The Xperia Play's form factor was the topic of an opinion-filled, entertaining and informative recent cyber-debate between Anand, fellow staffer Brian Klug, and myself. Anand, who briefly had the Xperia Play before transferring it to me, commented, "it may be light for a slider but I really wasn't pleased with the thickness or build quality for that matter, it all felt too thick and loose." I, on the other hand, was quite pleasantly surprised with its seemingly svelte shape and diminutive weight, both in an absolute sense and relative to the two other phones currently in my possession, an Apple iPhone 4 (Verizon) and a Google Nexus One (AT&T).

The table below shows how the three handsets stack up from a factor standpoint, along with a HTC Evo Shift (Sprint) that I recently had the opportunity to handle. For grins, I also included my previous work phone, a Motorola Droid whose design whose first production dated back to October 2009. And finally, I tossed in the slider that I owned prior to that; the very first Android handset, the T-Mobile G1 dating from October 2008:

Form Factor Comparison
  Weight (w/battery) Height Width Thickness
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play  (slider) 6.2 oz (175.0 g) 4.7 in (119.0 mm) 2.4 in (62.0 mm) 0.6 in (16.0 mm)
HTC Evo Shift (slider) 5.9 oz (167.3 g) 4.6 in (116.9 mm) 2.3 in (58.4 mm) 0.6 in (16.0 mm)
Apple iPhone 4 (slate bar) 4.8 oz (147 g) 4.54 in (115.2 mm) 2.3 in (58.66 mm) 0.37 in (9.3 mm)
Google Nexus One (aka HTC Passion) (slate bar) 4.6 oz (130 g) 4.7 in (119 mm) 2.35 in (59.8 mm) 0.45 in (11.5 mm)
Motorola Droid  (slider) 6 oz (169 g) 4.56 in (115.8 mm) 2.4 in (60 mm) 0.54 in (13.7 mm)
T-Mobile G1 (aka HTC Dream) (slider) 5.6 oz (158 g) 4.63 in (117.7 mm) 2.19 in (55.7 mm) 0.67 in (17.1 mm)

Here's how the Xperia Play looks when placed side-by-side with the Nexus One:

Anand's right, of course, the Xperia Play is thicker (and heavier) than either of the two phones I own. But as I note in the above table, that's largely because it's a 'slider' form factor; as such, it's identical in thickness to the HTC Evo Shift (and thinner than the geriatric G1). Whether or not Sony Ericsson was wise to devote the lower layer of the 'slider' to gaming-centric functions versus a generic physical keyboard (as with the HTC Evo Shift, Motorola Droid and T-Mobile G1) is a discussion that I'll save for later in this writeup. And to that point, keep in mind that the Xperia Play is notably thinner than a dedicated portable gaming console; the upcoming PlayStation Vita is 0.73 inches thick, for example, and the Nintendo 3DS is an even more bulbous 0.83 inches deep.

To me, part of the reason that the Xperia Play doesn't feel as bulky as its specs would otherwise suggest is because of its tapered shape, which results in its thickest-girth portions being in areas that are cradled by the palm of your hand but with a design that still allows it to lie flat when put down. Conversely, the 'industrial' design of the iPhone 4 seems bulkier to me than its specifications reveal to be the case; note that it's the thinnest of the bunch! More generally, by this point in time I tend to find that pretty much all smartphones are 'good enough' from both thickness and weight standpoints to comfortably fit not only in the hand but also in a shirt or pants pocket, with the possible exception of ultra-large-screen models such as the HTC Evo.

Overview Build Quality
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  • name99 - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    "Yes, the silver trim is plastic, not metal, ... and minimized the potential for interference-induced antenna sensitivity degradation"

    Do we know that this is ACTUALLY true? Or is this high school EM applied completely inappropriately?

    Obviously it is true that have metal parts in a phone affects the antenna. It's just as true that
    - most phones (from a whole range of manufacturers) ship with large chunks of metal in them
    - Apple's portables (those with which I am most familiar) went through a phase some years ago where the plastic MacBooks had better reception than the metal MacBook pros, but that hasn't been the case for a while. And the limited knowledge I have of Win portables (or various tablets) doesn't have people all stating unanimously "buy xxx [with a plastic cover] because its radio reception is so much better than yyy [covered with magnesium or titanium or aluminum or whatever]".

    I don't have a strong opinion about this either way, but it seems to me, based on behavior across a range of manufacturers that the true state of affairs is
    - if you're an amateur then using plastic is probably best because you can just ignore it BUT
    - if you're a professional (and pretty much every company of interest IS now professional] you just model the entire environment (metals plus dielectrics) as finite elements. optimize the antenna for that environment, and things works out as well as they realistically can.

    [And, OMG, please, if you're a commenter who feels the need to pipe up about "antenna-gate" and "grips of death", ask yourself before you comment:
    - does my comment add anything useful to the question that has been posed? AND
    - does my comment make me look like a retarded 14yr old with poor impulse control?]
    Reply
  • medi01 - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - link

    I worked in EM field, and what you state is utter nonsense.
    You can repeat "I'm a professional, very professional, superprofessional" all day long, with "it's magical, it's very very magical" on top of it, but it still won't help you to get EM waves through the metal.
    Reply
  • Surrept - Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - link

    Is this the Brian Klug that was once bitten by a fox. It only makes sense he is on the staff here. Smartest person i've ever met in the field of computers. Reply

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