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PS Vita time is here again

Every couple of weeks, I unearth my gadget graveyard from under my bed. I go through my iPods, old phones and some other stuff. Most of this doesn’t move me, but the PS Vita is another story. It’s a device I often take off to feel a part of the modern world.

I keep mine in a large Waterfield Designs soft case that’s fingerprint-clean when it goes in, smudge-free when I take it out, revealing design details I’m irresistibly attached to looking at again and again: gorgeous translucent shoulder buttons; A large (but not too large) display; and sturdy yet elegant build quality. It’s smaller compared to the size of the Nintendo Switch but still offers almost everything that’s going on with the look and feel of the Vita.

You’ve probably heard it a million times, but the Vita, announced in mid-2011, was Sony’s everything-competition device poised to take on mobile phones. And Forward-thinking (though, ultimately ill-advised) features like Nintendo’s 3DS console-like controls and graphics, as well as 3G support, its own apps, and a rear touchpad, are a playground for innovation in gameplay.

A PS Vita display showing connected via 3G to AT&T service in 2012

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

Ten years later, the Vita A lot I died outside of a vibrant homebrew scene that I was constantly impressed with. It only took a fraction of those 10 years to seal its fate, and it deserved it. Or rather, Sony made some parts of the vision for the Vita. Remember its godforsaken proprietary memory card and its micro USB port? Yes, goodbye. But there’s plenty about the Vita that can be imagined back to 2022; I’d like to pretend that Sony doesn’t have the handheld concept.

I have specific desires.

The new Vita doesn’t need to have a whole new ecosystem for exclusive games and apps built around it, or deliver high-level performance. Really, I want a modernized Vita with USB-C charging and a lightweight OS built to complement Sony’s PlayStation Plus plans, cloud streaming and all. Remove some of the frills on the hardware and ship it. Give me one reason to stop obsessing over this dead gadget.

PS Vita sitting on a table between the Akira manga and several other books.

Tell me the new Vita with USB-C, microSD and Android isn’t the hottest device of 2022.
Photography by Sam Byford / The Verge

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

As for the OS, slap on Android for all I care. Keep the bubbly user interface or make it stock Android. The latter makes it more practical for me to use it for other forms of entertainment, and I’m sure a relatively mid-range Snapdragon chipset can get the job done. You can take or leave the game cartridge slot, but a microSD card slot, a headphone jack and an OLED screen would be nice. I mean, it has to be modern, right? The first Vita model also had OLED. In the second iteration Sony switched it to LCD.

The iPhone 12 Pro sits inside the Backbone One controller, which has a Sony PlayStation-like design.

Traces of Vita DNA are present in Backbone’s Sony-endorsed iPhone controller.
Photo by Cameron Faulkner / The Verge

Holding the Vita in my hands made me realize that the revised version has a larger audience today than it did in the early 2010s. Sony seems to agree, in a way, that handhelds are an inevitable part of the business today as it plans to make its own phone games based on its popular franchises. I mean, Sony even partnered with third-party accessory maker Backbone to create an officially licensed PlayStation controller that wraps around the iPhone. What Sony is doing internally in terms of handheld hardware is making niche gaming accessories for its niche Xperia phones.

The past five years in tech have delivered more handhelds than I (and apparently Sony) could have imagined. Several products have taken advantage of the Switch’s dominance in their own way, including the multiflavored Aya Neo consoles, the Steam Deck, the Analogue Pocket, and soon (if the rumors are true), Logitech’s own handheld. Some redesign of the Vita seems like an obvious idea. Even if Sony doesn’t see it that way, it belongs here and now with all other portable consoles.

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