when it finally appeared in late March in 11 countries (not then including the United States), it was curiously absent any explicit 'PlayStation' branding. Sony Ericsson's initial U.S. carrier partner was Verizon, who began selling the handset in late May subsequent to its first official U.S. unveiling, a commercial which ran during February's Super Bowl. More recently, AT&T picked up the handset in mid-July. One week later, Verizon dropped the Xperia Play's contract-subsidized price to $99.99, from $199.99 at introduction. Was Verizon's action a competitive response to AT&T's entry, a reaction to poor Xperia Play sales, or some combination of these and/or other factors? Verizon's not saying, but let's see how well (or not) the handset performs to get a sense of its degree of market appeal.

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  • The0ne - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    One of my duty as an Engineer is to write for others be it technical people or non technical; I write a lot to be honest. But I do spend quite a bit of time choosing and modifying any graphics (charts included) to ensure they are essential in any document. Randomly using graphics is generally not a very good idea. The only reason I know of is to cater to people who love to have tons of graphic and who love to stare at them all day long. Thankfully, I don't care much about these type of people until they pay me or the company to do so, I guess :) hahaha

    I'll take an Anandtech review over any Dailytech "news" article. Now, those are just poorly written, especially by Jason Mick who seem to think the audience is a bunch of kids and resort to the numbering type news reporting.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Let's try this again :)

    Take care,
  • vshah - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Are you confusing the two? you mention it has 512mb of RAM, and that when that drops, the phone complains about free space being low. I think you meant ROM, as android will almost never complain about RAM, it will just kill stuff in the background to free up more.
  • vshah - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    also, the large game installs would go to the 1 gig of flash storage, not the 512mb of RAM
  • bdipert - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Great point, vshah, I did indeed intermingle RAM and ROM (aka local flash memory storage) observations. I'll go update the writeup now. Thank you!
  • snajk - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    I'll probably get one of these, not for the branded games but for using emulators. My current android works ok at this, but the controls are a pain to use even though I have a phone with a "D-pad". Why settle for a few old ps1 titles when you have all the old nes/snes/genesis/neogeo/mame games to choose from?
  • eallan - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    My main device is a GS2, but i also have one of these.

    They are absolutely perfect for emulation.

    So many super nintendo games, genesis games, even PSX games and N64. I'm pretty sure thats the best use of this phone.

    The dpad and buttons are truly excellent.
  • BaCh - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Dear Mr. Anand, you should have spared a few words for its exceptional audio quality, as testified by both Gsmarena and Phonearena.
  • PC_Jones - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    The main reason for me getting a Play was so I wouldn't have to tote around a Wiimote if I ever wanted to play any SNES games on my phone with any accuracy. I'm surprised that the use of emulators wasn't discussed more in this article.
  • The0ne - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    I'm a retrogamer by heart. The problem with emulation is that most people don't own the games/roms they are using. I'm sorry, this is just the sad case. Retrogamers like myself, and even more hardcore, have games that we do own and setups to be able to play them with nostalgia.

    And while I would love to see a discussion about emulation on any platform it quickly becomes more of a "pirated" scene than anything. I collect classic games, it's sad for me to see people pirating them because they can.

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