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Hands on: Dual-screen Kyocera Echo

updated 02:10 am EST, Tue February 8, 2011

Handset pairs two 800x480 touchscreens

Confirming several rumors, Kyocera and Sprint have collaborated to introduce the Echo, a dual-screen Android handset. Electronista took a closer look at the new smartphone at a special event in New York. The new offering combines smartphone functionality with a tablet-inspired interface that takes advantage of both LCDs.

Amid a plethora of tablet unveilings this year, Kyocera has introduced one of the first smartphones that attempts to offer a pseudo-tablet experience in a smartphone form. The device pairs two 3.5-inch 800x480 touchscreens, which combine to present a 4.7-inch layout with 800x960 resolution.

Two of our first concerns involved the battery life and build quality. Regarding battery capacity, Spint and Kyocera declined to provide specific estimates of approximate run times. Running the LCD is one of the most power intensive tasks for any phone, so we do not expect the Echo to match the endurance of any single-screen Android phone. That said, we were impressed with the companies' strategy: provide each user with a power source that can swap the cellphone battery or serve as a backup power source. Nonetheless, we are curios to know how the dual-screen runtime compares to most single-screen devices based on a similar platform.

At some press events, the companies ask us to be gentle with the hardware or let the evangelists show us how the equipment works. Sprint representatives did not allow us to flick through the menus, as the UI was still under development, but we were impressed with the suggestion that "you don't have to be gentle with it." We were encouraged to push the hinge system to its limits, and it did take a few minutes to become familiarized with the new hardware. The hinge system appears to be very robust -- a unique design that seems like it will hold up to normal usage.

As one of the first true tablet/smartphone hybrids, Kyocera and Sprint have worked to optimize the experience for two displays. We liked the initial preview, which allowed us to split the screen to show two web pages or a single page spread across both screens. Third-party developers still need to jump on board for an extensive network of supported apps, but the preview with e-mail and social networking seemed to work well.

Overall, we were impressed with Kyocera's latest handset. The device still needs attention from developers to take full advantage of the dual-screen layout, but the Echo still shows great potential to provide tablet functionality in a smartphone form-factor. Sprint reps point to a launch sometime in the spring, for the expected price of $199.

By Electronista Staff
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