Sony Ericsson, Verizon hit 'start' on Xperia Play 'PlayStation' phone

BARCELONA, Spain--Sony Ericsson officially unveiled its Xperia Play, the first phone optimized to play Sony PlayStation games. The handset maker also revealed that it will partner with Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) to exclusively to launch the device in the U.S. market.

Click here for Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play PlayStation phoneSony Ericsson teased the device last week during a Super Bowl ad for the phone. But the addition of Verizon as a partner added some heft and legitimacy to the announcement and its implications for Sony Ericsson in the United States. Historically, Sony Ericsson has largely relied on AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) to push its phones in the U.S. market; AT&T was the carrier behind Sony Ericsson's first flagship phone running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android platform, the Xperia X10.

Sony Ericsson said the Xperia Play will be the first smartphone that meets the standards of Sony's PlayStation Certified license program for hardware manufacturers. That certification promises software development support and logo licensing to guarantee quality gameplay experiences across the Android device ecosystem. Additionally, Sony Ericsson said that by the end of the year it will launch a PlayStation store to distribute gaming content for the phone.

The Xperia Play will come pre-loaded with a "legendary" PlayStation title that Sony Ericsson did not reveal. The company said that more titles will be available throughout the year specifically optimized for the phone. So far Sony Ericsson has signed up 20 gaming publishers--including Electronic Arts, Gameloft and Glu Mobile--and said that 50 titles will be available at launch. The handset vendor said Verizon will launch the device in early spring; it did not provide pricing.

The Xperia Play runs Android 2.3, or Gingerbread, and features 4-inch screen, slide-out gaming controls with a directional pad and Sony PlayStation buttons, a 1 GHz processor, CDMA and EVDO support as well as UMTS and HSPA, and memory card support for up to 32 GB.

In addition to announcing the Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson took the wraps off two other Gingerbead phones, both of which feature Sony Ericsson's Mobile Bravia screen technology. One is the Xperia Neo, which features an 8-megapixel camera, HDMI support and the ability to pinch the screen to see all of the phone's widgets. The device also will allow users to group applications in folders. The Neo will be available by the end of the first quarter.

The other new phone is the Xperia Pro, which features HDMI support as well as a slide-out Qwerty keyboard with "smart keyboard" functionality. For example, if a user is an the Gmail client, they can slide out the keyboard and a message pops up asking them if they would like to hit "reply"or "reply all." The Xperia Pro will will be available by the end of the second quarter.

For more:
- see this Xperia Play release
- see this Xperia Neo and Xperia Pro release

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