As expected, Sprint and Kyocera just officially announced the Echo, the world’s first dual-touchscreen smartphone. The device’s most notable feature is its dual 3.5 inch touchscreen displays, which are connected with a patent-pending “pivot hinge” to produce a 4.7 inch screen (800 x 960 resolution when opened).
Sprint will begin selling the phone this spring for $199 with a 2-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate. Customers can begin pre-registration today at www.sprint.com/echo.
When the Echo is closed, it can be used like a normal touchscreen phone. The real power comes when the two screens are combined. When opened, users can choose from three display modes – (1) a Simul-task mode with two apps running concurrently, (2) an optimized mode with both displays supporting an optimized app and enhanced usability (2) or a tablet mode where one app is stretched across both screens.
Android developers will be able to take advantage of the dual screens with a special SDK provided on Sprint’s application developer program.
“Sprint is proud to boast the most powerful Android portfolio available today and Echo adds to that legacy with industry-leading technology that will change the way our customers use smartphones,” said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. “Today’s busy schedules often demand that we do at least two things at once. Kyocera Echo is the first device that allows us to do a different task on each of two screens while also providing a tablet-like, larger screen experience that easily fits in a pocket when closed.”
Powering the phone is Qualcomm’s first generation 1 GHz Snapdragon processor (QSD8650). This is the same CPU that debuted in HTC’s Nexus One and was featured in the Sprint EVO 4G. It performed great a year ago, but it is really starting to show its age with the slower Adreno 200 GPU that can hardly play the new 3D games.
Couldn’t Kyocera spring the extra $4 and upgrade to the second-generation 1 GHz Snapragon and Adreno 205 being used by HTC (myTouch 4G, Thunderbolt, Inspire), Sony Ericsson, and other handset makers? I have to wonder why they would pair one of the largest combined display sizes with one of the slowest GPUs.
Priced at $199, the Echo will be competing with other high-end Sprint phones that can easily outperform it and boast more features like 4G speeds, a front-facing camera, and HDMI video output. With its aging processor, I don’t think the high-end customers will buy it, but maybe Sprint can move some units based solely on the device’s unique dual-display concept.
It’s not the 3D phone we had been hoping for, but the Echo definitely brings an interesting design to the table. I think it would be really cool to have one application running on the bottom half of the screen while playing a game on the other. The idea of dual touchscreens for multitasking sounds like it has potential, so hopefully this design sticks around and someone will pair it with a faster multi-core processor.
If you are on Sprint, what do you think of the Echo? Do you welcome the innovative design or wish Sprint had announced a more high-end device with a multi-core processor and 4G support? What type of customer do you think this will appeal to?
Highlights of the Echo include:
- Android 2.2
- 1 GHz first-generation Snapdragon processor (QSD8650)
- Dual 3.5 inch LCD WVGA (800 x 540) capacitive touchscreens, 4.7 inch diagonally when open (800 x 860)
- 5 megapixel camera with flash, autofocus, 2x digital zoom, and 720p video record
- Memory: 1 GB ROM / 512 MB RAM; 8GB microSD included
- 3G data speeds (EVDO Rev A) — peak download speeds of 3.1 Mbps; peak upload speeds of 1.8 Mbps; average download speeds 600 kbps – 1.4 Mbps
- Removable 1370mAh battery; includes spare battery (1370 mAh) with portable charger that can also tether to the phone as an external power supply
- Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, WiFi 802.11 b/g,
From Sprint: Its innovative hardware and optimized software enables consumers to use the touchscreens in four unique ways.
- Single-Screen Mode with all the functionality of a single-display, touch-screen smartphone.
- Simul-Task Mode with two of the phone’s seven core apps (messaging, e-mail, Web browsing, phone, gallery, contacts and VueQue) running concurrently but independently on the dual displays — e.g., reading e-mail on one screen and opening a text message on the other; checking Facebookvia the browser on one screen while looking through a photo gallery on the other; or even searching the Web on one screen and checking email on the other.
- Optimized Mode with both displays supporting a single, optimized app with complementary functionality and enhanced usability — e.g., composing e-mail on one screen with a touchscreen keyboard on the other; watching a YouTube video on one display while browsing and queuing additional YouTube videos on the other (with a preloaded Kyocera app called VueQue); or viewing gallery images on one display while browsing image thumbnails on the other.
- Tablet Mode with one application spread across both displays for a full 4.7-inch viewing area. Tablet Mode is ideal for viewing maps, videos, websites, detailed documents, and long lists on-the-go.