Sprint Nextel plans to sell the Kyocera Echo phone with two screens and Google's Android software, in an effort stand out in a crowded U.S. smartphone field where Apple gets much of the consumer attention.
This Android-powered device features two high-resolution 3.5-inch WVGA touchscreen displays connected by a patent-pending "pivot hinge" that enables the two displays to operate independently, side-by-side or combined to form a 4.7-inch (diagonally) integrated display.
Kyocera Echo's second screen provides the ability to do two things at the same time and get more done - send an email on one screen while surfing the web on the other, watch a video on one screen while texting on the other, comparison shop online with one web site on each screen and so much more.
In its closed position, Kyocera Echo is a pocket-friendly, single-display smartphone. When opened, Kyocera Echo reveals a new platform for wireless multitasking. Its hardware and optimized software enables users to use the touchscreens in four unique ways:
* Single-Screen Mode with all the functionality of a single-display, touch-screen smartphone.
* Simul-Task Mode with two of the phone's seven core apps (messaging, e-mail, Web browsing, phone, gallery, contacts and VueQue) running concurrently but independently on the dual displays.
* Optimized Mode with both displays supporting a single, optimized app with complementary functionality and enhanced usability - e.g., composing e-mail on one screen with a touchscreen keyboard on the other; watching a YouTube video on one display while browsing and queuing additional YouTube videos on the other (with a preloaded Kyocera app called VueQue); or viewing gallery images on one display while browsing image thumbnails on the other.
* Tablet Mode with one application spread across both displays for a full 4.7-inch viewing area. Tablet Mode is ideal for viewing maps, videos, websites, detailed documents, and long lists on-the-go.
Kyocera Echo will be available this spring for $199.99 with a new two-year service agreement or eligible upgrade and after a $100 mail-in rebate in all Sprint retail channels, including the Web (www.sprint.com) and Telesales (1-800-Sprint). Pricing excludes surcharges and taxes.
Kyocera Echo also includes customized apps optimized for the dual-screen Optimized Mode experience including VueQue, which lets users watch a YouTube video on one display while browsing, queuing and buffering additional YouTube videos on the other display. Additional applications optimized for the dual-screen experience include:
* Messaging and e-mail: Users can turn the device horizontally and use the top display to view the e-mail/message application while using the lower display as a full-sized virtual keyboard.
* Browser: Takes the browser experience of a standard 3.5-inch smartphone and enhances it, allowing users to view two websites simultaneously.
* Gallery: Users can scroll through thumbnail images on one screen while viewing an enlarged image on the other.
* Contacts/phone: Users can view more of the phone's contact directory or an expanded virtual dial pad.
Beyond the dual touchscreen innovation, Kyocera Echo operates on the Android 2.2 system and has access to 100,000 apps in Android Market. Additional key features include:
* Sprint's 3G network and Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)
* Wi-Fi hotspot capability, which supports wireless connections for up to five devices
* 5-megapixel camera with flash, autofocus and digital zoom
* 720p HD camcorder to quickly capture those on-the-go memorable moments
* Corporate (Exchange ActiveSync) and personal (POP & IMAP) e-mail, IM (Google Talk), text messaging
* Media player with a 3.5 mm stereo headset jack
* Stereo Bluetooth 2.1 (+ EDR)
* Full HTML Web browser with Google Search
* 1GHz Snapdragon processor (QSD 8650 Android)
* 1 gigabyte (GB) of onboard memory and an 8GB microSD card for the external memory card slot supporting cards up to 32GB
* Voice and text prompts in both English and Spanish
Kyocera Echo comes packaged with a spare battery (1370 mAh) and a low-profile charging cradle. Along with charging the spare battery independently of the phone, the charging cradle also can tether the spare to Kyocera Echo as an external power supply. One question that remains about the Echo is how long it's likely to last on a charge. For now, Sprint says the phone can offer at least 5.5 hours of talk time, though the company might succeed in stretching the battery life by the time it goes on sale.
Additional Google features include Google Maps, Google Talk, Gmail, synchronization with Google Calendar, and access to Google Goggles to search with pictures instead of words. With Sprint, Kyocera Echo users have access to Sprint Zone, providing one-stop wireless account access, phone tips, news, a list of top apps plus TeleNav GPS Navigator, Sprint TV and Movies and more.
A Software Development Kit (SDK) and developer guide for Kyocera Echo will be available before the launch on the Sprint Application Developer Program (ADP) website at http://developer.sprint.com/android.
"Some competitors may offer lower prices, but Sprint customers get more with unlimited data while on the Sprint Network with their monthly plan, Sprint said.
Kyocera Echo requires activation on one of Sprint's Everything Data plans plus required $10 Premium Data add-on charge for smartphones. Sprint's Everything Data plan with Any Mobile, AnytimeSM includes unlimited Web, texting and calling to and from any mobile in America while on the Sprint network, starting at $69.99 per month plus required $10 Premium Data add-on charge.
Sprint Everything Data plans qualify for automatic enrollment in the Sprint PremierSM loyalty program. Existing Sprint customers can switch to an Everything Data plan without extending their service agreement. New lines of service require a two-year service agreement.
An optional charge of just $29.99 per month turns on Kyocera Echo?s mobile hotspot feature, connecting up to five Wi-Fi enabled devices, such as laptops, gaming devices and digital cameras, at 3G speeds anywhere on the Sprint 3G network (pricing excludes surcharges and taxes).