Sunday, March 04, 2012

PSVita, phoneblets, commuting

As previously noted, I have been using my PS Vita now for about a week and half and thought it would be time to write up a quick initial usage report from a core gamer perspective and also touch on a few other topics such as the 'phoneblet' market (ie 5" phones like the Galaxy Note which I have a loaner of).

Sony PS Vita and the commuting gamer:

I initially purchased my Vita 3G+WiFi on launch day and have been using my Vita for about a week and a half.  My usage pattern is that of a daily commuter; I ride the Minneapolis Light Rail train to work and back.  It is about a 40 minute commute each way and the best part is that I work downtown Minneapolis and in turn get to really use the Social/Geotag/Near features of a new device such as the Vita and the 3DS.  This post won't be a review of the Vita but more a report on who it works as a commuting gaming device.

Most of the times on my commute into work or home, I would just stream music from my Android phone or play some casual android games.  Somedays I will whip out the iPad 2 or the Lenovo TPT but most of the time it just seems to be a hassle since they are both 10" tablets and can be hard to use when crowded together on a full train.  Again, this is another great reason for Apple to make that 7" iPad; its a true mobile tablet form factor and size.

This last week I've been using my Vita on the commute and must say that it has been a great fit.  I have been playing through Uncharted: Golden Abyss and the 40 minute sessions easily melt my commute time away.  Handheld console gaming still is vastly superior to any phone, tablet device in my opinion.  PHYSICAL BUTTONS/CONTROLS cannot be replaced by touch for deep, platforming or action gaming.  Angry Birds is a great mobile game but after 10 minutes I lose interest; there's no story or characters (I know not the best phone game to compare to Uncharted).  The level design is great but again its casual gaming to the C.

The Vita as a pure gaming device is a joy to use.  It offers multiple input methods for developers to utilize including: dual analogy, motion (six-axis), front and rear touchpanels, voice, AR using front or rear cameras.  Sony did a great job in giving developers so many options for controls and in a way tried to future proof the device for a few years too.  I still have no idea how Nintendo didn't include a second analog circle pad on the 3DS from day one; that was the PSPs biggest complaint besides the lack of games/too many ps2 ports.

The apps on the Vita are not bad either.  Yes, they are very limited but for the most part exceed many of the 1.0 versions of such apps when they first appeared on iOS or Android. The Netflix is nicely done however is limited to streaming Video over a WiFi connection only; the app will not stream when on a 3G connection only.  Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare can utilize the 3G data connection and GPS device for updates which makes sense.  I understand why the Netflix does not stream over 3G; limited data plans for the device start at 250MB and in turn would be nearly used up after watching a 2 hour movie of streaming over 3G.  However for use w/the Unlimited iPad data plan, we would prefer the option to enable streaming over 3G.  Perhaps Netflix and Sony will allow this later with an app update.  Touchscreen navigation of apps is great; the touchscreen on the Vita is as responsive as any iPhone or iPad and more precise than a several of my Android devices (LG G2x and X10 Mini).

The games at launch have kept me rather busy.  I planned to only buy two titles at launch; Uncharted and Hot Shots golf, but have since purchased several more.  Since I also purchased a 32GB Vita memory card, digital purchases are very appealing to me since I can then have several games with me at all times on the memory card.  The Near app, Sony's Geolocation based social gaming app, is pretty fun to check out.   One can get game goods if you run into others playing games that you have or don't have and once you own the game can get the free in-game items.

The true test of the Vita will be the next 6 months and if Sony can keep the games coming and gamers interested!  Hopefully we will continue to see further apps for the Vita too; that is a big area that could set it vastly apart from the 3DS since Sony has a superior online market and component in place.  However, below is a quick PS Vita demo I have up on my youtube account briefly demoing a few of the features and the UI:
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video url

Phoneblets: a definition and genre

Phoneblets you ask? What is a phoneblet? It's my new term I've coined for the possible upcoming wave of 5" phones with stylus.  Samsung's Galaxy Note is the first official one even though its original Galaxy Tab could be considered the early prototype (since most of us w/the AT&T Tab could hack a phone modem into it to use it as a phone).

This last week I was able to use a Galaxy Note loaner phone for a few days.  Last month I had gone the exact opposite route and bought my smallest Android phone ever in the Sony Xperia X10 Mini.  For being a 5" phone, it actually did fit into my jean's pocket.  It was rather interesting going to a party and whipping out the Note. Most people thought it was a fake phone/joke but then I'd bring up Angry Birds and let them browse the web.  Most were very curious about it but didn't think they could justify carrying around such a huge phone.

However the S Pen works really well on the Note and again is the future for this phoneblet form factor.  We may finallly be nearly to the point I've been wanting to get to forever; replacing those yellow notepads w/a Galaxy Note or the new Tab 10.1 that will have a S Pen too.

Battery life on the Note wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I was able to get nearly a full day of moderate use on it; however I could see the battery draining really fast if you had a full day of meetings and were using it to take notes with.  The thinness of the Note is amazing and the screen gorgeous.  I almost wonder if the Vita and Note screens are the same model almost.

Well, that will conclude today's geek post.  I hope to touch more on the Note and Vita in upcoming posts!