It’s PS Vita time again

Every two weeks, I dig up my gadget graveyard under my bed. I look at my iPods, my old phones and some other stuff. Most don’t stir me anymore, but the PS Vita is another story. It’s the device I take out most often, charging it, well, just to feel like it’s part of the modern world.

I keep mine in a svelte Waterfield Designs soft case that cleans up fingerprints when it goes in so it’s smudge-free when I take it out, revealing design details I apparently have an unwavering affinity to see over and over again. : beautiful translucent shoulder buttons; the big (but not too big) screen; and the sturdy yet elegant build quality. Almost everything that goes with the Vita’s looks is still usable today, even if it’s audaciously small compared to the size of, say, the Nintendo Switch.

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but the Vita, announced in mid-2011, was Sony’s all-in-one device, about to take an unenviable take on mobile phones. and Nintendo’s 3DS with console-like controls and graphics plus forward-thinking (though ultimately misguided) features like 3G support, clean apps, and a rear touchpad meant to be a playground. game for innovation in gameplay.

A PS Vita screen showing it's connected via 3G to AT&T's service in 2012

Yes, there was a first generation version of the Vita that supported 3G through AT&T.

Ten years later, the Vita is very dead outside of a vibrant homebrew scene that continually wows me. It only took a fraction of those 10 years to seal his fate, and he deserved it. Or rather, parts of Sony’s vision for the Vita did. Do you remember its damn proprietary memory card that cost a fortune and its Micro USB port? Yeah, goodbye. But there’s plenty about the Vita that can be revamped for 2022; I just like to pretend that the handheld concept isn’t so dead for Sony.

I have, uh, specific cravings.

A new Vita shouldn’t have a whole new ecosystem for exclusive games and apps built around it, nor does it need to offer top-end performance. Really, I just want a modernized Vita with USB-C charging and a lightweight OS designed to complement Sony’s PlayStation Plus plans, with cloud streaming and all that. Remove some of the hardware frills and ship it. Just give me a reason to stop obsessing over this dead gadget.

The PS Vita resting on a table, nestled between an Akira manga and several other books.

Tell me a new Vita with USB-C, microSD and Android wouldn’t be the hottest device of 2022.
Photography by Sam Byford / MovieBeat

What else do I want in a next-gen PS Vita? I’m so glad you asked. Using the late 2013 Vita review as a benchmark, I’d be willing to accept a slightly wider and taller handheld to accommodate more buttons (just to mirror what’s on the PS5’s DualSense controller). I really like the thickness of this Vita, which is about as thick as a deck of cards, although I’d be cool if it took a few extra millimeters to incorporate a proper set of L2 and R2 triggers. Otherwise, just leave the rest of the design alone – I still love it.

As for the OS, apply Android on it for everything I care about. Keep the bubbly UI or just make it stock Android. The latter would be more convenient for me to use for other forms of entertainment, and I’m sure a relatively mid-range Snapdragon chipset could do the job. You can take or leave the game cartridge slot, but a microSD card slot, headphone jack, and OLED display would be nice. I mean, it has to be modern, right? Even the first Vita model had an OLED. Sony switched it to LCD in the second iteration.

An iPhone 12 Pro sitting inside Backbone's One Controller which has a Sony PlayStation-like design.

Traces of Vita DNA exist in Backbone’s Sony-approved iPhone controller.
Photo by Cameron Faulkner/MovieBeat

Holding the Vita in my hands makes me feel like a revised version would find a wider audience today than it did in the early 2010s. Sony seems to agree, in a way, that handhelds are a part inevitable of the company today, as it plans to make its own games for phones based on its popular franchises. I mean, Sony even teamed up with Backbone, a third-party accessory maker, to create an officially licensed PlayStation controller that wraps around an iPhone. As for what Sony does internally in terms of portable hardware, it makes niche gaming accessories for its niche Xperia phones.

The last five years in tech have delivered more handhelds than I (and apparently Sony too) could ever have predicted. Several products have capitalized on the Switch’s dominance in their own way, including the multi-flavored Aya Neo consoles, the Steam Deck, the Analogue Pocket, and soon (if the rumors are true), Logitech’s own handheld. A reimagining of the Vita seems like an obvious idea. It belongs here and now with all other portable consoles, even if Sony doesn’t see it that way.

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