Sprint and Kyocera will begin shipping the Echo-an Android smartphone with two screens that can work together or independently-this spring for $199.
- Sprint and Kyocera kicked off their joint introduction of the Kyocera
Echo, the first dual-screen Android smartphone, with a performance by the
illusionist David Blaine at an event off Times Square on Feb. 7. Wearing a
three-piece suit and sitting casually at a table, Blaine smoked a cigar and
sipped a glass of wine, among other relaxed gestures-while submerged in tank of
water for a mind-boggling amount of time. Ten minutes? Fifteen?
"I think we
all wish we could have some of David's magic in our lives," Sprint CEO Dan
Hesse said, taking the stage afterward with Kyocera Senior Executive Officer
Junzo Katsuki and working to somehow tie the intro of the Echo to what the
audience, a little more perplexed than enthusiastic, had just witnessed.
If not exactly
magic, what the pair introduced might at least pleasantly surprise: a
smartphone with two touch-screens that can run two applications "simultaneously
and independently," said Hesse. Users can, for example, watch a video on one
screen and browse the Web on the other. Or they can perform complementary tasks
such as watching a YouTube video on the top screen while queuing up clips on
the bottom screen. They also work to a complementary effect in e-mail, which
shows the inbox on one side and an open e-mail in the other. (In landscape or
portrait modes, ta da
LCD WVGA touch-screens can also work together-in "tablet mode"-as a single
4.7-inch (on the diagonal) screen for watching a movie or reading. Or, for a
bit of old-fashioned fun, one can slide one screen behind the other and look at
one thing at a time.
The Echo runs
Android 2.2 and a 1GHz Snapdragon processor, and can act as a WiFi hotspot for
up to five devices. It will arrive in the spring for $199 with a two-year
contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.
In addition to
the expected suite of Google services, it offers access to Telenav GPS and
Sprint TV & Movies, features Bluetooth 2.1 and a 5-megapixel camera, and
supports MS Exchange ActiveSync, as well as POP and IMAP e-mail accounts. An
8GB microSD card comes with the phone, though it can support a 32GB card.
stage after Hesse and Katsuki to offer a demonstration, Fared Adib, Sprint vice
president of product development, said the phone's multi-tasking nature has
necessitated two new terms, "simul-tasking" and "hyper-tasking" (both of which
seem eligible for a doctor's prescription), as well as six pending patents for
the special plastic "pivot hinge" that the Echo's sliding displays depend on.
problem has always been creating a seam that doesn't take away from the profile
of the product," said Adib, explaining that with the Echo, "You really have to
get close to notice it. Your eye gets very used to it."
In addition to
sitting together flat, the screens can be arranged to mimic a laptop. A virtual
keyboard is notably large: "one of the largest keyboards you're ever going to
see on a device," said Adib.
If two screens
sound like twice the battery drain, Kyocera addresses this by shipping the
phone with two batteries as well as a special charger. You can charge the phone
and the second battery at the same time, or bring the charger on the go and
charge the phone from the juice of the second battery.
two batteries, two experiences," said Adib.
Both Hesse and
Adib noted the "pocket-ability" of the Echo, saying that some larger-screened
devices were getting caught in a middle ground (we're looking at you, Dell
Streak). Still, while the Echo measures 4.53 by 2.23 inches high and wide, it's
a rather chunky 0.68 inches thick. (The Apple iPhone, as a pocketability
comparison, measures 4.5 by 2.31 by 0.37 inches.)
also be releasing the Echo's API (application programming interface) and SDK
(software development kit), so developers can begin designing applications for
the Echo's dual screens. (The ability to watch YouTube while lining up and
buffering other videos, for example, is actually a pre-loaded Kyocera application.)
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," Hesse said in a statement. "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."