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If Sony Ericsson made a PlayStation Phone...

Everything you need to know about the hottest mobile gaming rumour of 2007
Product: PlayStation Phone (Xperia Play) | Publisher: Sony Ericsson | Format: Mobile, PSP
PlayStation Phone (Xperia Play) Multiformat, thumbnail 1
We mobile users are never satisfied. We're always looking forward to the next big handset, even when ours is still fairly new. It's partly down to the mobile industry itself, which makes its money from persuading us to upgrade to a new phone every 12-18 months with swankier features.

Sometimes, our lust for new handsets is just wishful thinking. Such is the case, presently, with the rumours surrounding Sony Ericsson making a PlayStation Phone (or PSP for short. Er... hang on...).

Could it happen? Read on for our analysis of how the rumours started, why a PlayStation Phone would fit logically into Sony Ericsson's handset strategy, and what we'd like to see from such a device if they do make it.

Rumours that Sony Ericsson might be planning a gaming phone first surfaced last September after a press conference in Sweden. The firm's senior VP of product and application planning, Rikko Sakaguchi, let slip that Sony Ericsson was "working on something" on the gaming front, but "the surprise must be kept for the future".

All went quiet for a few months, but then last week the rumours flared up again, after a post on Spanish blog Clipset. The gist: Sony Ericsson is planning to revamp the user interface on some of its phones to mirror the XMB menu bar system used on both PSP and PlayStation 3. And that this may be a sign of an imminent PlayStation-branded phone.

(Running the Clipset post through Babelfish tells us that it "is almost safe that the next moving bodies of average and high range of Sony-Ericsson will change their system of menus by one tracing to the one of the PSP (so and as has made already the PS3), with a horizontal line... with the basic options and emergent icons in vertical for the submenus". Clear as mud, we hope you'll agree).

Why is a PlayStation Phone a believable rumour then? Firstly, it fits into Sony Ericsson's overall strategy of releasing handsets using existing Sony consumer electronics brands. Think about its Walkman music phones and its Cyber-shot cameraphones, for example.

In January this year, Sony Ericsson even launched a Bravia-branded phone (pictured) in Japan focused on mobile TV (Bravia is Sony's range of flat-screen tellies, if you didn't know).

Based on this, it's not a huge leap to imagine that PlayStation will be the next Sony brand to be applied to phones.

The second reason why a PlayStation Phone might be on the horizon is down to the competition. With Nokia readying for the launch of its new N-Gage platform, it wouldn't be surprising if Sony Ericsson was planning to compete with its own games offering. In terms of the respect previously afforded to it by gamers, PlayStation is some way ahead of N-Gage.

So if Sony Ericsson does launch a PlayStation Phone, what should it be like? As you'd expect, we've got a few ideas, based partly on our experiences of existing Sony Ericsson phones, and partly our own wishlist of features.

For example, the most sensible form factor for a PlayStation Phone would seem to be a slider, like the W850i. With the slider open you'd have a full keypad, but when closed, it would most resemble a PSP, with a big screen and room for a D-pad above the screen and those iconic PlayStation buttons below it. Obviously, you'd have to turn it sideways to play it like a PSP, which brings us neatly onto...

Landscape gaming. Sony Ericsson pioneered landscape gaming with the W550i, and it is now a feature in several of its phones. This would be an essential ingredient in a PlayStation phone, and since Sony Ericsson already does it, there's no technical challenge in implementing it.

Of course, you'd want shoulder buttons too, if you were trying to mirror a PSP. In other words, when holding the phone vertically (like a normal phone), there'd be one shoulder button at the top right, and one at the bottom right – it'd need to be possible to disable them when the phone wasn't being used for gaming, and sitting in your pocket.

3D would be another necessity, and again Sony Ericsson has form in this area, with the majority of its new phones supporting 3D Java via software-rendering. However, you'd really expect a PlayStation Phone to have 3D hardware inside to give it proper grunt, and to compete with the new N-Gage phones.

Then there's connectivity. A PlayStation Phone should be able to link up with PlayStation 3 and PSP, whether to swap game data, or even download games via the PS3 (like you can with PSP). So while Bluetooth would be thrown in as standard, you'd want wi-fi too, for seamless connectivity. And yes, we would be expecting Sony Ericsson to make sure you could download accurate ports of all manner of PSone games to the device using this connectivity.

Lastly, just as (most) Walkman phones have cameras, and Cyber-shot phones can play music, a PlayStation Phone would need a camera, an MP3 player application, and the ability to watch videos. Oh, and it would need to be 3G, please. Don't go making the same mistake as Apple with its 2.5G iPhone.

So, that's our thoughts – now tell us what you think. Would a PlayStation Phone be a good idea? What other features do you think it would need? And what PSone games would you like to play on it?

Reviewer photo
Stuart Dredge 10 April 2007
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