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First PlayStation certified smartphone is out

The first smartphone certified for PlayStation is out and complete with a slide-out control pad that delivers 3D-compatable gaming.

The latest edition of Sony Ericsson’s Android software-based Xperia smartphones, the Xperia Play, has the expected equipment including 5-megapixel camera and four-inch (10.2-centimetre) multi-touch screen.

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The big difference is a slide-out gaming pad with a digital pad, analogue touch pads, shoulder buttons and the familiar PlayStation icons — a circle, cross, square and triangle.

“I am delighted to see Xperia Play as the first PlayStation certified device,” said Kazuuo Hirai, president of Sony Corp.’s networked products and services group.

The phone is powered by the latest Android platform, Gingerbread, the group said after it was shown off for the first time Sunday at the mobile phone industry’s annual congress here in Barcelona.

The Xperia Play should offer some interesting challenge for the iPhone, according to Peter Cohen of loopinsight.com. “So far, Android phones haven’t really made an impact with gamers – neither the available handsets nor the Android Market have really distinguished themselves as game-friendly environments, and outside of predictable hits like Rovio’s Angry Birds, there really haven’t been any games that have set the Android world on fire.”

Will the Xperia Play change that?.“Sony noted that the Xperia Play is the first phone to receive PlayStation certification, but added that PlayStation certification is available to other Android devices. It’s conceivable that we’ll see many other Android-based phones emerging with enhanced gaming capabilities in the future,” according to Cohen.

Sony Ericsson said it had got together with major gaming publishers to deliver titles via the Android Marketplace, including Need for Speed, Sims 3 and the first multi-player version of the FIFA game for mobile.

Since the new smartphone is the first to be certified for PlayStation, it will also have access to PlayStation game content directly through a PlayStation suite to be launched this year.

The new phone puts Sony’s PlayStation gaming repertoire in the mobile arena to compete directly with Microsoft, which already makes Xbox games available on its Windows 7 mobile software.

Windows 7 got a major leg-up last week when Nokia announced it had scrapped its own software to adopt Microsoft’s mobile operating system.

Microsoft is hoping its alliance with Nokia will catapult Windows Phone 7 back to the forefront of the smartphone market while Nokia is hoping to beat off rivals such as Apple and Google.

Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play is to go on sale in April. In the United States, it will be launched on the Verizon Wireless network.

Games will be downloadable via Android Markeplace for 5-10 euros, said Sony France managing director Pierre Perron.
It is likely to go for about US$800 if sold without the subsidies that come when phones are provided with a mobile operator’s contract, Perron said.

The PlayStation is one of the big money-earners at Sony, which has been hit by the strength of the yen and sliding prices for flat-screen LCD televisions.

Sony this month reported an 8.6-percent drop in net profit to US$893-million in the three months ended December.

But the Networked Products and Services division responsible for PlayStation games and Vaio computers reported operating profit more than doubled.

The company last month unveiled a new portable touchscreen gaming console as it looks to launch a fresh challenge to Nintendo and Apple in the hugely competitive mobile gaming market.

The device, codenamed “Next Generation Portable,” will succeed Sony’s PlayStation Portable handheld device and boasts 3G mobile connectivity and WiFi, allowing users to download games and other content.

It is due to hit stores before the end of the year, Sony said.

The company is also making its catalogue of PlayStation games available for download on phones running Google’s Android operating system. — AFP

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