By Yardena Arar | Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 1:08 pm
I’m still scratching my head about the Kyocera Echo I just saw here at CTIA in Orlando. It’s a dual-touchscreen Android 2.2 smartphone with a patent-pending hinge that allows you to line the displays up side-by-side, so that it looks sort of like a square-ish tablet with a black line across the middle:
You can also fold one of the screens neatly under the other, so that it looks like a slightly chubby but conventional Android phone:
Then there’s a so-called Simul-Task mode, in which you can run two of the device’s seven core apps at the same time, one on each screen. In the image below, the Echo is running Facebook on the top and a photo gallery on the bottom.
And finally, there’s an optimized mode in which you can work on different aspects of one app. For example, you can use the Echo like a mini laptop, with a software keyboard on the bottom half and an e-mail or text message on the top. The phone also comes with a cute custom app called Vue-Q, which lets you run a YouTube video on the top screen while searching YouTube and queuing up additional videos on the bottom screen:
Other dual-screen optimized apps include the browser (you can either browse two web sites at the same time or expand a single site to both screens) and contacts (you can either view more contacts or an expanded virtual dialpad). The Echo will ship with the Jibe Mobile Social Messenger, a new app that aggregates feeds from popular social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Kyocera has also made an Echo software development kit available, and at launch you’ll be able to buy Echo-optimized versions of a couple of games, including The Sims.
The Echo’s other hardware specs include 802.11b/g Wi-Fi (and the ability to function as a Wi-Fi hotspot, for a fee) and a 5-megapixel camera and 720p camcorder. It’s powered by a 1Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and comes with 1GB of onboard memory plus an 8GB micro-SD card (which you can replace with cards holding up to 32GB of data). Kyocera also throws in a spare battery and a charging cradle that can tether the spare to the phone (a good idea since all that display real estate surely will soak up power).
The dual touchscreen is an interesting experiment. In the demo, it looked very cool for some apps (such as the aforementioned VueQ), and a little odd for tablet-style use. You probably will run into problems trying to run some Android apps in tablet mode: There’s nothing to stop the black bar from impacting functionality that happens to occur in mid-screen. On the other hand, I don’t know of any tablets that will fit into pockets as easily as the Echo will.
Sprint plans to launch the Kyocera Echo on its 3G network on May 17, with a $199 pricetag (after a $100 mail-in rebate), assuming you sign up for a two-year contract. What with all the 4G talk here, the decision to go with 3G on this phone seems a little odd, but then again speed isn’t the selling point for this one. It will be interesting to see its reception.