Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play review: Bring your 'A' game

GSMArena team, 20 April 2011.
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Phonebook hasn’t changed

The XPERIA Play has a good phonebook with practically unlimited storage for your contacts. Plus, it’s good-looking and user friendly.

At the very top you have a search box to quickly find a specific contact. There’s an alphabet scroll too for fast browsing by first letter and at the bottom you get shortcuts to the dialer, call log and favorites.

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The phonebook interface on the XPERIA Play

You can sync with multiple accounts, including Exchange, and you can selectively show or hide contacts from some accounts, or set the phonebook to display only contacts with phone numbers.

If a contact is added in more than one account, you can merge their contact info. This can be really handy as you can have Facebook, Twitter or other service details all in the same place with the regular contact’s details.

Quick contacts are enabled too – by tapping a contact’s photo you get shortcuts for calling, texting or email options.

Each contact can have a variety of fields (and repeat fields of the same type), the plus and X buttons let you add and remove fields as needed. The fields cover anything from names (including a field to write down the name phonetically) to addresses, nicknames and notes.

There is an option to redirect calls directly to voicemail. Personalized ringtones are enabled too.

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Editing a contact

You can also “star” a contact, which automatically adds it to your Favorites. Those “starred” contacts appear in the Gmail app too, under “Starred in Android”, so you can quickly email them, without the need to add them as a separate contact.

Telephony short of smart dialing

The XPERIA Play is a phone as well (shocker!) and it does well in that department. It had no troubles holding onto signal and in-call sound was consistently good. There’s a secondary microphone on the back for active noise-cancellation. Ambient noise gets filtered and the person on the other end can hear you much better.

The letdown in Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play is the lack of smart dialing – hardly acceptable for a high-end droid. Voice dialing – with a dedicated homescreen widget – is little consolation.

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Smart dial no - voice dial yes • Call log

The XPERIA Play has a proximity sensor above the display to turn the screen off during calls.

We ran our traditional loudspeaker test on the XPERIA Play. It got a good mark and the stereo speakers help out here.

Speakerphone testVoice, dBPink noise/ Music, dBRinging phone, dBOverall score
Samsung I9000 Galaxy S66.6 65.966.6Below Average
LG Optimus 2X65.7 60.067.7Below Average
Motorola MILESTONE 266.563.674.9Average
HTC Incredible S66.566.176.7Good
Sony Ericsson XPERIA Play66.562.779.0Good
HTC Desire HD69.766.678.3Good
Nokia N875.866.282.7Very Good
HTC Gratia73.273.683.5Excellent

Great messaging

In the messaging department, Android values simplicity in design and the XPERIA Play is the usual impressive performer. All text communication is laid out into threads, the latest message at the bottom. You can lock messages against deletion.

You can also search in every conversation to help you quickly find a specific message.

Quick Contacts works here too, but only in separate messages. Delivery reports can be activated, as well.

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Creating a message • Adding an element

The text box can only show three lines at a time and composing longer messages can be a little frustrating.

Creating an MMS is very simple. Just hit the add button next to the writing box and add an element like a picture, sound, video or you can even take a photo and add it simultaneously.

Moving on to email, the Gmail app supports batch operations, which allow multiple emails to be archived, labeled or deleted. The app supports multiple Gmail accounts, but there’s no unified inbox.

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The Gmail app

There is also a generic email app for all your other email accounts and it can handle multiple POP or IMAP inboxes. You have access to the messages in the original folders that are created online, side by side with the standard local ones such as inbox, drafts and sent items.

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The standard email app

Sony Ericsson has added a Preview Pane to the generic email client. The preview pane can be expanded and collapsed, as well as thumb scrolled. The nice thing here is the pane stays exactly where you left it and can save you a few taps. You can check out our video demo to see how it works.

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Email preview pane

Google Talk handles the Instant Messaging department. The GTalk network is compatible with a variety of popular clients like Pidgin, Kopete, iChat and Ovi Contacts.

Text input options on the Play boil down to the propriety Gingerbread QWERTY keyboard.

Not that it’s bad, not at all, with well spaced and reasonably sized keys.

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Virtual keyboard

Flipping the phone to landscape however tells a whole new story. The large on-screen keyboard takes more than half the screen and gives you large, easy to press buttons.

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