Monday, November 21, 2011

TECH GIFTS: Verizon Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY - from gaming, to school work, to reading & beyond

It's a smartphone and a PlayStation® all in 1...

UPDATE 12/22 - The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is now compatible with OnLive's gaming-in-the-cloud service.

UPDATE 5/18 - The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is FREE with a 2 year activation until 5/27/2012

My son has been one happy kid for the past couple of months.  That is because Verizon loaned him a Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY smartphone to review. Verizon wanted to see how technology like smartphones affect the lives of school children and my lucky kid was asked to be a reviewer.

If you have read my blog for any amount of time, then you know that my son is a true gamer and the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is the only PlayStation® Certified Smartphone. That's right tech lovers, this smartphone is a also a gaming system. Instead of a slide out keyboard, this smartphone has a slide out gaming controller. And the games are stored on the phone's included SD card.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY is an Android based smartphone that runs the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) operating system. It has a big 4" screen and a fast 1Ghz processor for running lots of Sony PlayStation® games. It also has a 5 MP Camera and VGA Front Facing Camera for doing Video Chats.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY's SD card comes pre-loaded with Playstaion games
When my son received this smartphone in the mail, of course the first thing he did was start playing all the Playstation games. The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY comes with a number of games pre-loaded on the 8 GB SD card including Crash Badicoot, Asphalt 6, Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior, Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion and The Sims 3. I did not allow my son to play all the games because some of them like The Sims 3 and Bruce Lee Dragon Warrior were rated for Teens. But he wizzed through all the games in no time flat and then wanted to know how to get more. More games are only a credit card away because they can be bought and downloaded online using the smartphone.

From gaming to school work
Given that a smartphone can do so many great things, I wondered how my son would naturally incorporate using the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY on his own. What I noticed was my son became more balanced and started playing the games less and started using the other functions of the smartphone more.  To my surprise, he actually started using the smartphone to help out with his school work.

My son has terms that he needs to "Google" on a weekly basis for school and instead of using his computer, he started using the Sony Ericsson Experia PLAY browser to "Google" the terms for his classwork. He also downloaded a Dictionary app to the smartphone so that he could do further research for his vocabulary words.

A renewed love of reading - all due to a smartphone
Another thing that shocked me is that my son started using the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY as a Kindle eBook reader. As my son has gotten older, he has been reading less books because he thinks they are boring. When I first setup the smartphone, I initially tied it my Google email account and my Amazon account which contains my Kindle eBooks. What I noticed was my son wanted to play with all the phone's apps and then he wanted permission to read my Kindle books. That is when I realized that I had some Kindle titles that were totally not appropriate for an 11 year old to read (opps!). I also realized that because the smartphone was tied to my Amazon account, my kid could be off buying eBooks and anything else that Amazon sells (with MY credit card) without me even knowing. (What was I thinking!)

So I removed my Google and Amazon accounts from the smartphone and set my son up with his own Google mail (gmail) account and his own Amazon account (with no credit card tied to it) so he could have his own separate collection of Kindle eBooks. Then I started buying him age appropriate Kindle eBooks with my Amazon account and using the Amazon "Gift" function to send them to his account. I also found a number of FREE Kindle eBooks like "The Adventures of Kid Combat". Now my son is devouring eBooks faster than I can buy them.  I never thought that a smartphone could bring back my son's love of reading.

What's new Auntie?
The new Google mail (gmail) account has also encouraged my son to stay in touch with extended family members. Until using the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY smartphone, my son has never been interested in sending email. But now, he is emailing my sister and asking how her day is going and checking in with his cousins on a regular basis. It is very easy because the smartphone is portable and he does not have to wait to use his computer to send an email.

Do you know where your smartphone is?
There have been so many wonderful things that my son having a smartphone has initiated, that I hate to bring up the one downside to this experience - responsibility. Since my son is only 11 years old, he is not yet responsible enough to keep up with a smartphone.

I bought my son a no contract mobile phone over a year ago and he has lost and found that phone so many times that I have lost count.  He lost it once at school and twice it was found by my neighbors in their grass. He is going to have to show me a heck of a lot more responsibility with his current mobile phone before he graduates to a contract smartphone.

But it is nice to know that when he is ready, the things he can do with a smartphone like the Verizon Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY - from gaming, to school work, to reading and beyond - are endless.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY sells for $99.99 through Verizon Wireless with a 2 year contract and would make a great gift for the tween, teen or gamer of any age on your holiday list.

Part of the 2011 Holiday Gift Guide


Disclaimer: Verizon Wireless loaned my son the Sony Ericsson Xperia PLAY smartphone in order for me to write this review and state my unbiased opinion on how he interacted with the technology.  I was not compensated for this review.

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