Need yet another screen in your life? Starting April 17, Sprint will give you two for the price of one in Kyocera’s Echo.
The Echo, running Android 2.2, is the first Android phone to feature two touch screens, each measuring 3.5 inches and joined together by a pivoting hinge that lets you fold the phone into a single-screen handset. The second screen can function as a virtual keyboard, a photo or video gallery index, an extension for Google Maps or a navigation pane for e-mail. It can also run any two built-in apps at the same time, with one screen for each app. Despite the extra hardware, the Echo will cost $200 — the same as most high-end Android handsets.
It’s cutting-edge tech for sure, but the Echo’s neatest feature — the ability to run two apps at the same time — is off limits to third-party apps. Developers can expand their apps to occupy both screens, but I’m in agreement with my colleague Doug Aamoth, who worried about how many developers would be interested in accommodating a single phone on a single wireless carrier. If the Echo is limited to the built-in apps described above, the extra bulk (0.65 inches thick when closed) and shorter battery life (undisclosed, but the fact that the phone ships with two batteries doesn’t inspire confidence) may be hard to justify compared to a single-screen phone.
If none of that dissuades you from having a dual-screen smartphone — after all, it still sounds like a neat party trick — Sprint will start taking pre-orders on March 26.