on 7 August 2011
I bought the Xperia Play on contract a few days ago, and here is a review of my experiences with the phone, in a neat and tidy bullet-point list. Hope it helps! (By the way, I came from an iPhone to the Xperia Play).
- THE EXTERIOR
The phone, as any smartphone on the market these days, feels sleek, modern and well built. All of the buttons mounted on the phone, including the volume and main buttons on the front, feel secure and thus unlikely to break or wobble over time. In addition, they aren't too easy to press down on accidentally. The slide-out trademark PlayStation game-pad feels extremely well put together. All of the traditional PlayStation buttons, as said about the other exterior buttons, feel secure and likely to stay put. Build quality is superb on these fronts, but the slide-out feature as a whole, however, feels slightly odd when holding the whole phone. Usually you don't expect half of the phone to slide out when using it. Don't get me wrong, it's secure behind the screen of the phone, but you can't help wondering if, after being slid-out many times, if it'll become wonky! Also, the phone isn't as chunky as some reviewers have made it seem. Yes, the slide-out gamepad does add many millimetres, but on the whole it isn't the size of a brick, and the extra size is worth the luxury of the unique gaming pad.
- THE PHONE AS A PHONE
If you think Sony Ericsson has focused entirely on the gamer's market and ignored what the intrinsic purpose of a phone should be (...a mobile phone, of course), then think again. The Xperia Play is still a brilliant mobile phone. Calling is very simple, as is texting. Web browsing is a doddle, and the 4 inch screen means you don't need spectacles to read webpages. The music player is, again, simple to use with great volume. The battery life, unlike some of its rivals (most notably the iPhone), is surprisingly long. Even after playing a few games that demand a lot of processing power and memory it doesn't require plugging into the mains. One of the up-and-coming standard features on a smartphone these days is a satellite navigation, and this was the iPhone's shortfall (of many). I've been using the Android 'Navigation' sat-nav app and it is brilliant. It operates, processes and informs like no other sat-nav I've ever used, including Tom-Toms. It's intelligent, quick, so simple to use and includes all the usual sat-nav options. Overall you're still getting a top of the range mobile phone which hasn't been swallowed up by its own gaming hype.
If you're the sort of person who enjoys a personal ringtone, wallpaper etc, and didn't appreciate the iPhone's lack of such customisable features, then there's pleasing news to be found in the Xperia Play. It, of course, allows you to customise to your heart's content. Need more be said?
- THE TOUCH SCREEN / INTERFACE
The touch screen technology is, near as makes no difference, identical to the iPhone's in terms of usability. Flicking between screens, switching between apps, touch response - all of these are excellent. Like the iPhone, the Xperia Play doesn't require you to smudge your finger to activate the touch screen, nor is it overly-sensitive. Texting is very easy and, despite the slightly squashed on-screen keypad, the technology still recognises what you're trying to spell (provided you don't have chubby fingers!). It's, on the whole, conventional touch screen technology with very few flaws (if any). The home screen interface is welcoming - it features your social networking updates, a Google search bar and common app shortcuts (text messaging, contacts etc). The app screen is four-by-four (16 apps on a single page), and the app shortcuts themselves are crisp and clear to identify.
- THE APPLICATIONS / APP MARKET
It's been well documented that the App Store on the iPhone is fully-loaded with any app you could ever want (apparently), and that the Andriod market is far behind. That being said however, you won't be starved for choice with the Xperia Play when looking for good, free apps. Actually, having just had a look at the range of apps available for free, there are many categories that you'd expect, including Games, Photography, Entertainment, Finance, Sports, Productivity, Socialising, Shopping, Music, News, Lifestyle, Medical/Health and more. People often feel deterred from an Andriod due to the 'lack of choice' they hear from critics. To be honest, this is nonsense - the Andriod market is comprehensive and spoils the user for choice. The apps themselves, like the entire phone, are all fast to open, easy to use and mess around with etc. Top stuff.
- THE CAMERA
A phone isn't a phone without a camera these days! Unexpectedly, Sony have gone down the same path as Apple with a front-facing camera too. The 5mpx camera seems to work well and the pictures are of good quality. The camera also comes with flash settings, colour balancing, focus mode, scene mode, picture quality and colour modes. The built-in recorder captures decent recordings too. Not sure what else to say, it's a modern, conventional camera with more features and functions than expected.
- THE 'PLAY' PART OF 'XPERIA PLAY'
This is, obviously, the phone's party piece. As stated before, the gamepad is solid, well put together and feels secure in its place. I have read a few reviews that claim the gaming aspect is crude and a let-down - a half-arsed attempt. To be honest, it's really good. Let's get something straight - it's a phone, not a PlayStation 3 with a corded phone linked up to it. But as gaming phones go, this is the best so far. The games process and run really clearly and quickly, with no lag whatsoever. The lack of choice when it comes to games optimised for the Xperia Play is an issue admittedly, but give it a few months and the selection will become greater and greater. The games don't feel like cheap knock-offs of the full versions available on the actual PlayStation consoles, but actually feel purpose-made for the Xperia Play. You often find games that are shrunk, shortened and downsized in order to work on a mobile phone, but this isn't the case with this phone - it essentially feels like a real PlayStation experience. The graphics are excellent as well (for the modern takes on games, whereas Crash Bandicoot is, as it always was, a bit 1990's :P). Overall the games are hugely entertaining, graphically brilliant, fast to run and play and keep you occupied for hours, as Sony intended the phone to do.
- THE BAD POINTS
With any phone, there are going to be a few niggles and complaints, and the Xperia Play hasn't escaped this inevitability:
1) The connectivity to the Internet, the Andriod market, apps such as Facebook etc has been very temporamental. The connection would drop often and you'd have to reload the app to regain the link. I know it's the phone and not my connection because the iPhone connected/connects without issue most of the time. Generally, though, the connectivity isn't too bad.
2) The Xperia Play optimised-games library (games made for use with the unique gamepad) - some games usable with the gamepad are stored on your library, some of them are stored amongst your other ordinary phone apps, which is annoying. Why can't they be in the same place?
3) The analog/joystick buttons' sensitivity on the gamepad. They're a bit too sensitive for my liking and in a lot of games that require them, you cannot alter the sensitivity. Shooting-game fans probably know what I mean - you're trying to run and shoot an enemy, or stand and shoot even, and you're firing all over the place because you cannot control the joystick. It's a pain and puts me off some high-profile games such as Tom Clancy and Battlefield. The rest of the buttons are perfectly fine, it's just the joysticks.
On the whole, the Xperia Play is a really good phone which will keep you busy and satisfied for hours. The thing that impresses me the most is the lack of adapting you have to do to get exactly what you want out of it. With the iPhone, you'd *need* to download certain facilities to have them at all, including sat-nav apps, voice control apps, video camera apps (on previous iPhones), office programmes, instant messaging etc. The Xperia Play comes with a lot of things as standard - it's ready made and ready to go. Add in the gamepad sensation, it's an excellent phone. If you can ignore the shortfalls I listed above, get it.
Oh, and by the way, it's around half the price of an iPhone, with more as standard and more appeal. The iPhone is a fashion item; the Xperia Play is a true experience. Bit of a no-brainer!