The Sony Ericsson Xperia Play is the Japanese technology giant’s attempt to enter the world of smartphone-based mobile gaming. Flagging sales of both the Nintendo DS and Sony’s own PSP are largely due to competition from the iPhone, iPad, and Android-powered devices.

While the Xperia Play is a quality smartphone, and its slide-out video game controls are useful for some of the installed titles on the device, more powerful 4G Android phones, including Samsung’s Droid Charge and the HTC ThunderBolt might be a smarter purchase for the savvy Android customer.

All three smartphones are available through Verizon Wireless.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play Specifications

Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) 4-inch Touchscreen Featuring 16-million Colors 7 Preloaded Games Including Madden 11 and The Sims 3 Front and Rear-Facing Cameras 1GHZ Processor 8GB microSD Card Price: $199 with 2-year Contract/Data Plan
Sony claims the preloaded games are “PlayStation Certified” and “console quality,” but they are essentially the same versions available for other Android phones, but with added support for the slide-out video game controls.

The racer, Asphalt 6, takes great advantage of these controls especially when using the game’s Nitro and Drifting features. Madden 11, on the other hand, uses a confusing combination of both the touchscreen and slide-out controls.

Normal Android games downloaded from the Android Market don’t support the Xperia Play’s controls, so the buyer is dependent on Sony supporting the device moving forward. There are currently 25 other Xperia Play compatible games available for download through Verizon.

Samsung Droid Charge and HTC ThunderBolt Better Options?

The Xperia Play’s lack of support for Verizon’s 4G LTE network might be its biggest weakness. At slightly higher prices, the 4G-compatible Samsung Droid Charge and HTC ThunderBolt might be better options for Verizon customers, even those who are gaming fans.

The slide-out video game controls do enhance some of the Android-powered games available for the Xperia Play, but since most of those games are designed with touchscreen control anyway, other Android phones also work great for game playing.

Ultimately, the future success of the Xperia Play depends on future support from Sony, including releasing a model compatible with Verizon’s 4G network.