Sprint and Kyocera have set a release date for the Android-based dual-screen Echo smartphone.
Sprint and Kyocera plan to
make the dual-screen Kyocera Echo smartphone available April 17, for a retail
price of $199 with a two-year contract. In a bid to drum up consumer interest
ahead of the release, Sprint is also taking reservations for the device online,
starting March 26.
On Feb. 7, Sprint hosted a
high-profile event in New York City to debut the Echo, an Android smartphone
with two 3.5-inch WVGA touch-screens connected by a hinge. Depending on the
hinge's angle, those screens perform multiple functions: slide one over the
other, and the Echo looks and feels like a somewhat thicker single-screen
smartphone. The screens can also be slid flat and side-by-side-to create a
4.7-inch screen for displaying movies or other media-or tilted away from one
another at an angle, to multitask or type with a virtual keyboard.
The two screens can run two
applications "simultaneously and independently," Sprint CEO Dan Hesse told
the audience at the New York City event. For business users, the smartphone
supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, in addition to POP and IMAP e-mail
At the Echo's heart is an
Android 2.2 operating system powered by a 1GHz Snapdragon processor. In a Feb.
8 conversation with eWEEK, Sprint and Kyocera executives seemed intent on
separating the Echo from other plus-sized devices walking the line between
tablets and smartphones, such as the 5-inch Dell Streak.
The Echo's "tablet mode
emulates some functionality of a tablet, but it's not a tablet," said David
Owens, Sprint's vice president of consumer acquisition. "It's a phone first."
Those executives showed off
an Echo running through various applications, movies and e-mail. Unlike many of
the smartphones and tablets on the market, the Echo doesn't feature front- and
rear-facing cameras for video conferencing, keeping instead to a 5-megapixel
Balancing out the advantages
of dual screens, however, is the Echo's demands on battery life, something that
Kyocera hopes to solve by shipping the device with two batteries and a charger
capable of simultaneously juicing both the phone and a second battery.
Sprint and Kyocera evidently
hope that the Echo's unique form factor can distinguish it within an
increasingly crowded marketplace. Even as Apple's iPhone battles for market share
against an increasing number of Google Android devices, and Research In Motion
continues to push into the consumer and business space with its BlackBerry
line, Microsoft is making a renewed smartphone play with Windows Phone 7.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.