The game's launch pages includes some slick options like one touch web search.
The OS itself is fairly impressive, supporting a light level of multi-tasking and including a notification system similar to Android phones for things like friends, Trophies, and Near notifications (more on that later). In the top right there’s a little bubble that’ll tell you of any impending notifications, simply touch it to display a scrollable list with actions tied to the items in it. While the touch bubble navigation leaves a bit to be desired in terms of looks and functionality, the Vita uses a more blade-like approach as you launch your games and apps. You can simply swipe through tiles that represent games and applications to see what’s running and touch again to launch. This works great for games themselves, which allow you to press the PlayStation Button to pause it at any time - go to another action - then come back and resume right where you left off without even a hiccup or slowdown. Another slick feature is the “home” tile for each game which displays links to the manual for the game, some recent actions within the game or challenges presented from online, as well as a screen of the state of the game in which you left it.
It's easy to see what friends have been doing (if you want) with the notification bubble.
The OS itself has a few “native” apps worth talking about. The first is the Party App - which is extremely similar to Xbox Live’s party system. It runs on top of everything else, allows up to eight friends to chat via voice and text, as well as allows them to play the same or different games while socializing. This is a hidden gem in the system for co-op gamers. Why? Every system is equipped with a built in microphone, this means you’ll be able to voice chat in ANY GAME and ACROSS games - something that is one of the greatest criticisms of the PlayStation 3.
I had quite a few people with Vita's already in my suburban Pennsylvannia neighborhood.
The other application that’s great for co-op gamers is something called NEAR. Near allows you to see what people around you are doing or playing. Think of it like Street Pass meets 4Square. You check in with Near, it uploads what you’ve been playing and your location and then gets everyone else within a few miles that’s doing the same and tells you where you match up. Games can support extensions of Near by allowing you to trade items or leave gifts for other folks. Best of all it’s an easy way to see gamers that are close to you for Ad-Hoc or online gaming.
Speaking of online gaming, our Vita unit is the 3G/Wi-Fi combo unit - but I’m not quite sure yet what the 3G is actually for other than GPS check-ins and getting friends list info on PSN. Most games don’t allow you to play via 3G and most items won’t download over 3G because of a 20MB cap on them. So if you were hoping to squeeze in a few races of Wipeout 2048 on your train ride to work, you can forget about it. On top of this, it should be noted that you’ll need to pay at least $15 a month for data access. I just don’t see how this feature is really warranted at this point.