Sprint will be making its dual-screen Android smartphone called the Kyocera Echo available for purchase on April 17th, a month after Verizon debuts its hyped HTC Thunderbolt 4G smartphone. The Kyocera will retail for $199.99 on a two-year service agreement. Eager customers who want to be among the first to take advantage of the dual-screen experience can begin reserving their places in line with the Echo beginning on March 26th by visiting www.sprint.com/echo.
The Kyocera Echo was announced earlier this year at a New York event and is a smartphone that features two slide out screens. Each screen measures 3.5-inch and can form a combined screen display area of 4.7-inch when the screens are put together.
Unlike the HTC EVO 4G and the Samsung Epic 4G on Sprint’s Now Network, the Echo will be a 3G smartphone so it won’t benefit from the faster data speeds where Sprint has WiMax coverage.
The Echo is a unique smartphone that extends the powers and capabilities of the Android operating system beyond anything that I’ve seen on the smartphone market today yet is much more compact than any of the tablets I’ve tried out, including the 5-inch Dell Streak. When closed, the compact form factor of a single-screen Echo looks like any other smartphone, but like a transforming super hero, the Echo can slide out a second screen to create a juggernaut multi-tasking mobile powerhouse.
While the Android OS supports multitasking, the process of switching between and managing open applications can be cumbersome. Not so with the Echo. At the Sprint 4G San Francisco launch event, I sat down with Sprint PR rep Caroline Semerdjian to preview some of the Echo’s capabilities and I was blown away with its ability to extend Android’s usability. Rather than switching between applications, or opening and close apps, with dual screens, you can juggle simultaneous apps side by side. Also, if you’re a single-tasker, that’s perfectly alright on the Echo as you can combine both screens into a compact, foldable tablet environment.
In tablet mode, like some of the most hyped tablet user experiences on the market today with Android 3.0, the Android 2.2 environment of the Echo will allow you to have ‘panes.’ That means, if you’re in, for instance, the Gmail app, you can have one pane display a list view of all your emails and the second pane can be used to open up a specific email. That way, you don’t have to hit the back button to switch between list and email view. Want to respond to a message? That will be easy. One pane can show you what you’re typing, and when you’re holding it like a clamshell laptop, the bottom pane can pull up a virtual keyboard so you can type what you want to say. When you’re on a complex website, pull both panes together and let text, graphics, and images flow from pane to pane seamlessly to create a unified screen.
While many are debating about tablet screen sizes–is it 7-inch or 10-inch the ideal size for a tablet–the Kyocera Echo straddles the perfect balance between uber-mobility with a smartphone form factor, but can open and transform itself to the perfect tablet and mobile workstation to get the job done on the go.