As good as the Xperia Play is at doing its assigned task, the hardware is looking a little long in the tooth 14 months after its initial release. So what could be in store for the next Sony gaming/smartphone hybrid? How about a keyboard mechanism that featured both a slide-out gamepad and the more conventional QWERTY keyboard? If an entry in the US Patent and Trademark office can be believed, that’s what could be in store.

The patent in question describes a standard-slide out QWERTY keyboard with a second sliding mechanism that covers the keys and sits flush with the lower half of the case. This portion is where the gaming controls go, and in the patent application they’re a spitting image of the PSP’s layout. Also present, but not necessarily relevant, is what looks like a 21:9 letterboxed LCD screen.

So, where’s the touch-sensitive control pad that replaced the analog joysticks on the Xperia Play? Odds are that that particular innovation wasn’t ready when this patent was filed. It’s dated 2010, which would put it right at the beginning of the Xperia Play’s hardware development cycle. Obviously a dual keyboard didn’t make it into the first phone’s hardware, but it’s due for an upgrade sometime soon – a geek can hope, right? In the meantime, you can twiddle your gaming thumbs waiting for Sony to update the Xperia Play to Ice Cream Sandwich.

[via Engadget]