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PlayStation Phone: spec analysis

DF appraises the leaked hardware details.

It's not really about the tech - it's about the buttons. Based on the PSP Phone specs leaked by Chinese site IT268 and mulled over by Engadget, the PlayStation Phone is a reasonably powerful but not barnstorming performer. However, the inclusion of a PSP-style controller setup means that the gameplay experience is going to be radically different, and perhaps more appealing to the core gamer, as a matter of course.

The IT268 leak suggests a device fairly close to the PSPgo in terms of form factor, taking the form of a typical touch-screen phone but with a slide-out controller array featuring a PSP-style d-pad and buttons plus a curious "strip" for touch-powered analogue control using two thumbs.

The screen is a 4" LCD with an 854x480 resolution - a considerable upgrade from the PSP's 480x272, but still some way off the standard set by iPhone 4's 960x640 "Retina" display. Other elements outed in the leak include a five megapixel camera with LED flash, microSD support (in a Sony phone?), 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM and a 1,500mAh battery.

In terms of the main processor, a Snapdragon QSD8255 runs the show according to IT268. This is a complete system on chip (SoC) similar to the assembly of parts that make up Apple's A4 processor, including CPU and graphics tech. It also contains the silicon required to connect to the GSM network along with a whole range of data-based protocols from GPRS up to HSPA+. The CPU itself is a Qualcomm Scorpian, based on an ARMv7 core - running at 1GHz.

Graphics-wise, the QSD8255 features an Adreno 205 graphics core - radically improved over its 200 predecessor and up there with the best single-core GPUs made by Apple supplier IMG. Independent, though somewhat incomplete tests have put it within spitting distances of IMG's SGX540, found in the Samsung Galaxy S.

The QSD8255 is nothing new, however. It is an off-the-shelf part already used by existing phones such as the HTC Desire HD, but it is clearly a very capable performer reaching towards the top end of current smartphone technology. The PlayStation Phone, based on Android, should work very well indeed running current games specific to that OS and if, as suspected, Sony is working on titles specific to the phone, the platform holder will have the benefit of being able to tailor the games to that exact device configuration, leading to performance gains on its own.

However, just what kind of development commitment Sony will give to the phone remains uncertain. It may well be that the company is looking to address a more casual gaming market here while the forthcoming PSP2 will target its existing audience.

Uncertainty surrounds the make-up of the phone's PlayStation Pocket, app which presumably houses the phone-specific games and the portal you download them from. In the past Engadget has talked about a new "ecosystem" designed in collaboration with Google, who are responsible for the Android OS that powers the phone. However, it does remain questionable whether this is likely bearing in mind that Sony has its own well-established infrastructure in the form of the PlayStation Network. If there is no PSN support, questions really need to be asked about just how involved and how invested PlayStation brand holder SCE is with the new phone.

Questions also remain about how this new device will sit within the PlayStation device hierarchy. Apple has had this established since day one - the iPod Touch range is a subset of the iPhone range. The Touch does almost everything the phone does, apart from connect to a cellular network. So what's the deal with the PlayStation Phone?

The spec is significantly behind what has been previously mooted for the new PSP2. It clearly does not support its unique rear touchpad, and it's almost certainly running a completely different OS, so the notion that it is a non-cellular PSP2 equivalent seems to be something of a non-starter. PSone titles could be run on the phone under emulation, but this makes the 854x480 screen a pointless waste of time. Emulating the two 333MHz chips within the PSP is beyond the scope of the leaked spec.

Our sources tell us that existing PSP titles will be ported to the phone which makes much more sense, but this introduces its own challenges: firstly it requires a substantial investment from Sony in bringing over its flagship titles, and secondly it means that third-party publishers will need to splash the cash in order to port over their existing catalogue of PSP titles.

The PlayStation Phone looks like an interesting, if somewhat unremarkable piece of hardware. It's down to the games to convince us of its prospects.