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By Dan Seifert

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Messaging, App Store, Browser


Messaging

The basic version of Android 2.3 Gingerbread available on the Xperia PLAY for Verizon does not offer much in the way of advanced messaging features. The SMS client is good, and offers threaded messaging among other features, though it is a little sparse looking and does not have the flash of other clients. The PLAY has Android 2.3.2, which means the Google Talk client does not support voice and video calls with the front-facing camera. Out of the box, there are no apps for IM platforms like AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, or Windows Live, so you will have to go to the Android Market and download an app if you want to use those services.

The weakest point of messaging with the PLAY is the standard email client that comes with Android 2.3. While the stellar Gmail app is present, and still offers the best Gmail experience on any mobile platform, users who rely on other email services are stuck with a bare-bones, outdated client. It does not have many features that one would expect on a modern email client today, such as folder management and pinch-to-zoom. Compared with the email clients offered on Samsung and HTC Android phones, the PLAY's is far behind.


Apps / App Store

Like any Android phone with Google certification, the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY has access to the Android Market, with over 200,000 apps to download and install. The web interface of the Android Market makes it simple and easy to browse and install apps right from a Mac or PC. As far as included applications, the Xperia PLAY bucks the trend of recent Verizon smartphones to include a ton of bloatware that is not very useful to the user.

There are only five Verizon-specific apps included (V CAST Apps, Backup Assistant, My Verizon Mobile, Visual Voicemail and VZ Navigator), and they all could arguably be useful to many users. Verizon has also thrown in the Amazon Kindle app for e-books, a basic version of QuickOffice for management of documents, and Skype Mobile.

The star attraction of the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is the Xperia PLAY app, which gives access to the included games and a portal to download more games from the V CAST store. The app will launch automatically when the phone is unlocked and the gamepad is slid out. From the Xperia PLAY app, you can jump right into the seven included games: Madden NFL '11, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, Asphalt 6: Adrenaline, The Sims 3, Star Battalion, Crash Bandicoot, and Tetris. You can also launch the games from the standard app tray, too, if you are not already in the Xperia PLAY app.

While the games included with the PLAY were good and entertaining, hardcore gamers will likely be looking for more in a short amount of time. There are 50+ games available to download between the Xperia PLAY and V CAST apps portals, though many of the games leave much to be desired, or are not exclusive to the PLAY. Many of the games can be found in the Android Market on other phones, lessening the wow factor of the PLAY.

It would have been smart for Sony Ericsson to have more exclusive titles that would get the hardcore gamers to snap up the PLAY. If it could lock down titles like Final Fantasy, gamers would flock to the PLAY in droves.


Browser

The browser available on the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is the stock browser that ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread. It features Adobe Flash Player support and pinch-to-zoom, as well as multiple window management. Performance was fast, and scrolling was smooth and quick. Double-tapping on text neatly zoomed in, with the text re-flowed for easier reading. There really isn't much to complain about with Android's stock browser, but power users might want to look to third-party browsers in the Android Market for more advanced features.