Do Users Want the PS Vita to Be More Like a Smartphone?

Taking photos, internet browsing, emailing, downloading apps, social networking, navigating, watching videos and tweeting are some of the most common features used in smartphones. Of course, people still use their phones for texting and calling their friends and family members, but these digital devices have become so powerful and well-integrated that they can do pretty much everything. On the other hand and apart from being able to run some powerful games, the PlayStation Vita incorporates some of these interesting features. But, do users really want their Vita to be more like a smartphone?

The Vita is of course a dedicated handheld game system and its most important feature is to run games. According to those who have tried and tested the platform extensively, it does that exceedingly well. But what about that person who uses devices to send lots of e-mails, spends a lot of time on social networks or is constantly looking for maps online? Will the Vita have some kind of appeal to that particular user? Not necessarily.

First of all, it should be noted that for those users who have both a Vita and an iPhone, the Vita will never be able to replace the latter or at least not any time soon. Smartphones have become extremely powerful devices and in addition, they are slick, small and easy to carry. The Vita on the other hand, is a big system that has two bulky analog sticks and it definitely won’t fit in any small pocket.

As far as gaming goes, the PlayStation Vita is probably the most powerful portable system ever created and it helps a lot that it can seamlessly play both PSP games and Minis (not all of them mind you.) Furthermore, the fact that most of its titles can be downloaded digitally instead of having to deal with the woefully inadequate physical media is definitely superb. Pricing may become kind of an issue, but I don’t think iOS games can be compared directly to Vita games in the first place. Now, what about those interesting additional features?

Sony has always resisted change and that is an undeniable fact. The original PlayStation Portable for example was labeled as the “Walkman of the next century” and even though that handheld in particular was quite solid, that statement was not only bold, but also utterly stupid. At the time, it was like the Japanese company was oblivious to the iPod and its massive success, but apart from that there are other reasons why Sony systems never get to become so popular: they aren’t very good media players.

Nowadays that isn’t that hard to deal with. After all, most of us have another device that we use for playing those videos downloaded online or our extensive music libraries. The problem with Sony’s devices is that even though they are more than capable of doing this, for some reason the company always refuses to allow their users to play their videos and music in a simple way. Listening to a song on the PSP wasn’t as easy as connecting the device to your laptop, hitting a syncing button and disconnecting the cable. You had to use a special program, turn on the console, put it in USB mode, transfer files to that specific program, then transfer them to your PSP and hope they worked.

From a technical perspective, the Vita is in fact capable of photo, video and music playback and it supports the most popular formats, but forget about playing that .flv video that you downloaded from YouTube earlier that day. That’s another great feature of both Android and iOS devices, they are not able to play this kind of videos either or at least not right off the bat, but at least you have the choice to download a free app in order to play them. This kind of versatility is just great.

Moreover, the Vita supports various applications including social network apps. Some of them include Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Netflix and Foursquare and even though most users won’t use them all, it’s great to at least know they are there just in case. Applications are probably quite interesting and appealing to those users who don’t want to switch systems whenever they want to Tweet something. Furthermore, more apps are also expected to be available for download all of them free of charge. Finally, an internet browser has been included in the Vita’s firmware, but according to most reviewers, albeit functional, the browser is slow and not very comfortable to use. Hopefully, this will change in subsequent firmware revisions.

So, do users want their PlayStation Vita to be more like a smartphone? Not really, or at least I don’t believe those users who buy a Vita are buying it because they are interested in the console’s additional features. Nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt that the Vita does all this, there are a lot of people who still don’t have iPhones, iPod Touches or Tablets and it’s nice to at least give them the chance to access social networks or play media files on their gaming console. Having the choice is always beneficial to users and even though some of them may ignore these features, some others may take advantage of them. Which one are you?