Sony Ericsson Xperia Play vs iPhone 4

The "PlayStation" phone has been all over the blogosphere for months now, but Sony Ericsson has finally confirmed the handset as the Xperia Play at MWC 2011 in Barcelona. The Play will be the world's first PlayStation-certified smartphone, but will it be able to compete with the iPhone 4 and its gaming capabilities? We took at look at the spec list for each to see which one looks like the best bet for gamers. Read on to find out more...

Form Factor

1st: iPhone 4
115.2 x 58.7 x 9.3mm, 137g

2nd: Xperia Play
119 x 62 x 16 mm, 175 g


Size is one of the most important, and most obvious factors when looking at new smartphones, as you don't want to be carrying an 80s-style brick-sized handset around in your pocket. The iPhone 4 immediately asserts itself as the victor in this particular category as it's smaller than the Play, as well as being a fair bit slimmer at just 9.3mm deep, compared to the 16mm profile of the Sony Ericsson. At 137g, the iPhone is considerably lighter than the Play whose 175g bulk (and chunkier chassis) mean that it loses out to the Apple handset in the first round.

 

Display

Tie: Xperia Play
4-inch, 854x480px, TFT LCD
Tie: iPhone 4
3.5-inch, 960x640px, LCD with IPS



Along with the size of the device itself, screen size is also a major factor for a new smartphone. The iPhone sports a decent-sized 3.5in screen, but the new Play beats it to the punch with its whopping 4-inch display. However, what the Play gains in size, it loses in definition. While its 4-inch screen can only muster an 854x480-pixel resolution, the iPhone's slightly smaller Retina display offers a 960x640 pixel count. This discrepancy in resolution could make all the difference when it comes to the image sharpness, which is why the iPhone gets away with a tie, despite the smaller display.

 

Engine Room

Tie: Xperia Play
1 GHz Scorpion ARMv7, 512MB

Tie: iPhone 4
Apple A4, 512MB



Looking under the chassis of most modern smartphones reveals a lot of evenly matched chipsets, with the exception of the new wave of dual-core processor-wielding handsets. Both the Play and the iPhone sport 1GHz processors in the the form of the Apple A4 and the Scorpion. Both are based on an ARMv7 instruction set, while the Play uses an embedded Adreno 205 graphics processor, which is said to be better than the iPhone's PowerVR SGX535 GPU. With both handsets featuring a standard RAM count of 512MB, there's not much between them at all in that respect, but we think that the Play's superior GPU gives it the edge. 

 

Imaging

tie: iPhone 4
5MP rear, VGA front, 720p video capture

tie: Xperia Play
5.2MP rear, VGA front, 720p video capture



A mobile phone isn't a mobile phone these days unless it has a camera, with even most budget models being equipped with some sort of snapper. The iPhone is well known for its decent 5-megapixel camera, which also adds a flash into the mix - something that was noticeably absent on the 3GS. Sony Ericsson's new handset also has a flash-equipped camera which sports a very slightly higher megapixel count of 5.2. That 0.2 is not going to make any real difference - in practical terms, it means that the two phones are pretty much even when it comes to taking stills - they both feature geotagging as well. The Play and the iPhone 4 are also identically matched in terms of video capture, with both capable of taking video in 720p high-def. Both handsets also include front-facing cameras with VGA resolutions.

 

Connectivity

1st: Xperia Play
Wi-Fi, BT, 3G, DLNA, Micro USB

2nd: iPhone 4
Wi-Fi, BT 2.1, 3G



If you're in the market for a smartphone then you're going to want one with both 3G and Wi-Fi - that's a given. Naturally, both these handsets offer the standard connections along with Bluetooth, with the iPhone offering version 2.1. Sony Ericsson hasn't confirmed which version of Bluetooth will feature on the Play, but we'd be a bit disappointed if it wasn't the latest version (3.0). The Play ups the ante considerably by including DLNA. This useful little feature means that you can stream content between compatible devices. If this isn't a feature that you're likely to use then the two handsets are fairly evenly matched, but if you do make use of the DLNA capability then this offers a big advantage over the Apple device. What's more, the Play also functions as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

 

Battery Life

1st: Xperia Play
Up to 8 hours and 25 min talk time

2nd: iPhone 4
Up to 7 hours talk time



With so many different functions on board, smartphones really need some serious battery power to cope. The iPhone has been widely criticised for the less-than-perfect charge times offered by its 1420mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery. According to Apple, the iPhone 4 offers up to 7 hours of talk time on 3G (14 on 2G) or up to 10 hours video playback or Wi-Fi internet browsing and up to 300 hours on standby time. With a slightly more powerful battery (1500mAh) the Play is said to offer a few improvements when it comes to charge time, including up to 8 hours and 25 minutes of talk time and 5 hours and 35 minutes of game play. Video playback time isn't quoted, but looking at the other specs given it looks as though it will be similar to the iPhone, perhaps a little longer. The Play also reportedly offers 405 hours on standby compared to the iPhone's 300 hours. On paper, the Play looks like the winner in this respect.

