More recently, Sony Ericsson attempted to merge motion-sensing gaming with telephony in the Yari.
But these never did very well, so a certain amount of cynicism was inevitable when Sony Ericsson announced the Xperia Play – a smartphone that ran Android 2.3 with a slideout gamepad featuring controls similar to those seen on Sony’s legendary PlayStation consoles.
It is admittedly difficult to be impressed when you see the Xperia Play. In this era of uber-sleek , subcentimetre width devices, the Xperia Play comes across as chunky (16mm thick) with rounded, oval edges rather than sharp ones.
The front is dominated by a 4-inch touchscreen, but the real star is the slide out gamepad, complete with direction keys (the triangle-square-circle-cross control buttons that are the trademark of PlayStation controllers), a touchpad, and buttons for menu, select and start. The volume rocker of the phone is unusually in the middle of the right side of the phone, a placement necessitated by the left and right gamepad buttons. The back is plastic and you’ll see a 5MP camera with a flash.
But if the looks of the Xperia Play are about ordinary, its innards are not. The phone packs in a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, graphics based on the Adreno 205 GPU, 512 MB RAM, a 8GB memory card (memory expandable to 32 GB), and every connectivity option you can think of. And all of them perform very well too. Used just as a smartphone, the Xperia Play turns in a sterling performance – the large display, although a bit on the dim side, is great for browsing the Web and the specs allow Android to flex its mail and social networking muscle.
Mind you, Sony Ericsson’s Android layer is not in the same league as HTC Sense in terms of ease of use. The Timescape tool for accessing social networks, messages and calendars might look cool with updates appearing in the form of flickable cards, but can get to be a pain if you are the type that gets frequent updates (there is only so much flicking one can do). Another let-down is the camera. The less than sharp images and a tendency to forget the presence of a memory card are strange, especially in a high-end Sony Ericsson device