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Sony's "PlayStation Phone" Won't Be Another N-Gage

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Last month, Engadget gave an exclusive hands-on peek at Sony's upcoming Xperia Play, commonly referred to as the "PlayStation Phone." Manufactured by Sony Ericsson, the Android smartphone features a slide-out gamepad that mimics the design of PlayStation controllers. Aside from a few early glitches, the prototype Engadget tested handled the games fairly well and -- after some last-minute tweaks -- the official model ought to make a nice addition to the Android line.

That is, if Super Bowl viewers can work past that torture porn-themed spot that ran during the Super Bowl.

But back-alley thumb grafts notwithstanding, the Xperia Play looks to be a far cry from Nokia's disastrous experiment in injecting gaming into a phone.

Released in October 2003, the Nokia N-Gage was a symphony of bad design. To insert a game, one had to remove not only the plastic cover but also the battery to access the game slot. The screen was vertically orientated, as in taller than wide. And perhaps the worst choice -- one that became a meme of mockery -- the taco-shaped device had to be held sideways in order to use it as a phone.

But over seven years later, Sony appears to have worked most of the kinks out of the process.

Using the Android OS, the Xperia Play will take advantage of both a popular smartphone platform and the Android Market's PlayStation Suite of games -- allowing for direct downloads of titles rather than clumsy cartridges. Additionally, Android's many console emulators will allow users to turn the device into a NES, Genesis, Atari, Super Nintendo -- virtually any gaming system from their childhood. Here's to you, nostalgia.

According to its Facebook page, Sony will be officially unveiling the Xperia Play on February 13. Depending on the final hardware, the marketing, and the execution of Android's PlayStation Suite, this could potentially be the game-changer that steals the mobile gaming crowns from Apple and Nintendo. Or, at the very least, it could simply be a decent gaming smartphone combo.

But that's something the N-Gage could never claim to be.
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