PlayStation Phone Looks to Mix Advanced Gaming with Android

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Engadget got some early hands-on time with the impending PlayStation phone, known as the Xperia Play and manufactured by Sony Ericsson.

Pricing and availability details are still unknown at this point, but Sony’s expected to officially reveal the device at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference that takes place in Barcelona next month.

On the surface, the phone looks like any other advanced Android phone. Slide up the big 4-inch 854×480-resolution screen, however, and instead of a QWERTY keyboard, you’re greeted with a control pad, two analog pads, four action buttons, and more—basically Sony’s signature control scheme.

The controls will obviously be used to control games meant for Sony’s platform but they’ll also work with Android apps like game emulators, so you’ll be able to map the buttons however you like provided the app allows for controller customization (most emulators do).

Aside from pricing and availability, the big question will be how Sony positions this device for playing games. It seems like it’d almost certainly function similarly to the download-only PSP Go that was released in late 2009, so it’s likely that you’d have access to the same game downloads.

It’ll be interesting to see how the phone matches up with the recently-unveiled Sony NGP. Both have a touchscreen, though the NGP’s is bigger and higher-resolution, and it’s possible that the NGP’s processor will be more powerful than the Xperia Play’s. So whether or not the games developed specifically for the NGP will be playable on the phone will be telling. The NGP will use some sort of proprietary flash memory, so the phone would have to support the same memory as well.

The NGP’s not due out until the holidays, so it’s possible that the Xperia Play may be a stop-gap between now and then. It’d perhaps continue the PSP Go platform idea while adding the additional benefits of Android.

More on TIME.com:

Sony Unveils the NGP, the Next Evolution of Portable PlayStation Hardware

Rumor: Sony Preps PlayStation Phone with Android Guts

Happy 5th Birthday, PSP! We Got You Some Improvements To Celebrate.

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