 

Software

Tie: iPhone 4
iOS 4.2

Tie: Xperia Play
Android 2.3


Comparing Apple's iOS with Android always ruffles a few feathers, and saying that one is better than the other often sends many gadget lovers into an apoplectic rage. Oh well, here goes. The main difference between the two is the fact that you can customise Android, but not iOS. That's great if you want to spend time setting up your mobile interface so that it's easy to use. However, if you think that spending a couple of hundred quid should earn you the right to receive a phone that has already been made easy to use by the people that designed and made it, then iOS has the advantage. And while it's true that Apple's web browsing still doesn't offer support for Flash-based sites, unlike Android, the selection and quality of the apps available is still something that Apple beats Android on (although Google's OS is catching up fast).

The Play is fully tooled up from launch with Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) which brings with it several advantages. The most important of these for Sony Ericsson's new handsets is the new gaming capabilities. Gingerbread brings with it gyroscope support so that developers will be able to create games with the same level of interactive gameplay that's found on the iPhone. The latest version of Google's OS will also offer plenty of other small but significant improvements, including an enhanced copy and paste function. The new gaming functionality offered by Gingerbread brings it into line with Apple's offering and for that reason, we declare this round a tie.

 

Storage

1st: iphone 4
16/32GB

2nd: xperia play
 400MB, expandable to 32GB


When you're talking about using apps, games and videos, then memory becomes a pretty important consideration for a smartphone. The iPhone often gets a lot of jibes about its lack of an expandable memory, although in practice, we haven't heard that many people switching to other phones because of a lack of memory (no doubt this is the cue for several hundreds of commenters to appear and tell us they've changed their phones for this very reason). Apple's handset is currently offered in 16 or 32GB configurations, while the Play has a built-in memory of just 400MB, but is also supplied with an 8GB microSD card, while the memory is expandable to 32GB (using a microSD).

However, although the latest version of Android theoretically enables you to store your apps on the SD card, not all of the developers have updated their apps yet. As a result, many apps still need to be stored on your phone's memory, and that 400MB offered by the Play will be full up in no time. As time moves on and the app developers catch up, this shouldn't be a problem, but at the moment, the iPhone offers the best memory options.

 

Gaming

1st: Xperia Play
PlayStation Gaming Suite

2nd: iPhone 4
Game Center


Along with the thousands of games that are available to download via iTunes (including lots of free ones) the iPhone 4 also benefits from Apple's Game Center. This lets you take part in multiplayer games with opponents from all over the globe, introducing a social networking element, like that of Xbox Live. With its Retina display, the iPhone offers very sharp graphics, which means that it's well geared up for gaming and the gyroscope and accelorometer mean that motion-based gaming is possible.

Perhaps the largest downside is that there are no separate controls so you're limited to using touch controls on the screen, which means that for a lot of the time your gaming thumbs will be obscuring some of the view. The Play, on the other hand, sports a slide-out game pad which includes a digital D-pad, two analogue touch pads, two shoulder buttons and the four PlayStation icons: circle, cross, square and triangle, while on-board sensors will also make motion-based gaming a possibility.

The Play is the first handset to receive PlayStation certification which means that you'll be able to play modified PlayStation games. The confirmed software lineup so far consists of Need for Speed, The Sims 3, Assassin’s Creed, Guitar Hero and Splinter Cell, while a multiplayer version of FIFA 10 is also on the way. The iPhone puts up a good fight, but we think that the hard controls just about win this round for Sony Ericsson, as long as the games lineup grows quickly.

 

Price

1st: Xperia Play
Unknown

2nd: iPhone 4
A lot


With the 16GB version available for £510 (SIM free) and the 32GB version priced at a massive £612, the iPhone 4 is not cheap. In fact, it's by far the most expensive smartphone out there and that seems unlikely to change, despite the fact that it puts it out of reach for a lot of people. There's no confirmed price for the Play although we do know that it will be available on all the major networks in the UK. Although we don't know for sure, we'd be willing to bet that it will be cheaper than the iPhone, as we can't see any manufacturer giving their new handset a price as lofty as Apple's - it just wouldn't make sense.

 

Conclusions

The iPhone 4 and the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play are fairly evenly matched in a lot of respects, most notably in terms of their processing power and equally impressive operating systems. While they're both packed to the rafters with features, the Play appears to have the advantage when it comes to battery life and connectivity, and that's before we've even mentioned the gaming.

As the first PlayStation-branded handset, it's no secret that this is where the Play's super powers lie. Although the iPhone offers a pretty cool experience, it's hard for it to compete with the Play's dedicated gaming controls and the modified PlayStation games that are on offer. We're also banking on the fact that the Play will be cheaper than the iPhone 4 when it emerges and that's why we're declaring Sony Ericsson's gamers' handset the winner.

Obviously we're just going by the specs available, so we'll bring you a full review of the Xperia Play as soon as we can get our hands on one, and word of Apple's next assault on the smartphone world with the iPhone 5.

Don't miss out - follow all the latest new from the show at Pocket-lint's MWC 2011 page.



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