When it comes to the uniqueness factor of smartphones today, we find that we are rather limited. Most phones, flagship or not, typically end up with a standard flat slab design. We may come across differing designs occasionally, such as a curve here or a physical QWERTY keyboard there. But for the most part, it feels like smartphone designs are consistent across the board.
If you look back about five years, the smartphone industry was very different. Smartphones came in every shape and size, and all manufacturers seemed like they were trying to lure us in with various features and gimmicks. One of my favorite phones from this time period was without question Sony’s Xperia Play.
You’ve probably heard of the Xperia name at this point, likely in reference to the Xperia Z line of smartphones, which has recently been retired to make way for Sony’s new Xperia X devices. I loved what Sony had done for Xperia Z in regards to proving to other manufacturers that there are people who still prefer “compact” sized smartphones, and just because a phone is smaller doesn’t mean that it has to have subpar performance. As for the Xperia X, so far I’m not as impressed. They’re still great phones, don’t get me wrong; there just doesn’t seem to be anything groundbreaking about it so far that makes me think, “I need that phone in my hands yesterday.” I can’t speak for everybody, but it seems that many feel similarly disappointed with the Xperia X. It just doesn’t bring anything newer or better to the table.
However, I think if Sony really wanted to stand out among the sea of smartphones we have to choose from today, they should really consider bringing back the Xperia Play.
At a glance, the Xperia Play isn’t too different from other smartphones on the market in 2011. It was a large-ish device at the time with a 4-inch display, and looked like it had a slide-out keyboard, a common feature at the time. However, the slide-out keyboard wasn’t actually a keyboard at all; it was a fully functioning gamepad. The Xperia Play, true to its name, was catered to those interested in the emerging gaming market for smartphones.
The Xperia Play ended up with hundreds of games that were compatible with its game pad, and was sold through both Verizon and AT&T. Its battery life was actually pretty decent when compared to competition (which was absolutely necessary, given that people bought this with handheld gaming on-the-go in mind). Overall, the Play was a very cool device.
It was speculated that the Xperia Play would quickly be outdated, and other smartphones would be more than capable of gaming on par – or better – than the Play did. While that ended up being true, it wasn’t the performance that necessarily made the Play such a cool device; it was the physical gamepad.
Some games were meant to work with touchscreens better than others. Angry Birds, Dragon Fly!, and Cut the Rope are all decent examples of games that work well with touchscreen controls. But RPGs, FPSs, and racing games, in my opinion, are examples of games that just flow better with a real controller. I much prefer having a controller or keyboard at my disposal, and the Xperia Play’s design was genius when it comes to including a controller in the most compact way. Considering that nothing quite like the Play has appeared on the market since, and I think it’s high time that Sony tries their hand at it again.
The catalog of mobile games has grown exponentially since the Xperia Play received its last update. Now seems like as good of a time as any to make a new one. It would still be a niche device, but I think it definitely has a market, and I would love to see what modern smartphone technology could produce in terms of an Xperia Play-like device.
Readers, would you like to see the Xperia Play make a return? Let us know in the comments below!