As standard the Vita has more than one page full of pre-installed applications, the most vital of which is probably the settings app, for obvious reasons. If you have a 3G machine you will also get a (mobile) network operator app for interactions with Vodafone or whoever you are with. Probably the most important other app is the PlayStation Store, as with the exception of the purchase of physical Vita format games, almost all your content for your system is liable to come via Sony’s retailing site.
Other parts of the Sony Entertainment Network (PlayStation Network) interact with the Vita via a few other apps. The Trophies app facilitates the machines trophy system as well as synchronising it with the server – and you can also keep an eye on you PS3 trophies through it as well. The friends app is rather important to as it allows you to manage your friends list, who you can also contact through the Group Messaging app, while the Party app allows you to chat with users on other Vita machines, regardless of what games or app any of you are using (in the most part) – something seriously lacking on the PS3.
Of course the machine comes with a web browser, which has improved with system updates since the initial launch, but it was not that long ago that the email app appeared for the first time. I mean, really Sony? You didn’t think an email app was essential? Well at least it is there now and is configurable as it needs to be.
The PSPs Remote Play application has come with the Vita as well allowing you to pair your machine up with your PS3. Connecting either by direct wireless or over the internet, the Vita can wake up the PS3 remotely and you essentially control the PS3 and have it’s video output streamed to the Vita screen. This allows you to browse through your files, play a PS One game be it one in the PS3s drive or one downloaded from the PlayStation Store, play music, videos and photos as long as they are not protected and even allows the play of certain PS3 titles that won’t break with the unavoidable lag. However Remote Play is overly limited, and virtually no PS3 titles support the feature – not even PlayStation Store supports it, which is a massive own goal. One good piece of news, however, is that the first title to support the use of the PS Vita as a controller, Little Big Planet 2, has the appropriate DLC available from the PlayStation Store as we speak. Clearly, the more titles on the PS3 (and PS4?) that support the Vita as a controller, the better.
Near is a strange little puppy of an app. Near basically uses the PSN to locate and interact with either people who are physically nearby (up to a few miles) or those on your friends list. The locals ratings of games and what they are playing is available to you with the idea being you could challenge them to a game or two. Charts of what people think of games and how often they play are available, and for games that support it you can even get little unlocks for games (not a day goes by where a Near interaction doesn’t unlock a Super Stardust Delta music track for me, for instance.)
Google Maps makes an appearance (it appears to be a direct port from Android) and uses network location or GPS, while the browser is decent enough even if the flash support is outdated. I must admit to not having started to use the new email app that has recently been added via a machine update, though I suspect it’s the usual android-style affair for looking at your email from your normal remote server.
Content Manager essentially enslaves a PC (with the Content Manager software installed) or PS3 to allow you to upload and download files, be they video, picture or music in the right formats, but also allows you to back up app, games and save files, either just in case, or because you are running out of memory card space. You can then reinstate them on your system whenever you like. It’s a bit weird at first that the program takes control of the PC or PS3 though, as you would expect it to be the other way around, but you get used to it. Originally it could only be used with the Vita’s USB cable, but PCs can now be connected to via Wi-Fi.