Sony is planning a new version of its PSP portable gaming device, which seems to be aimed squarely at Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and iPod Touch. But can they still beat Apple’s phone without a PSP that can also make phone calls?
The latest PSP rumours, supposedly from a developer who has used the device:
- It’s unclear whether the new device will be branded as a new “PSP2” or an evolution to the current PSP line, a “PSP-4000” or something.
- The PSP2 will feature an iPhone-like large touch screen, but the device will also keep traditional D-pads.
- As expected, Sony is doing away with game discs, going with all-digital distribution for games and content, a la Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes and the App Store.
- Shipping in time for Christmas, no word on price. (Amazon sells the current PSP-3000 for $170.)
But they seem to have left out what could be one of the most important parts: The phone.
Gameplay on the PSP is impressive, but Sony might have a better chance to sell more units if the device could also make cellular calls. On the bus, or waiting at the doctor’s office, etc., we tend to play 99 cent quick hits on our iPhone — even though we’d rather be playing drool-worthy PSP games like Final Fantasy Dissidia.
Carrier subsidies might also help Sony sell more PSPs. Carriers discount/rebate their hardware about $200-$300 by bundling it with a two-year voice and/or data contract contract. With a PSP phone, Sony could conceivably price their gadget at $99 or less with a new service plan. That could challenge Apple.
It’s not a sure thing. The PSP — at least the old one — is bulkier than most phones and battery life could become an issue. And the PSP’s core audience, so far, is teenage boys. Many parents won’t spend $70/month on a phone-data connection for them. (Though perhaps a PSP phone could also broaden Sony’s audience.)
So we’re a little surprised it’s taken Sony so long to move in this direction. Perhaps politics — no stranger to Sony — are to blame. The Sony Ericsson joint venture is supposed to be making all of Sony’s mobile phones. Perhaps while Sony is OK giving Sony Ericsson some other brands to use on phones, such as Walkman and Cybershot, they are protecting the PSP brand more closely.
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