At 7pm PST Sony released the promised 2.0 update for the Vita’s firmware. Taking less than 5 minutes to download and install for most, the upgrade includes a bevy of new, and useful features. For the last hour I have been poking around in the new version of the OS and core apps. Here’s what I found:
New Email App!
One of the headline features for 2.0 was the inclusion of a brand new, native email client for the Vita. Upon launching for the first time you are greeted with a screen inviting you to enter in your information for a Gmail or Yahoo account, but you are also given the option to manually set up any POP3 or IMAP email service you may have. In the case of Gmail and Yahoo it’s as simple as entering your name, email address and password (though if you use 2 factor authentication of Gmail you may have to generate a password from Google’s site).
The email client is attractive and quick. It also supports multiple email accounts in case you’re like me and have a few active accounts to keep track of. Individual emails with HTML content may render a bit funky, and unfortunately it doesn’t appear to pull down any contact data from Google, at least, so you’ll have to manually rebuild your contact list. You can simply tap on any sender to quickly add them to you contacts. It does not appear to be possible to mark individuals as spam, or manage any Gmail labels, for that matter. But for reading, composing and replying it all works pretty well. You can even view, and then save image attachments, all without exiting your game, and it can be set to automatically check for new messages and provide in game notifications for new email.
New Content Management Options!
One of the big upgrades to the content manager on Vita is the ability to now transfer files over WiFi, instead of only being able to use the USB cable connected to your PC or PS3. Doing so requires registering the Vita as an authorized device. On PC you will need the latest version of Sony’s Content Management Assistant which now includes a WiFi option. The first time you select the wireless transfer option from inside the content manager you will be prompted to enter a numerical code. The code will pop up on your PC screen and you’ll have 300 seconds to punch it in on the Vita. After that, any time the PC is on and your Vita is connected to the same network you will be able to upload or download images, videos, music, or even back up and restore your Vita games and data.
The other big change is the addition of Cloud Saving for PlayStation Plus members. When you first boot up the app “Cloud Storage” will be one of the three main options for subscribers. Selecting it will allow you to upload some, or all of your Vita saves to the cloud. Like on PS3 you can store up to 1GB of save data online. For digital games, or any that save to the Vita’s memory card they will appear with a selectable check box. Some games (including Mortal Kombat, reportedly) store the save information of the game cart itself, so it must be inserted into the Vita in order to be uploaded to the cloud. Once a save is in the cloud you can safely delete the game’s bubble without risk of losing your progress. Later you can reinsert the game, or reinstall a digital game and simply run the Content Management app to pull your saves back down from the
Other PlayStation Plus Features!
In addition to the cloud saves mentioned above, the 2.0 firmware also adds the automatic update feature members already enjoy on the PS3. In the Settings App, under PlayStation Network there is now an Automatic Update Settings section which allow you to enable, and select which things you want to be automatically updated. It is now possible to automatically download patches for games, pulled down new firmware, upload save data and sync trophy data automatically.
Tuesday, November 20th the PlayStation store will also be updated with a selection of 6 free games for PS Plus member in the US. The initial lineup will add Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Gravity Rush, Wipeout 2048, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Jet Set Radio and the PSP version of Final Fantasy Tactics, all at no extra charge to existing PS Plus members. The extension of the Instant Game Collection to the system, coupled with the $200 Black Friday bundles for Vita mean that there has never been a better time to buy one. Tell your friends!
PS Originals and PSP Improvements!
First, there is now a very helpful prompt when you launch a PSP or PSOne game telling you how to access the option menu by touching and holding the screen. Beyond that there are numerous enhancements. You can now customize the screen size and shape of PS One games. You still get the standard options, but the new “Custom”‘ option lets you pinch to zoom, stretch or move the game’s output around the Vita screen. Great for overcoming game with overscan, or for stretching things just a little bit, without creating too much distortion.
PSOne games now also give you essentially absolute control over button mapping, including the ability to map buttons onto the front or back touch, and to either analog stick. Great for games that use shoulder buttons for camera control, and a big improvement over the way L2 and R2 had previously been mapped to the center of the back touch surface. PSP games also have the ability to map controls to the touch screen. Strangely the option menu no longer pauses PSP games so they continue to run beneath the option overlay.
The Vita’s built in web browser has also seen a significant upgrade. Most importantly, it can now run at the same time as a game, without the need to use click a link in the Twitter app to open it. It is fully approved for multitasking. It is also faster and with better support for HTML5 rendering standards. Unfortunately, that does not include audio or video support so you can’t just load up Giant Bomb or YouTube and start watching videos. Hopefully that support is still coming. It would be nice if the browser would at least automatically launch the YouTube app like in Android and iOS. The Twitter app still just launches the web browser for YouTube links, which is not useful. They have added the ability to tweet a link quickly from within the browser at any time by pressing the “…” button in the lower right and selecting “tweet”.
Odds and Ends
Near has received a bit of a face-lift so that the UI is slightly less inscrutable. The Maps application now includes weather information for your travel planning needs. You now also have way more fine grain control over notifications including which apps you want notifications from, and if they are allowed to light up the PS button, play a sound, or appear on screen.
All in all it’s a pretty robust set of changes for the system, including a lot of very welcome features and enhancements. There are still a number of things that could stand to be improved, most notably the way the browser handles A/V content, but the Vita now sports an amazing array of functionality and a lot of conveniences. Let me know if you have any specific questions in the comments below!