Sony, you baffle me. I'm sitting down with an Xperia Play, the PlayStationesque Android phone released earlier this year. The one I had been awaiting, for a year, the so-called "PlayStation phone." CNET's already reviewed the Xperia Play, but I was sent the unit to play with a little for myself, at long last. After this year's E3, the Xperia Play sits in my hands like an afterthought. I'm underwhelmed, unexcited, bored. Partially, it's the software: a depressing suite of PlayStation 1 games and choppy frame rate Android titles. Partially, it's the hardware: the Xperia Play has its own buttons, the build quality is impressive, and the device feels good to hold, yet it lacks physical analog sticks.
Yet, what bothers me most of all, strangely, is the branding.
Related links CNET's Xperia Play review
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The Xperia Play doesn't say "PlayStation" anywhere on it. A small square with square, triangle, X and circle icons on the lower-left corner of the control pad are the only indication of any PlayStation relationship. "Sony Ericsson" and "Xperia" appear once each, and "Verizon" appears twice.
Even in the software menus or apps I could find, not once did the "PlayStation" word or logo appear. It's a branding white-out.
Does that matter?
Not really. But it's a critical statement. I can't help but be reminded of the MotoRokr E1 phone. The first phone to play well with iTunes, it predated the iPhone as a music phone by two years. However, the device lacked any clear Apple branding or iDevice labeling, or even a look that matched the iPod. The MotoRokr died a quiet death in the shadow of the iPod Nano, a precursor to all that happened after with the iPhone.
I wonder if the same story is inevitably true for the Xperia Play.… Read more