Last Updated: July 24th, 2011

Note: Most of the pictures in this hands-on were taken by a second Xperia Play unit, so you can use those to judge the quality of the camera.

The saga of the PlayStation phone has been a long one, but we finally have the device in our hands. Some I/O attendees received their own, but now Verizon customers can get the device for themselves. A full review will be available in the coming days, but for now, here are my initial thoughts on the Xperia Play.

First, a refresher on the specs:

  • 4.0" LCD, 854 x 480 display
  • Android 2.3.2
  • 1 GHz Qualcomm MSM8255 Snapdragon processor
  • 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • Front-facing camera
  • 512 MB RAM

The first thing I noticed when holding the phone was the thickness and weight. At its thickest point, it's a huge 16 mm - even thicker than phones with slide-out keyboards like the Droid 2 and G2, which measure 13.7 and 14.1 mm, respectively. The weight, however, is kept down somewhat thanks to the mostly plastic build. And yes - that means your Play will be covered in fingerprints as soon as you take it out of the box.

IMG_20110528_191425 IMG_20110528_191402

Because the gamepad is the star of the show here (more on that later), the regular buttons and ports we find on the device have fairly awkward positions. The volume rocker is in the center of the right side (between the trigger buttons) and the microUSB port is on the lower left - a position that favors holding the device with the gamepad open. The headphone jack is on the top left, while the power button and the notification light on it rest at the top.


One of the best parts of the phone doesn't even reveal itself until it's powered on. Unlike international versions of the Play (and the edition given out at Google I/O), the Verizon version runs stock Android - 2.3.2. (Gingerbread), to be specific. It's hard to get across exactly what a difference this makes. The phone is not bogged down by any terrible custom UIs, so even though it only has a single-core processor, it can fly through any task you throw at it easily. Bloatware apps are also kept to a minimum, and are mostly unnecessary Verizon services.


I don't want to go too in-depth with this issue, but I do feel that it is very prominent to anybody wishing to purchase this device. There is no option to disable automatic brightness in the settings; while you can adjust the brightness yourself, the light sensor still has a say in how bright your screen actually is. I want to make it clear that this is not a hardware issue, and could possibly be fixed in a later update - the screen is more than capable of being just as bright as other phones, but in a regular room, it will appear rather dull. Hopefully Sony Ericsson will fix this issue soon.

The gamepad is where the phone really shines. I won't go over the pre-loaded games here, but let me assure you: the regular old PlayStation controls have not lost their charm when scaled down and put into a phone. They've worked amazingly well for every game and emulator I've used them with. Again, I will go more in-depth in the review, but for now, here are some shots of the gamepad in all its glory:

IMG_20110528_191502 IMG_20110528_191541

IMG_20110528_191516 IMG_20110528_191530

At this point, I feel the Xperia Play is a very solid handset, barring the plastic construction and said screen issues. However, I still question the target demographic for the device and the usefulness of the gamepad. Stay tuned, as the full review will hit in the next couple days.

  • Adam

    What are those holes in the center with indented circles around them on the game pad? Do they do anything or is it just for sound?

    • Omar

      Those are the analog sticks, not speakers, they are used for the gaming aspect of the phone, like they actual playstation controller.

    • Someone

      The dents are in there for you to feel the center.

      One of my main gripes with fixed on screen controls is that it's hard to figure out where the center point is to be "neutral".

      I've only seen one or two apps that if you lift-off-and-re-touch the screen, it uses your intial touch as centerpoint -- eliminating the need to figure out the middle (but it's not perfect, as your fingers can block significant portions of the display).

  • Tony

    *Excitedly looks down page looking for a video review...sees none...leaves page disappointedly*

    • http://androidexpress.wordpress.com/ Nate Kimmey

      The full review is coming soon; I will probably be doing a video to overview the hardware and explain the auto brightness problem.

  • Interested

    Isn't this just an Xperia X10 with a gamepad???

    Rather out of date, no?