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Posted at 6:39 PM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Smartphone stunts: Sprint introduces two-screen Echo, T-Mobile to give them away

By Rob Pegoraro

Since including two cameras in a smartphone no longer impresses anybody, what sort of design one-upmanship is left for phone vendors?

To judge from a new Android phone Sprint just introduced, the answer is to double down on color touchscreens.

Sprint's Kyocera Echo, $299.99 before a $100 mail-in rebate, looks like it could owe some its design DNA to the Nintendo DS handheld gaming system. Although you can use it folded shut, with one rectangular 3.5-in. screen facing out, it also pivots open to align that and a matching screen against each other to function as a single square display, 4.7 inch measured diagonally.

sprint_echo_pr.JPG

The idea, Sprint's press release says, is to let you "do two things at the same time and get more done," such as "watch a video on one screen while texting on the other."

But at a bit over two-thirds of an inch thick, the Echo will be among the chunkiest phones on the market.

Standard Android applications will have to be rewritten to take advantage of this dual-screen design. I'm not sure how many developers will do that, considering how Kyocera has largely been a non-entity in the phone business since buying the consumer business of Qualcomm in 2000. (I knew that wasn't going to work out when Kyocera failed to ship a worthy successor to the first phone I bought, Qualcomm's QCP-1960 "Thin Phone.")

Sprint introduced the Echo at an event in New York featuring magician David Blaine--please read Engadget's entertaining liveblog by Nilay Patel--announced earlier to the press with a cryptic, vague invitation.

t-mobile_logo.jpg

Earlier Monday, T-Mobile tried a simpler tactic to get people's attention: free phones. For two days this week, on Friday and Saturday, it will give away smartphones at its stores to anybody who signs up for a "qualifying" two-year plan.

Its press release touts a smartphone selection of "30 devices [...] including brands such as HTC, Garmin, Motorola, Nokia and Samsung" but fails to define what "qualifying" might mean.

T-Mobile's document does, however, tout a celebrity tie-in it's lined up for this Valentine's Day promotion:

To celebrate, T-Mobile has also teamed up with New York Times best-selling author and TV personality Khloé Kardashian to spread the word about how using smartphones is the best way to keep in touch with loved ones and tell them how you feel about them.

T-Mobile's tried this free-phones tactic before, staging a one-day Father's Day sale last year that zeroed out the price of every phone in its stores.

The lengths to which Sprint and T-Mobile will go to get some attention on the week of the Verizon iPhone's arrival in stores raise some interesting questions. For instance, if T-Mobile will give away a phone with one screen, will it pay you to take one with two? And what would a Kardashian endorsement do for the Echo's prospects?

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 7, 2011; 6:39 PM ET
Categories:  Gadgets, Mobile  
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Comments

2/3 of an inch thick??????? OMG! How could I ever use such a fat monster????

Come on Rob. It's not that bad. If you're carrying an Ipad around you don't even get 2 screens, just one, but you surely can't fold it up and put it in your pocket.

OTOH, I can't see who's going to be watching a movie and texting...I mean what are you going to do...put one eye on each screen? Doesn't make much sense to me.

But then I'm old fashioned. I don't even talk on the phone AND drive!

Posted by: henwin | February 7, 2011 10:47 PM | Report abuse

...and Rob, most importantly is it 4G?

I am with henwin regarding the omg thickness. Haven't seen it yet but I like what I have read so far. Perhaps with Sprint's cellular integration (ture IMS architecture) and an app...I could monitor my business information while keeping an eye on my personal information...think about it.

Posted by: golfballdodger1 | February 7, 2011 11:35 PM | Report abuse

No 4G but you'll still be paying that $10 premium data fee for 3G.
Lets hope HP/Palm knocks one out of the park Wednesday.
My launch day Pre is cracked and I want new hardware on Sprint.

Posted by: patchss | February 8, 2011 12:47 AM | Report abuse

"Since including two cameras in a smartphone no longer impresses anybody,"

Does this mean that people in the U.S. will stop using the term "camera phone", like we did here in Japan years ago?

Posted by: JoshJapan | February 8, 2011 1:56 AM | Report abuse

The problem with something like is how they implemented the dual screen for apps. It requires a new API. That means existing Android apps have to be ported just for this single phone. Unfortunately, Sprint and Kyocera are not major players in this market. They simply don't have the cache to drive app developers to port their existing apps just so it can work on a single phone. Apple can do that since they have rabid fans with lots of disposable income. Sprint is barely holding on (aren't they #3 or 4 in a 4-horse race?). So where does that leave the Echo? Only 7 apps support "simultasking". Great!


What they should have done is made it so their custom task manager is in charge of the multiple screens. Like Windows and other PC OSes. Developers don't have to do anything to their apps to make it run in dual screen mode on the PC why should it be different on the Echo? I think that's a missed opportunity. Imagine if you could buy the Echo today and use ALL your apps in dual screen mode. That, my friends, would be truly revolutionary.

Posted by: tundey | February 8, 2011 5:40 AM | Report abuse

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