While waiting for a movie this weekend, I was amazed at just how many folks in the audience were passing the time by playing games on their smartphones. They looked ridiculous, not because there's anything wrong with smartphone gaming, but because they all seemed to be rubbing their screens frantically. Smartphones absolutely make sense as handheld gaming platforms, but they desperately need better controls than a capacitive touchscreen.
With that in mind, Engadget's review of Sony's new PlayStation phone, the Xperia Play, comes at the perfect time. Rather than relying on its main touchscreen for input, the Xperia has a slide-out controller with a d-pad, a handful of buttons, and two small touchpads meant to simulate touchscreen input. For the most part, the controls appear to be excellent—and they won't have you streaking movie popcorn dust all over your screen.
Unfortunately, the screen itself looks to be pretty poor. Although the viewing angles are reportedly good, the display is so dim that Engadget calls it "borderline dysfunctional." The rest of the device appears to be a little lacking, as well, and the dearth of games optimized to work with the unique controller doesn't help. That's a shame, because all the bits and pieces exist to make a really compelling handheld gaming platform that's also a phone. Someone just has to put them together.