Sony’s next Xperia Play? A phone with a QWERTY keyboard and a full game controller

Sony Dual Keyboard PatentOne of the major weaknesses of Sony’s Xperia Play smartphone was that it forced users to put up with a bulkier phone just so they could have a gamepad to play some Android games. Most just didn’t buy into the idea. But what if it also had a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard? That sounds more interesting to us and it might be exactly what Sony had, or has, in mind.

A new patent uncovered by Engadget shows that Sony has devised a way to have two slide-out drawers on a smartphone: a gamepad, and a keyboard. It was filed back in 2010, but finally granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can read the full, horribly complex, text of it here

Here’s how it works: The bottom of the phone is a slide-out keyboard, much like most QWERTY Android phones, but once you pull it out, you can actually slide the thin keyboard layer back into the phone, revealing a lovely PlayStation gamepad underneath. It’s a gaming geek’s wet dream.

Sony Ericsson Xperia Play screen angle openOf course, this patent doesn’t solve the other major problem Sony has with a phone that’s also a gaming handheld: the short shelf life of smartphones. Gaming handhelds like the Nintendo DS or PlayStation Portable can stay on store shelves for half a decade, but phones are usually gone within half a year, and that’s if it’s a successful phone. The iPhone is the biggest phone on the market and even that is upgraded annually. If Sony takes another go at the Xperia Play, it needs to make sure its phone can be bought by people on any of the big 4 wireless carriers — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon — and that it’s built to last. The Play required users to give up a keyboard, switch to Verizon, and offered no insanely awesome reasons (no flagship games) to make the jump.

We approve of Sony trying this idea, but the phone needs to stay relatively thin and it has to have some killer games. 

What do you think? Would you like a phone with a QWERTY and a gamepad? It would be a fun conversation piece, if nothing else.