A long time ago Sony joined forces with Ericsson to tackle the mobile market. They found great success with feature phones that focused on camera or music, the time with Symbian was interesting but less successful and eventually the pair settled on Android for their future devices.
In addition to the devices it made with Ericsson, Sony released some devices under its own name in 2011 – a pair of tablets. This is shortly before Sony bought out Ericsson’s 50% share in the joint venture.
The Sony Tablet S ran Android Honeycomb, the OS branch that was specifically designed for tablets (unlike Gingerbread, although the two branches merged with Ice Cream Sandwich). It stood out with its asymmetric design that looked like a folded over magazine – thicker on one end (20.6mm) and tapering off towards the thin end (10.1mm).
Sony argued that this made it more ergonomic to hold with one hand. This tablet had a 9.4” TFT LCD with 1,280 x 800px resolution (16:10) and tipped the scales at 625g.
The display was a key part of the tablet – combined with the stereo speakers – since Sony products often lean on multimedia (it’s the company’s bread and butter). This slate was no exception, so it came pre-loaded with the Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited apps, plus a Sony Reader app for ebooks.
There was a built-in IR blaster so you could control your AV setup at home and DLNA so that you could stream content on your local network wirelessly.
Sony’s gaming division had an influence on the Tablet S too. The game came with Crash Bandicoot and Pinball Heroes pre-loaded – these were the games from the original PlayStation.
The tablet was “PlayStation Certified”, meaning that it had an official emulator and a store where fans could purchase and play games from the PSX (the selection was pretty limited, however). Just like the Xperia Play, which launched around the same time.
First look at the PlayStation Suite
The Tablet S was powered by the Nvidia Tegra 2. This chip packed a pair of Cortex-A9 CPU cores at 1.0GHz plus a GeForce GPU. Note that the Xperia Play used a Snapdragon S2 instead.
One of the early software updates for the tablet enabled it to connect to PS3 DualShock controllers wirelessly, so you could get a more traditional experience (those PSX games were not design for touch controls, of course).
Sony Tablet S with a DualShock controller (image credit)
Unfortunately, Sony got cold feet and dropped the classic PSX games from PlayStation Mobile in mid-2012. Instead, the company wanted to bring original content through the service and announced that it hand contracted an impressive list of partners – 46 Japanese companies and 39 from Europe and the United States.
The list included heavy hitters like Sega, From Software, THQ, Arc System Works, Nippon Ichi, Tecno Koei, Team 17 and others. Interestingly, Sony expanded the “PlayStation Certified” to third-party devices too, including phones like the HTC One X, One S and One V, plus certain Asus devices.
In short, Sony looked to be on a path to conquer to mobile market – a market that would grow to $91.8 billion in 2022, more than the console and PC gaming markets combined. Considering that you’ve either never heard of PlayStation Certified devices or had completely forgotten about them, it’s fair to say that this plan didn’t pan out.
The gaming market in 2022, visualized (image credit)
The S was one of two tablets that Sony revealed in 2011 – the Sony Tablet P came a few months later You may have seen it before, it has a memorable design. With a clamshell form factor and two 5.5” 1,024 x 480px displays, this was like a foldable before the tech for folding screens existed.
The Sony Tablet 9 – a unique clamshell tablet
When opened, the P had the equivalent of a 7” display, if you didn’t mind the pair of bezels that went down its middle. Long before Microsoft tried to do something similar with the Surface Duo, some apps were aware of the two screens and would neatly split their UI between the two halves.
Once closed, the tablet was quite chunky (28mm thick and weighing 372g), but the shape of it made it a lot more pocket-friendly than your average 7” tablet.
While not the best for videos, the Tablet P was powered by the same Tegra 2 chipset as the Tablet S and was PlayStation Certified as well. Although, for some reason this couldn’t connect to DualShock controllers wirelessly.
Not that it matters, you’re probably thinking that the P would be perfect for Nintendo DS emulation. There is no evidence of a vibrant developer community making emulators for the Tablet P, however, all we could find is one video of the P running Mario Kart (and that video is from 2021).
Sony’s failures in portable gaming are baffling – the PSP and PS Vita were cool and had some great games, but they never could hold a candle to the Nintendo portables in terms of sales. The Sony Xperia Play was a dud and so were the Tablet S and Tablet P.
Well, those two failed to catch on in general, not just as gaming devices. Admittedly, the state of Android tablets in 2011 was pretty dire and other makers were struggling to build something that could compete with the Apple iPad.
As for gaming, Sony is finally ready to give portables another go. The Sony Project Q, as it’s known for now, features an 8” LCD (1080p, 60Hz) and a split DualSense controller. The goal of this device is to wirelessly stream games running on your PlayStation 5 – there are no plans for native gaming or cloud streaming support yet.
Will Project Q fare any better than the Xperia Play? Well, the PS5 is massively successful, which should give Q a head start. But even then, it’s nothing you can’t do with your phone once you install the PS Remote Play app and pick one of several controllers (including an actual DualSense).
As for tablets, Sony tried a few more times with the likes of the Xperia Tablet S, which had a hint of the Sony Tablet S design, but surprisingly looked a lot more modern – it’s surprising because it launched only a year later in 2012. We guess that extra thick magazine design wasn’t all that ergonomic after all.
The Android tablet market still isn’t a great place and Microsoft’s dual-screen attempts with the Surface Duo flopped. But we’re starting to see some gaming tablets hit the market like the one from Red Magic (we should include the Acer Predator 8 from 2015 on this list too).
So, Sony wasn’t wrong, it was just too early – way too early. Android wasn’t ready, mobile chipsets weren’t ready either. But if Project Q proves to be a hit, we wouldn’t mind Sony giving tablets another shot, especially ones that stands out with PlayStaion features.