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Monday, February 7, 2011

Dual-screen Kyocera Echo now official

Earlier this evening, Sprint held their special press event where they promised something new that had never been done before. Some early rumors suggested they would do a 3D phone, while others pointed to some type of folding tablet. Turns out neither were quite right, though the second was much closer to the mark, as the device announced is a smaller, folding, dual screen phone.

The Kyocera Echo is a Sprint device that features a very unique hinge design, allowing one screen to fold down over the other to form a traditional slate form-factor, or fold open to create a unified, tablet style device. The folding hinge is hard to describe, so take a look at Kyocera's press video:

The device features two 3.5" screens, a single-core 1GHz processor, 5MP camera, and runs on Sprint's 3G network. It does not include Sprint's much touted 4G connectivity. It is powered by Android 2.2, Froyo with Kyocera's custom apps to utilize the dual screens. Only the special Kyocera modified apps will be able to fully utilize the multi-tasking, dual screen features.

The Echo will arrive on Sprint this spring for $199 on contract. For more coverage, be sure to check out Engadget's hands-on photos and videos.

I have to applaud Sprint and Kyocera for trying something new. In a world of look-alike slate devices, this one really stands out as being unique and different. That being said, I really have to question what Sprint was thinking with this one. I'm honestly not sure who they think their target demographic is for this. The hardcore phone nerds won't buy it because its specs are already eclipsed by more powerful phones arriving this year. And I honestly can't picture a first-time smartphone buyer choosing this over the Evo or Epic.

Let's be honest, first-time smartphone buyers are likely going to want something that looks like the iPhone, since that's what they've seen advertised. And they'll want 4G, since they've also seen that heavily advertised. So in the Sprint store, with this on the shelf next to the Evo, I really think every single potential customer will pick the Evo over this. It's just a little too out there (and let's be honest, ugly) to really appeal to anyone. I'm sure they'll sell a few, but it ultimately I think it's just a head-scratcher of a device.

I'm completely with Ryan on this one. The thing is seriously ugly--and super fat. The ad itself makes the whole thing just seem cheesy--almost like a joke. I really do get what they were going for, and in theory, I think it's a great idea. A dual screen phone has a lot of potential. It just doesn't seem to me like they've actually unlocked that potential with this phone. The very limited number of apps that are even capable of utilizing the dual screens is a huge setback. The unimpressive specs are also an indication that this phone is just not where it needs to be. But, I'm betting we'll start seeing other manufacturers producing dual screen phones in the future--and they're only going to get better.

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