Android fans will love the fact that the Xperia Play ships with . Sony and Verizon were also smart enough to leave the interface alone for the most part; you won't see any fancy Timescape skins here. You get the usual five customizable home screens and the crawling main menu that fades to black. Sony did include a few of its own wallpapers, and Verizon did preload a few V Cast apps like VZ Navigator, My Verizon Mobile, and Backup Assistant, but the experience is otherwise quite vanilla. The main application of interest is the Xperia Play gaming app, which we'll get to in the Features section.
With such hype and buzz about it, we were really expecting the Xperia Play to blow us away with its features. Unfortunately, the Play is not quite the high-end phone we thought we were getting. It doesn't have a dual-core processor like its competitors, and neither does it have 4G LTE, even though Verizon offers many phones in its price range that do have 4G. It also does not offer HDMI or DLNA support, so you can't easily stream your phone's contents on a big-screen television.
That's not to say the Xperia Play doesn't have pretty good features, however. As we said, it ships with Android 2.3, so it offers user interface improvements such as a faster keyboard, better copy and paste, Internet calling, and download management. Android 2.3 also brings with it API support for game-pad controls so that more developers can create games that work with devices like this one.
To play the games, you first have to access the Xperia Play app. You can either access it the old-fashioned way by selecting it from the menu, or you can simply slide open the game pad and the app will launch automatically. The welcome screen shows a horizontally scrolling list of your game library. The Xperia Play comes preloaded with Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, The Sims 3, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, and Crash Bandicoot. There's also Tetris, but that doesn't take advantage of the Xperia Play's controls. The interface is clean, well-organized, and easy to grasp.
Verizon has partnered with Sony to offer select Xperia Play titles directly from the V Cast store. On the lower right of the screen is a More Games button that leads to a list of featured Xperia Play games you can purchase from the V Cast App Store. In fact, you can access the V Cast App Store directly from the Xperia Play interface--just tap the tiny Verizon cart icon on the top right. The Xperia Play also supports games sold in the Android Market, but bear in mind that not all games can be played with the game-pad controls. Be sure to look for games that are designed with the Xperia Play in mind.
Aside from the gaming aspect, the Xperia Play offers the usual Android and phone features, such as integration with a variety of social networks like Facebook and Twitter, text and multimedia messaging, Gmail and other e-mail, Google Maps 5.0, voice navigation, search, YouTube, the WebKit browser, and basic tools like a calendar and a calculator. The phone also comes with Office Suite for reading and editing Office documents. In addition to the V Cast suite of apps, Verizon also threw in the Kindle app and Skype Mobile. The phone also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, a speakerphone, and voice dialing. It can be used as a portable Wi-Fi hot spot for up to five devices.
The 5-megapixel camera takes average-looking pictures. Images just did not turn out as sharp or as colorful as we would like. Colors were especially dim in low light. The LED flash helped a little, but it mostly just washed out the image. The camera can record video as well, but not in HD quality.
We tested the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was on the whole quite good, but we did have a few problems. On our end, it was pretty acceptable. Callers sounded clear, with good volume levels. There wasn't much crackling or background noise, either. However, voices were often fuzzy.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play call quality sample Listen now:
On their end, callers reported much fuzzier voice quality than we expected. They also reported faint crackling sounds in the background. They could certainly hear every word we said, so it wasn't so bad. We did have to speak up when in speakerphone mode, however.
Despite its only having one processor, we were pleased with the Xperia Play's performance. That's because it uses Qualcomm's 1GHz Snapdragon processor, which proved quite speedy overall. We experienced no lag or jitters when launching apps or multitasking between open apps.
While we were disappointed the Xperia Play does not have 4G LTE, it does have 3G/EV-DO Rev. A support. We were able to load the mobile CNET page in just 6 seconds and the full CNET page in 24 seconds.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play has a rated talk time of 7 hours 40 minutes and a standby time of 16.9 days. It has a tested talk time of 6 hours and 7 minutes. Gameplay time is rated at 5 hours and 35 minutes, while MP3 playback is rated at 30 hours and 35 minutes. According to the FCC, the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play has a digital SAR of 0.75 watt per kilogram.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is a great alternative for the serious mobile gamer who is tired of touch-screen controls. The physical, tactile buttons on the Play do provide a more immersive gameplay experience. However, the touch-sensitive circles are just not as responsive as we would like, and do not replace the precision of actual joysticks. We don't think it's time for serious gamers to give up their Nintendo DSes or PSPs just yet. As for the smartphone component, we do like that the device ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread. However, the Xperia Play lags behind higher-end Android phones with its average photo quality, lack of an HDMI port, and lack of 4G LTE. So while the Xperia Play does signify a step forward in the world of mobile gaming, it hasn't won the race.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is available for $199.99 with a two-year service agreement with Verizon Wireless.