Kyocera's dual-touchscreen Echo smartphone is now available through Sprint in the U.S. The standout feature of the Echo is the extra screen real estate provided by the two 3.5-inch WVGA touchscreen displays connected by a pivot hinge that allows the device to be used in the traditional single screen configuration or folded out so each display can be used independently, side-by-side or combined to form a 800 x 960 pixel 4.7-inch display – albeit divided by a black bar formed by the frame.
When it announced the Echo earlier this year, Kyocera was touting what it called "Simul-Task Mode" that allows a different app to be displayed on each screen. Unfortunately the list of compatible apps is limited to the phone's seven core apps that have been optimized for this mode, including messaging, email, Web browsing, phone, gallery, contacts and VueQue – a preloaded Kyocera app for queuing YouTube videos.
Although the company released an SDK to allow third party developers to include dual-screen support for their apps, at launch there doesn't seem to have been much action on this front with third-party apps needing to be displayed in "Tablet Mode" which spreads a single app across both screens. However, Kyocera says several developers are working on dual-screen compatible apps for the device. There is also an "Optimized Mode" which optimizes a single app for dual screen use.
With dual-touchscreen displays not really taking off on larger devices such as Toshiba's Libretto W100, you'd have to question whether it will prove any more attractive on a smartphone. With text input still a major part of the smartphone experience and the bottom display likely to spend a lot of time as a touch keyboard, many are likely to prefer a phone with a dedicated slide out keyboard instead of relying on the less user friendly touchscreen keyboard.
The Kyocera Echo runs a custom version of Android 2.2 and is powered by a 1Ghz QSD8650 Snapdragon processor. It sports a 5-megapixel camera that can capture 720p video and comes with an 8GB microSD card with support for cards up to 32GB. The battery should provide up to seven hours of talk time. Weighing at 6.8 oz (193 g) and measuring 4.5 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches (115 x 56.5 x 17.2 mm), the device is a little bulkier than most smartphones – as you'd expect with the addition of another display.
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