New York - Sprint plans spring availability of the industry's first dual-screen smartphone, targeted to consumers described by the carrier as "extreme multitaskers."
The Kyocera-branded Android smartphone, called the Echo, uses steel hinges to convert from a WVGA 3.7-inch single-screen smartphone into a phone with two side-by-side 3.7-inch touchscreens.
The 3G Android 2.2-based phone, due at $199 after $100 mail-in rebate, lets consumers use two of seven core apps simultaneously -- such as texting, email, web browsing, contacts, photo/video gallery and phone calling -- in a use case that Sprint called "simultasking."
The phone also lets consumers use one app -- such as navigation or games -- across both side-by-side screens, delivering a combined touchscreen size of 4.7 inches diagonally.
When both screens face the user, they can be oriented in portrait or landscape mode. In portrait mode, the two screens are side-by-side, and in landscape mode, one screen is above the other.
The core apps are also optimized for dual-screen use. An email in-box, for example, will appear on one screen, and a preview window will appear on the other screen. One screen will be able to run an email or text application while the other screen can be used as a virtual QWERTY keyboard that's larger than the virtual keyboards appearing on other smartphones, the company said. User can also scroll through thumbnails of videos or photos on one screen while the images appear full-size on the second screen. Similarly, users can view a YouTube video on one screen and, on the second screen, add additional YouTube videos into a queue for future viewing.
The phone looks like a normal single-screen touchscreen phone when folded closed, but the visible screen pivots up and over on its two hinges to reveal a second up-facing screen. The first screen then locks into place to stay in the same plane as the second screen. The screens, however, can also be angled to take on a laptop-like look. In that configuration, the bottom screen can be placed flat on a surface and used as a large virtual QWERTY keyboard while the other display is used to read email or text messages.
Kyocera plans to offer a software developers kit so app developers can create games and other apps optimized for dual-screen use.
The phone, available exclusively for Sprint-network use, will be Kyocera's first Kyocera-brand phone for Sprint's post-paid service. In the past, Kyocera sold lower end Sanyo-branded phones for Sprint's postpaid service and Kyocera-branded phones to Sprint's prepaid-service group and to Sprint MVNOs. Echo is also Kyocera's highest-end phone to date for the U.S. market, Kyocera senior executive officer Junzo Katsuki told TWICE during a launch event here.
As part of the launch event, magician David Blaine smoked a cigar, poured and drank wine, and performed magic tricks for many minutes while in a tank of water.
The phone, upgradable to Android 2.3, features 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g, five-device hot spot, 720p video capture, rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, 1GB embedded memory, included 8GB MicroSD card, stereo Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Google Talk IM, corporate (Exchange ActivSync) and personal (POP and IMAP) email, and depth of about 17mm when closed.
The phone also comes standard with a second 12370mAh battery and charger because the company said it expects users to be heavy simultasking users.