Sony PSP takes on Apple iPhone

Sony's PSP handheld is to get mobile phone features. This looks like an attempt to steal some of the Apple iPhone's thunder

Sony is bringing mobile phone functions to its PlayStation Portable (PSP) games console, with a little help from BT .

The two heavyweight companies have signed a four-year contract to develop a raft of extra features for the PSP. These features include high quality video calls, voice calls and messaging. The move could help strengthen Sony's hand against the Apple iPhone . The iPhone replicates many of the PSP's features - music and video playback, etc - but in a much smaller form factor.

BT will be Sony Computer Entertainment Europe 's lead wireless communications partner in Europe and Oceania. It's already working with other communications providers to deliver this cool new service.

BT has developed the ability to provide high quality video and voice calls over the internet as part of its innovative 21st Century Network (21CN) project. This partnership intends to integrate PSP with the BT Broadband video and voice 'softphone' products which are already available.

BT and Sony are 'a natural fit'

In the following months, additional features will be launched to enable calls and messages to PCs, fixed lines and mobiles.

"The combination of SCEE and BT working together is a natural fit. Sony is a world-class company producing some of the world's most innovative electronic devices, and BT is at the forefront of communications with the 21CN global platform," says BT spokesman Steve Andrews

"The PSP is an excellent device for both gaming and communications, because of its high quality screen and audio capabilities. With over 8 million PSPs shipped across Europe, we are very excited by the opportunity to give customers a whole new communications experience, connecting and seeing friends across the world through BT's technology."

PSP2 coming soon?

Sony is also said to be working on a revised version of the PSP - dubbed PSP 2 - which will surface late summer.

The revision should help bolster the PSP brand which is struggling to compete with the Nintendo DS Lite handheld. Criticisms levelled at the PSP since its launch in 2005 include poor battery life, its physical size, a poor display refresh rate and a lack of innovative, quality games titles.

Even the media format the PSP uses has been tainted with failure. The release of Hollywood blockbusters onto the fledgling UMD format soon dried up when the studios realised that no-one was actually buying them .