Dual-display Echo smartphone: double the touchscreen, double the fun?

Ben Patterson
Technology News Blog

Armed with a pair of 3.5-inch touchscreens, the Kyocera Echo will let you surf on one display while checking e-mail on the other—or you can combine both screens into a single, 4.7-inch panel, so long as you don't mind the gap in the middle.

Slated to arrive on Sprint this spring for $200 with a two-year contract, the Android 2.2-powered Echo comes with a 1GHz Snapdragon under the hood, along with those twin 3.5-inch, 800-by-480 LCD displays.

Using a special "pivot hinge," you can slide the phone closed for a standard single-display view or open it up to expose both screens, which together measure 4.7 inches diagonally. As you might expect, the dual-display design makes for a relatively thick, hefty handset, with the Echo measuring (according to Sprint's specs) 0.68 inches thick and tipping the scales at 6.8 ounces.

So, how will two 3.5-inch displays be better than one, exactly? According to Sprint and Kyocera, the Echo will arrive with four distinct modes: a regular single-screen mode for when the handset is closed; a "tablet" mode that lets you spread an app across both screens (with a space in the middle for the hinge, of course); an "optimized" mode that, for example, lets you view photos on one display and a thumbnailed gallery index on the other; and a "simultask" mode for running separate applications on each screen. Interesting.

Apps for messaging, Web browsing, photo viewing, watching YouTube videos, and contacts/calling have been tweaked for use with the Echo's "simultask" mode, says Sprint, while developers will be able to optimize their apps for the Echo's twin screens with an upcoming SDK.

The Echo will also boast a 5-megapixel camera with 720p video capture, according to Sprint—nice, but no sign of a front-facing lens for video chat.

And while the Echo supports Sprint's 3G network and lets you share its connection with up to five nearby Wi-Fi devices, the handset won't work with the carrier's speedy 4G WiMax network.

Also on board: 1GB of RAM and a slot for microSD memory expansion (an 8GB microSD card ships with the phone), stereo Bluetooth, GPS, a digital compass/accelerometer combo, and two removable 1370mAh batteries (a main battery plus a spare).

So, what do you think of the Echo—innovative? Gimmicky? Not sure 'till you try it? (Personally, I'm reserving judgement until I see the Echo in person.) Fire away below.

— Ben Patterson is a technology blogger for Yahoo! News.

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