Overland Park, Kan. - Sprint will ship what it is calling the industry's first dual-screen smartphone, the Kyocera-branded Echo, on April 17.
The Android 2.2 phone, targeted to "extreme multitaskers," will be available that day in all Sprint retail channels, including its website and telesales operation.
Previously, the carrier said the device would be available sometime in the spring at $199 with two-year contract.
Beginning 9 a.m. ET March 26, consumers can visit
to reserve their phone online while supplies last, and pick it up in a Sprint Store to get a full demonstration. Sprint customers visiting the site will also get the opportunity to win an Echo in a "Duel for Dual Sweepstakes" that begins March 15. Customers will compete on "sharp-shooting" skills to win their first dual-screen smartphone.
Customers who reserve their Echo must complete their purchases no later than April 14 at 9 p.m. ET. The devices will be available for pick up on April 17.
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 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.
The 3G phone 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.
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.