Games are serious players on smartphones.
This week at the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, Steve Jobs crowed about how Apple’s mobile Games Center for iOS devices has registered 50 million players in nine months.
There are more than 100,000 game and entertainment titles on Apple’s App Store, and the top free and paid apps are dominated by games week after week. Many of these are casual games – easy to pick up and easy to put down – ideal for a quick fix or just to kill a few minutes.
The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, an Android phone from Verizon Wireless, takes a different approach to mobile gaming.
In addition to typical touch-screen games from the Android Market, the Xperia, which costs $299 with a two-year contract, runs PlayStation-certified games such as “Crash Bandicoot” and “The Sims 3.”
The phone looks like many other touch-screen app phones, but it slides open to reveal a game pad reminiscent of a PlayStation controller, including the iconic action buttons on the right side of the phone. There also is a directional keypad, dual touch-sensitive joysticks and two shoulder buttons, making the phone feel more like a portable gaming system such as the PlayStation Portable.
Games on the Xperia are more involved than the average app phone experience. It comes with six already installed – including “Madden NFL 11” and “Asphalt 6: Adrenaline” – and others such as “Modern Combat 2 HD” can be bought and downloaded directly to the phone through Verizon’s Vcast store.
These games are gorgeous on the Xperia’s display, and the phone’s slide-out controller makes playing them quite fun. It’s easy to burn through a few hours of kung-fu-fighting enemies in “Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior,” and that’s a serious threat to battery life considering the Xperia’s battery maxed out for me after about five hours of playing.
Verizon says the Xperia lasts for 7.6 hours of talk time and 16.9 days of standby. After two weeks of working with one, I found a fully charged battery endured a full day with moderate use of Internet activity, talking and gaming as long as I kept the Wi-Fi off unless I needed it.
The Xperia balances gaming with the essentials of an app phone quite well. When the phone is closed, it works like any other Android phone: quickly and efficiently providing email, the Web, social networking, apps and Google’s suite of software on a lovely 4-inch screen.
The phone also features technical essentials such as a rear-facing 5-megapixel camera and the typical Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth wireless. Overall, the phone measures 4.68 inches long by 2.44 inches wide by 0.63 inch and weighs 6.17 ounces. It’s not dainty but feels similar to many other Android handsets on store shelves.
The Xperia comes loaded with the newer model of the Android operating system – version 2.3, also known as “Gingerbread – so it benefits from some user interface upgrades like a faster keyboard, better copy and paste, Internet calling and download management.
Call quality on the Xperia was solid: Over two weeks the phone never dropped a call and conversations came in clearly. Overall, the Xperia lives up to its PlayStation pedigree without forgetting that it is an app phone first.