How the Sony Xperia Play Works

Xperia Play and Android

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play launched with Android 2.3 Gingerbread in mid-2011, the most up-to-date version of Google's operating system available until the release of the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS at the end of 2011. Android device makers habitually design their own skins to run atop Google's operating system, and Sony Ericsson is no exception. The Play runs a Sony-designed user interface including a custom keyboard, unique icons and contacts application. Apps work like they do on any other Android device -- they're downloaded and updated through the Android Market and are operated with touch controls. Even though the Xperia Play has a slew of specialized buttons, they only work in apps customized to include Android? support [source: Tested].

The Xperia Play ships with a game browser app that separates games into two categories. The first contains games designed to work with the Play's controls, while the second lists all the available games that only support the stock Android experience. Six Android games that work with the Play controls come pre-loaded onto the phone for free: "Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior," "FIFA 2010," "Sims 3," "Star Battalion," "Tetris" and "Asphalt 6." More than 100 other titles also support the Play's controls, including big name franchises like "Spiderman," "Assassin's Creed" and "Need for Speed" [source: Engadget].

Though the Xperia Play attempts to be a hybrid phone/gaming device, it's only as much of a gaming device as software allows. The majority of games available on the Android Market are short, simple experiences offered for free or sold for a few dollars. That's not necessarily a bad thing or a criticism of Android games -- it simply means games developed for dedicated gaming platforms like the PSP are typically much longer and more complex (and, of course, more expensive) than phone games. Emulators on the Android Market work well with the Play, since they are designed to run classic games from systems like the Super Nintendo that used D-Pads and face buttons.

Sony's PlayStation offerings are meant to augment the games available on Android. Another game browsing app, PlayStation Pocket, offers emulated versions of classic PlayStation One games ported to the Xperia Play.