Kyocera Echo is a Multitasking Monster
Finally, there is the phone's raison d'??¼tre: multitasking via "Simul-task," a trademarked practice for running two different apps on each screen at the same time. Users may simul-task with seven core phone apps: VueQue, Web browser, email, contacts, photo gallery, text messaging and phone. Users can run two apps by tapping each screen at the same time. This worked surprisingly well--pretty much like you'd expect apps to run on two different phones side-by-side with minimal latency or data delays. We checked ESPN.com scores on screen and Facebook News Feed. We composed and sent an email on one screen while a video played on VueQue.Doing two things at once is hard, and while we can appreciate Sprint and Kyocera's efforts to market a multitasking phone, we're not sure it's needed. Indeed, there are plenty of debates about whether multitasking is really possible or if it just drains our attention. Back to the Echo, which with 1GB of onboard memory and an 8GB microSD card for the external memory card slot, expandable up to 32GB, should meet most users' data needs. Call quality on the Echo is fine and not at all echoey, with Sprint's 3G network solid in Fairfield County, Conn. But you have to be able to get over the fact that the phone is thicker than your typical smartphone. That can be a challenge; you'd have to make calls comfortably with this phone and I'm not sure that's going to be the case for anybody but burly male users. It's too bad the phone lacked a front-facing camera to enable video chats so we didn't have to raise the phone to our ear; we found ourselves on speakerphone for a lot of calls. The Echo-as-tablet use case is another matter. When the Echo's two screens are lying flat, the device presents the dainty tablet experience you might experience from a singular 4.7-inch display. Using the Echo in this manner was much more enjoyable. In that department is a modest 5 megapixel camera with flash, autofocus and 2x digital zoom, with 720p HD camcorder capabilities. The Echo's camera won't be mistaken for the 8 megapixel cameras in its Android predecessors. Pictures we took and videos we shot were serviceable if unspectacular. There is the requisite WiFi hotspot capability, which Sprint will let users access up to five computing devices for an extra $29.99 a month. The battery life on the Echo is poor. You won't get through a full day with this 1370 mAh power source, particularly if you are generating and consuming a lot of multimedia in simul-task mode on both Echo screens. That's why Kyocera offers not only a back-up battery but a cradle charger that plugs into an outlet to let users replenish the drained battery. While this solves the power outage problem you have to ask yourself if you really want to be the guy who brings an extra battery to work at 8 and has to switch it out between noon and 3 p.m. If you're fine with that and you want people to look at your smartphone/tablet hybrid, you won't find a better gadget than the Echo.
This multitasking capability is the hallmark of the Echo and yet... it feels strained. Try watching videos while texting or playing the included Bandai Namco Pac-man app while e-mailing and you will certainly run out of patience, battery life or both.