The Xperia Play's form factor was the topic of an opinion-filled, entertaining and informative recent cyber-debate between Anand, fellow staffer Brian Klug, and myself. Anand, who briefly had the Xperia Play before transferring it to me, commented, "it may be light for a slider but I really wasn't pleased with the thickness or build quality for that matter, it all felt too thick and loose." I, on the other hand, was quite pleasantly surprised with its seemingly svelte shape and diminutive weight, both in an absolute sense and relative to the two other phones currently in my possession, an Apple iPhone 4 (Verizon) and a Google Nexus One (AT&T).

The table below shows how the three handsets stack up from a factor standpoint, along with a HTC Evo Shift (Sprint) that I recently had the opportunity to handle. For grins, I also included my previous work phone, a Motorola Droid whose design whose first production dated back to October 2009. And finally, I tossed in the slider that I owned prior to that; the very first Android handset, the T-Mobile G1 dating from October 2008:

Form Factor Comparison
  Weight (w/battery) Height Width Thickness
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play  (slider) 6.2 oz (175.0 g) 4.7 in (119.0 mm) 2.4 in (62.0 mm) 0.6 in (16.0 mm)
HTC Evo Shift (slider) 5.9 oz (167.3 g) 4.6 in (116.9 mm) 2.3 in (58.4 mm) 0.6 in (16.0 mm)
Apple iPhone 4 (slate bar) 4.8 oz (147 g) 4.54 in (115.2 mm) 2.3 in (58.66 mm) 0.37 in (9.3 mm)
Google Nexus One (aka HTC Passion) (slate bar) 4.6 oz (130 g) 4.7 in (119 mm) 2.35 in (59.8 mm) 0.45 in (11.5 mm)
Motorola Droid  (slider) 6 oz (169 g) 4.56 in (115.8 mm) 2.4 in (60 mm) 0.54 in (13.7 mm)
T-Mobile G1 (aka HTC Dream) (slider) 5.6 oz (158 g) 4.63 in (117.7 mm) 2.19 in (55.7 mm) 0.67 in (17.1 mm)

Here's how the Xperia Play looks when placed side-by-side with the Nexus One:

Anand's right, of course, the Xperia Play is thicker (and heavier) than either of the two phones I own. But as I note in the above table, that's largely because it's a 'slider' form factor; as such, it's identical in thickness to the HTC Evo Shift (and thinner than the geriatric G1). Whether or not Sony Ericsson was wise to devote the lower layer of the 'slider' to gaming-centric functions versus a generic physical keyboard (as with the HTC Evo Shift, Motorola Droid and T-Mobile G1) is a discussion that I'll save for later in this writeup. And to that point, keep in mind that the Xperia Play is notably thinner than a dedicated portable gaming console; the upcoming PlayStation Vita is 0.73 inches thick, for example, and the Nintendo 3DS is an even more bulbous 0.83 inches deep.

To me, part of the reason that the Xperia Play doesn't feel as bulky as its specs would otherwise suggest is because of its tapered shape, which results in its thickest-girth portions being in areas that are cradled by the palm of your hand but with a design that still allows it to lie flat when put down. Conversely, the 'industrial' design of the iPhone 4 seems bulkier to me than its specifications reveal to be the case; note that it's the thinnest of the bunch! More generally, by this point in time I tend to find that pretty much all smartphones are 'good enough' from both thickness and weight standpoints to comfortably fit not only in the hand but also in a shirt or pants pocket, with the possible exception of ultra-large-screen models such as the HTC Evo.

Overview Build Quality
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  • SilthDraeth - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    I wonder why they chose a Dpad for directional control vs a flat analog slider pad reminiscent of the Nintendo 3ds?

    I would have thought the analog slider pad would have better mimicked the capacitive touch circle control. In fact I probably would play some more N.O.V.A 2 if my Samsung epic had a analog slider pad.

    I wonder, if maybe they didn't do it, because at the time the phone was designed and released, the 3DS hadn't came out, and no one had thought of it yet...
    Reply
  • LordOfTheBoired - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Interesting theory, but there's a problem with it... the PSP had a flat analog slider long before the 3DS did.
    It's also an input that is largely reviled by the fans, and not without justification.

    Though the fans think the problem is that it isn't a "real stick"(actually, two of them) rising high above the face of the device like a home gamepad(specifically, like the DualShock series of gamepads), and to hell with pocketability. See also: the upcoming PS Vita.

    Personally, I think it was just a poorly-considered implementation of a good device.
    The fault as I see it is that it's topped with a convex thumb-piece and the centering springs are fairly high-tension. Though the awkward location doesn't help matters either(I'm pretty sure the slider was shoehorned in late in the system's development and it was intended to be digital-only).

    I'm rather disappointed to know the capacitive disks don't work, as I thought they were a good idea. Especially as it avoided the preference for cardinal directions in dual-spring potentiometer designs(a very strong preference in the case of the PSP's high-tension slider).
    Reply
  • Guspaz - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Good idea, terrible implementation. While I'm not a PSP owner,and have only played with them a bit, my experience was that the problems were:

    1) Horribly positioned. My hand cramped up using the analog nub on the PSP while simultaneously holding the PSP with that hand

    2) Concave form factor made it harder to grip

    3) Rough texture was uncomfortable

    4) Spring put up too much resistance

    5) Too small and not enough range of motion

    The 3DS circle pad attempts to address all of these complaints, and while it isn't quite perfect, it's a good enough implementation that it can compete with "real" analog sticks rather nicely. Of course, by giving it good positioning, it makes the 3DS' d-pad uncomfortable to use, but you can't have it both ways. Anyhow, a circle-pad would certainly fit on something like the xperia play. In fact, I wish that the circle-pad was on more devices, but unfortunately Nintendo's patents will prevent that. Hopefully Sony can come up with their own similar slider pad that, if not identical to the circle pad, at least makes the same corrections.
    Reply
  • MacTheSpoon - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    This first gen phone is underwhelming, but I hope they stick with the concept and iron out the problems. The underlying concept of a smartphone with physical game controls seems spot-on. I'd love to play console-type games on my phone using physical controls instead of multitouch. Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    The first gen phone is underwhelming and ever single phone after that will follow similarly.

    Why? The Vita. I can't understand why Sony thought it was a good idea to split the Vita and Xperia Play. If you want to compete with iOS gaming, you can't do it with two distinct devices. Sony needs a unified gaming device. They are welcome to sell a wifi version (a la iPod Touch), but their flagship needs to be a phone.
    Reply
  • seamonkey79 - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    ^ This Reply
  • Exodite - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Because Sony isn't the same company as Sony Ericsson?

    It's not even a subsidiary, indeed SE is made up from far more of the old Ericsson phone division than it is Sony.

    This isn't in any way, shape of form a 'Sony' phone - Sony doesn't do phones.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Monday, August 8, 2011 - link

    Then Sony should do phones. Reply
  • Zoomer - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Not outside Japan, anyway. Reply
  • Guspaz - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Sony Ericsson is 50% owned by Sony and 50% owned by Ericsson. They make Walkman-branded phones, Cyber-shot branded phones, BRAVIA-branded phones... Sony and Ericsson could clearly have come to an agreement if Sony had wanted to do this all in one device.

    After all, the XPeria Play and Vita are similar architecturally. They both use ARM SoCs (a departure for Sony in a game console), although the XPeria Play is using a Qualcomm Snapdragon with an Adreno GPU while the Vita is using a quad-core ARM Cortex A9 with a PowerVR SGX534MP4.

    In actual fact, the hardware in the Vita is identical to the iPad 2 except doubled (same CPU/GPU, just double the cores each).
    Reply

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