What do you get when you add one part PlayStation with one part Android phone? An army of Android nerds drooling on their keyboards as they watch leaked videos and browse blurry pictures. As much as I'd like to join them and want to believe it will be an awesome device that will bring a true gaming experience to a mobile platform, I'm not getting my hopes up.
Sony Ericsson may be an international heavyweight when it comes to feature phones, but they have yet to really gain any traction in the smartphone realm. Their Xperia line of devices isn't a terrible route to take, but the alternatives out there are much more pleasing and offer a better experience all around. Other devices are thinner, have better build quality, and most of them are on or have confirmation of an update to more current versions of Android.
We've seen several photos and even a few videos of the PlayStation Phone, but still very little is known about it. There isn't a solid rumored release date and before today, there wasn't even a real codename for the device. Earlier, a few clues were uncovered, hinting at a name for the device, the Xperia Play. I'm not one to say that naming is everything, but does “Xperia Play” grab your attention? “PlayStation Phone” does. Something as small as abandoning the PlayStation brand (not that it was ever officially branded that) could hurt the sales of the device. It may just be that the Xperia series never made me raise a brow; I'm not a fan of the design, the software, or really anything about them. But add a great mobile gaming experience in the mix and SE might have themselves a winner.
However, a simple gaming controller in a slide-out panel and adding the ability to play full-fledged games on my phone isn't enough to win me over, either. The device looks as plasticy as the EPIC 4G, maybe even a little more. I've never been a fan of a lot of plastic being used in the design of a phone, but I put up with it for Samsung because their displays are just so gorgeous. It could be the all-blue interface of the Xperia line that turns me away, but I'm still not sold. Sony Ericsson devices tend to be unnecessarily chunky and unappealing. But if we put build quality and the looks of the device aside, what can we expect on the inside?
One would expect a mobile gaming device to sport the latest and greatest in terms of processors, but according to Engadget, this baby will only carry a 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 processor. In terms of software, the leaked images of the PlaySation phone show it running stock Android that claims to be Gingerbread. Now that Gingerbread is among us, we can conclude that the image was faked, seeing that it sports none of Gingerbread's UI updates, but that doesn't mean it will ship with Froyo. I would be satisfied with Froyo, but if Sony Ericsson decides to load their custom interface on the device, that would be enough for me and many other people to change our minds. Also, with Honeycomb on the horizon, I would hate to see Sony Ericsson neglect yet another device when it comes to software and updates.
Most importantly, the highlight of this device is the unique gaming experience it is expected to deliver. A fairly recent video shows the PlayStation Phone being benchmarked at 24 frames per second. Even the Nexus S, a seemingly normal device, puts out a whopping 55.6 FPS, so why wouldn't a phone made for gaming be able to match at least that? I would expect no less. Of course, the device put to the test was likely a prototype, but 24 FPS is just pitiful.
If SE sticks to stock Android, ramps up the frame rate, and honestly integrates a full gaming experience with Android, the PlayStation Phone might gather quite the following. If they follow the trail they left with the X10, a series of delays and setbacks, they may miss their window of opportunity. The one thing that gives this device a huge advantage and increases its potential is its backing by gaming powerhouse, Sony. Under the hood though, the PlayStation Phone really doesn't offer anything spectacular, so if Sony Ericcson doesn't have some sort of last-minute twist coming with this device launch, it may go the way of the X10 and be widely forgotten before it ever hits the US.