The Average Gamer

MWC 2011 – Hands-on With The Xperia PLAY Smartphone

As soon as the Mobile World Congress 2011 opened its doors this morning, I zipped off to the Sony Ericsson stand to get some time with the Xperia PLAY smartphone. I was interested in seeing how the phone worked, the UI and the games that are going to be pre-installed.

First off the user interface, which will be very familiar to Android users. There’s a few Xperia PLAY specific icons, like the PlayStation and Get Games icons which I’ll cover in later posts. The UI is fast and responsive and easy to use.

XperiaPLAY_UIPage1 XperiaPLAY_UIPage2

Here’s a closer look at the rear of the unit and the 2 shoulder buttons and the Get Games icon in the UI. The shoulder buttons are nicely placed, even for my big mitts.

XperiaPLAY_GetGamesIcon XperiaPLAY_RearView

On this phone Asphalt 6 was already loaded up, so I took some shots of the in-game menu and during the game itself.
XperiaPLAY_AsphaltMenu XperiaPLAY_Asphalt6

The demo units I played with had the following games installed:

  • Bruce Lee
  • Asphalt 6
  • Star Battalion
  • FIFA 10
  • Crash Bandicoot

The phone will also come with Sims 3 and a PS1 game pre-installed too. It hasn’t been announced yet what this PS1 game will be, but it may be good old Crash Bandicoot. Also Sony will be announcing the other games that will be available at launch in the coming weeks. No one was prepared to tell me what they were today. You can also download games from the Android Market. Some of these games will have been optimised for the Xperia PLAY (i.e. they use the d-pad and buttons). There will be a game launcher added to the phone before it is released which will take you straight to the Xperia branded games in the Android Market to save you searching for them. I was told about the game launcher as none of the phones had this feature available. The non-optimised games will work on the phone, but they won’t take advantage of the PlayStation controls.

The graphics are of PS1 quality, which isn’t too much of problem given how big the screen is. All the games run very smoothly too, no hint of slow down and/or skipping. You can also play them either with the phone open with the d-pad/nubs/buttons or closed using the touchscreen. The 2 nubs sit between the d-pad and the buttons and act like joysticks. Personally, I preferred to play the games using the d-pad and buttons as I found the nubs far too sensitive. Although you can adjust the sensitivity, which I found out later. I was also told that the Dungeon Defender game is perfect for showing off the nubs as controllers. However, I wasn’t able to verify this as the game was not on show. Instead I made a total hash of driving using the nubs and the touchscreen and switched back to the d-pad.

Game loading times were ok and you can also resume a game if you’ve gone back to the home menu for any reason. So functionality wise the phone works well. I think this phone will be a lot more commuter friendly than the 3DS, as you don’t have to worry about keeping the unit still to maintain the 3D effect.

If you get called whilst playing a game, the game will be paused and the answer call menu appears. Once your call is finished you are given the option to resume your game. This is what I was told would happen, but I didn’t see it demonstrated on any of the phones.

Now the topic of the battery life. You can expect anywhere between 4-6 hours use per full charge. If you go full bananas and play multiplayer games over bluetooth or wi-fi then you are going to get around 4 hours gametime. However, if you put the phone into flight mode then you will be pushing 6 hours of use. Again, these are the numbers that I was quoted. All the units were plugged into the mains, apart from 1 which was almost out of power ;-)

I’ll be posting videos showing the games in action in future so look out for this.

Update 14th Feb 2011: Included more detail on the controls, what happens when you get called mid game and the battery life estimates.

Update 22nd Feb 2011: You can now order the unlocked Xperia PLAY smart phone from for £519.99.

Xperia PLAY will be available worldwide in March 2011.