There are a lot of phones being shown off here at CTIA 2011, but there is only one that actually uses more than one touchscreen: the Kyocera Echo, available on Sprint’s network starting April 17 for $199.99 after contract and rebates.
The two touchscreen concept has been around for a long time, but nobody has taken the same gamble that Kyocera and Sprint are about to take by bringing it to market. It could go off without a hitch, but it could also fail miserably. Kyocera’s still not a major force in the US market, which means it brings an element of uncertainty to consumers. Will the Echo be of better quality than the Zio? Or should we expect more of the same blase? We’re hoping it’s the former.
The Echo runs Android 2.2 Froyo and is not a 4G WiMax-powered phone. It sounds as though Kyocera does have plans to make one with 4G if this one does well enough, but let’s not just jump to the future on that quite yet.
Because of the nature of the touchscreens, the Echo is rather bulky and boxy. It is not a sexy phone by any means, but I understand why it was designed the way it was. By having two decent-sized touchscreens coming close together, there was no easy way to design the phone with curves, and the hinge mechanism the Echo employs to open the phone doesn’t help it be any thinner, either.
Here’s how the touchscreens work on the Echo: You can turn the two screens into one giant screen, to enable better web browsing and gaming, or you can simultask the screens — in other words, you can have each screen act as its own monitor and view two different programs or apps at the same time, side by side (this works in portrait and landscape modes).
The firmware is still far from final. In fact, the screen and buttons froze up on me multiple times as I was using the Echo. These bugs will most likely be fixed between now and April 17, but it’s still apparent that this phone has a bit of a ways to go before time to launch it.
So far, only a few apps are available for simultasking, though this should change as soon as the device launches and developers get access to the API. I’m eager to see what kind of apps will come out that take advantage of the extra functionality.
In the meantime, enjoy the video and pictures of the Kyocera Echo on the show floor at CTIA!
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