While it’s not quite the “PlayStation Phone” we had hoped it would be, Sony’s announcement leads us to believe that the Xperia Play is the first mobile handset that gets close to that vision.

The new handset takes a top-of-the-line Android mobile phone and merges it with a gamepad, exchanging a slide-out keypad for a slide-out gamepad. A click-button directional pad sits on the left with PlayStation action buttons on the right, making the controller very similar to a PlayStation controller.

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Even the analog controllers and shoulder buttons normally found on the PS3 controller are here, making this perfect for avid gamers.

Spec-wise, Sony is including a 1GHz CPU, dedicated graphics processor, Android 2.3 “Gingerbread”, 5 megapixel camera, 8GB microSD card, and 4 inch capacitive touchscreen.

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The Xperia Play is Sony’s first “PlayStation-certified” phone, a program launched last month designed to make PlayStation titles available to Android handsets from multiple manufacturers.

Gamers keen to get their hands on the Xperia Play shouldn’t have to wait long with a release window somewhere between April and June this year.