Sony Xperia S: A step in the right direction for mobile gaming


Perhaps more than any other company in the consumer electronics industry, Sony has repeatedly baffled customers and analysts alike with its product strategies. Music players that could only playback proprietary formats, cameras that could only use proprietary memory cards, a tablet that could control your entire home theatre but not your Sony PS3, an iPod-competitor that isn’t PlayStation-certified, and phones that could provide a great mobile gaming experience but couldn’t display those games on your TV.

That’s just a short list.

Much of these decisions can be attributed to Sony’s desire to exert the kind of control over user experiences that Apple is famous for. Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs bio even lends credence to the idea that Apple learned this lesson from Sony. The other explanation is that Sony is a company divided. With interests in consumer electronics and media publishing, the fabled Japanese tech giant has been fighting for harmony amongst its divisions for decades, with few visible successes.

But this might be changing.

Consider the new Xperia S, the first Sony smartphone in Canada to ditch the old Sony-Ericsson branding. It’s a dual-core, HD smarpthone running Google’s Android 2.3 OS (upgradeable to Ice Cream Sandwich later this year) and like it’s predecessor, the Sony-Ericsson Xperia Play, it’s PlayStation Certified which means you can enjoy a catalog of games from Sony including older PlayStation 2 titles that have been optimized for the mobile device.

Unlike the Xperia Play, these games are no longer confined to the phone’s 4.3″ touchscreen. Equipped with a micro-HDMI port, the Xperia S lets you enjoy video and gaming on your HDTV.

Sounds like a solid feature right? Well, yes and no. Yes, the ability to view your mobile games on the big screen makes a ton of sense. Not only will they look better on an HDTV, but friends and family can watch the action without having to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with you. But there’s a down-side too. The Xperia S, unlike the Play, is a touch-screen only device. There is no slide-out set of physical buttons (the Play’s slider featured a PSP Go layout). So while you’ll be able to view games on your TV, it will likely be impossible to control the gameplay without looking down at the phone to make sure you’re swiping and tapping the control areas accurately.

Let’s hope that Sony brings back the Play’s slider form-factor on their next model so gamers can really harness the HDMI-out feature to its full extent.

The Xperia S also features a 12.1-megapixel camera that can shoot 1080p video along with NFC (Near Field Communication) – a technology that will enable everything from mobile payments via Google Wallet to content sharing between compatible devices, so gaming isn’t the only reason to consider this smartphone.

Pricing has been set at a very reasonable $99 on a 3-year phone & data package from Rogers Wireless. The Xperia S will be available exclusively through Sony Stores when it launches April 17th.

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3 comments

  1. Jeremy Phan

    If it’s anything like the Tablet S or arc/s, it should support USB-to-Go which would enable a USB device (like a PlayStation controller) to be plugged into it via an adapter. There’s also Bluetooth controllers so hopefully it does pan out and enable good gaming functionality.

    Looking forward to getting my hands on it!

    Between the Samsung Galaxy S III, HTC One X/S and LG’s recently announced flagship, it’ll be a difficult choice!

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  2. Mac

    Not shipping with ICS? That is a huge minus in my books. I am so tired of companies saying we will push X update in 3 months, and then it actually takes 5 months.

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    • Jeremy Phan

      While I agree that it’s a HUGE negative, many companies haven’t even committed to updates to ICS altogether. At the very least, Sony has guaranteed that their ENTIRE lineup of 2011 devices is getting the update to ICS.

      Those that have upgraded select handsets (such as Samsung) are already running into issues with stability, app compatibility and other faults so frankly, I’d rather wait a month and continue running an older, but well-heeled, stable OS than have to deal with a rushed update.

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