Sony hits at PlayStation phone, says iPhone poor for games

SCEA’s senior marketing VP Peter Dille in an interview late Wednesday dropped strong hints of the upcoming PlayStation phone and was already setting it up as a competitor to the iPhone. He saw the PSP as being hindered by being Wi-Fi only and its having to be a secondary device. Modern users want “always-connected devices,” Dille told CNN, and lose many of the PSP’s role as a media center when away, like movie rentals and web browsing.

“I don’t think we fully realize that vision with a Wi-Fi device,” Dille explained. “If it’s not connected [to cellular] then it does sort of limit people.”

He added that the PSP was also partly hurt by its age. Originally launched in 2004, the design’s basic formula and performance have remained mostly unchanged, even including the PSP Go. Apple’s original iPhone was faster in 2007, but the company has made a point of upgrading features, performance or both every year and now has a much more advanced device than Sony. TV consoles have usually stayed at the top of their lineup for at least five years and, in Sony’s case, can still be relevant for 10 years or more.

Regardless, Apple’s approach of simply offering gaming on an existing cellphone wasn’t enough, he added. Most iPhone games were simply “time-killers” that didn’t encourage long play. Sony’s experience with the PlayStation meant it knew better how to encourage serious games, where users “aren’t satisfied” with what Apple and others have been offering so far.

While Dille didn’t confirm the existence of a PlayStation phone, the device is known to be a touchscreen Android slider with PSP Go-style controls instead of the usual keyboard. The design would be fast enough for games with a second-generation 1GHz Snapdragon chip but would focus the most on its software. Sony Ericsson, whose name is currently on the prototype, would have a separate section for PlayStation games, whether a distinct app store or a section of Android Market. It may also be a showcase for the next release of Android, Gingerbread, but might not ship until 2011.

The phone is likely an urgent priority as PSP sales were known to be crashing before the NPD Group stopped reporting sales figures in public this summer. Sony has tried renewing interest with anti-iPhone ads conveying its deeper gaming message, but they have so far been unsuccessful as Apple saw a record 14.1 million iPhone sales and now counts the iPod touch as its most popular non-phone device, outselling both the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP combined.

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