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