We've seen the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play before at Mobile World Congress and have managed to play a game or two on it ourselves during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Now, we finally have our hands on the Verizon version of the phone that will be making it to stores on May 26--preorders started on May 19.
There are few differences between the Xperia Play headed for Verizon and the one that's currently for sale internationally. The main difference is that the Verizon version comes with a few Verizon apps like VZ Navigator and My Verizon Mobile. Verizon is also really pushing its V Cast App store as an alternative to the Android Market; you can access the games portion of the V Cast store directly from the gaming interface.
Though we have yet to delve deeply into the Xperia Play, we have to admit first impressions are pretty good. The phone ships with the latest Android firmware, Gingerbread 2.3, and we're happy to report that the interface is pretty vanilla--you won't see any fancy Timescape skins here. Sure, Verizon did add a few of its own aforementioned apps and Sony took the liberty of changing the default wallpaper, but the experience is pretty close to pure Android.
But enough about the phone--what sets the Xperia Play apart are the physical controls for gaming. You get the familiar directional pad on the left and the PlayStation controllers on the right. The Select and Start keys are siloed away on the bottom right. In their former position are two round touch-sensitive circles that essentially replace the device's analog controls. PlayStation fans might be disappointed with the lack of real analog joysticks, but Sony did have to keep the handset as slim as possible--it's quite thick and bulky as it is.
The Xperia Play comes with six preloaded games: Madden NFL 11, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, Star Battalion, The Sims 3, and Crash Bandicoot. We're not sure if Sony plans on releasing more PlayStation classics for the phone. Some of the other games available for download from the V Cast App store are Dungeon Defenders, Assassins Creed, Need for Speed, Guitar Hero, and Gun Bros. The device is "PlayStation-certified" but it is not a part of Sony's PlayStation Network, which might be a good thing.
We'll put the phone through its paces more during the weekend and have the review for you next week. In the meantime, is there anything you would want to know about the Xperia Play? Let us know in the comments!