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Reviews are mixed, but there's potential for this whole dual-screen functionality to catch on

When we previewed the dual-screen Kyocera Echo back in February, it garnered a fair number of comments -- good and bad -- thanks to its unique form factor. Now, early reviews are coming in and they generally highlight the good, although there certainly are some downsides, too.

First, a quick recap of the Echo's specs:
  • Dual 3.5-inch LCD WVGA (800 x 480 pixels) capacitive touchscreens (4.7 inches diagonally and - 800 x 960 pixels when opened)
  • Android 2.2 — Froyo
  • 1GHz Snapdragon QSD 8650
  • 5 megapixel camera with flash
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Wi-Fi
  • EVDO Rev. A
  • 115.0 x 56.5 x 17.2mm
  • 193 grams (6.8 oz.)
Right out of the gate, Jonathan S. Geller at BGR calls the Echo both "innovative" and "bold." Geller likens the hardware on the device to a tank, which is also both good and bad. It feels well-built -- "indestructible," as Geller puts it -- but is "very bland to the point of being boring" design-wise. It also means that the Echo is quite thick, thanks to its two screens, making it troublesome to carry in-pocket.

Geller also seemed to have a problem with the actual phone functionality, noting that the "ear speaker is extremely quiet even on the highest volume setting." Reception, though, was great, with the Echo getting five bars of service in areas where Geller usually experienced about three bars on other Sprint devices.

Since the start, battery life on the Echo has always been a concern. Here's Geller's take: 

Battery life is relative as each person expects something a bit different, but after spending days with the Echo, I can confidently say that battery life isn’t that good. It’s not terrible, but again, that’s relative. It lasts a little bit longer than the original HTC EVO did for me, and that’s a 4G handset.

Thankfully, an additional battery and an external battery charger (which charges the battery without having to plug in the phone itself) are both included in the box.

Geller concludes that he actually enjoyed using the device. But:

While the Kyocera Echo is the first device in what Kyocera says will be a lineup of devices featuring dual-display configurations, and I’m not sure this first try quite hits the mark. It’s thick and heavy, and without a more extensive suite of custom apps and developer support, I just can’t see enough of an advantage over going with a device like the Google Nexus S 4G or the upcoming HTC EVO 3D.

While we're on the topic of custom apps and developer support, Darren Murph at Engadget had a bit to say about that. He notes that, while the Echo runs a custom version of Android 2.2 Froyo (Gingerbread is promised by year's end), it is about as close to stock Android as you can get. The customization is largely relegated to the Tablet Mode Extension app. "Outside of seeing Android work across two screens, you aren't apt to notice any irregularities. And that, friends, is impressive," Murph writes.

Murph gave the fluidity of the software high praise:

We'd like to point out just how fluidly Froyo cruises along on the Echo, regardless of how many applications we've opened or how many times we've forced it to change orientation. ... If we're being candid (and really, why wouldn't we?), the Echo felt snappier than our Nexus One (with Android 2.3) in all instances, be it in single- or dual-screen use. 

If there was one criticism that was fairly consistent, it's that the Echo's Simul-Task app, which allows two apps to run simultaneously on both screens, lacks support. In all, there are just seven apps that can take advantage of this functionality. 

Unfolding the phone to reveal its second screen isn’t a smooth step, and the limited number of apps that can take advantage of the dual-screen functionality will frustrate people. For now, one-screen phones will do just fine.

Murph at Engadget was a bit more forgiving. "What the Echo delivers is an entirely new approach to Android, and somehow, Kyocera has managed to add a second screen to the experience without flubbing the execution," he concludes. "If and when developers begin to embrace Kyocera's dual-screen SDK, we could see a whole host of applications that make this layout even more appealing, but thankfully, shoehorned programs make great use of the extra real estate as-is." He added that the Echo wasn't for "speed-craving power users," but that it fills a niche for anyone wanting 960 x 800 pixels.


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Gingerbread by year's END?!
By quiksilvr on 4/13/2011 9:13:43 AM , Rating: 2
We'll be at 2.5 by that time. What a horrible time frame. I would have thought by June or July.




RE: Gingerbread by year's END?!
By Jedi2155 on 4/13/2011 9:22:16 AM , Rating: 5
At least they are being honest unlike Samsung who has repeatedly promised Froyo months before its actual release.


RE: Gingerbread by year's END?!
By phantom505 on 4/13/2011 9:22:20 AM , Rating: 3
That's why you root and rely on the open source community. They're only a mere 6-12 months ahead of manufacturers, and it seems to work about as well, if not better. It amazes me how long they take and the relatively low quality the software is despite the fact they have all the access. I wish they would just open their platforms and quit trying to "criminalize" "customization".


My review is shorter...
By GeekWithFire on 4/13/2011 9:50:31 AM , Rating: 2
It still looks like an ugly Nintendo DS.




RE: My review is shorter...
By SilthDraeth on 4/13/2011 11:28:10 AM , Rating: 2
On that note, I always dream of Nintendo building phone capability into one of their new portable gaming systems... I am sure all the extra chips would drive cost up due to licensing, and then they would be competing with Sony's gaming cell phones...

However, I think it could be done, and popular, at least in Japan...

Hell they could release it with all 300 titles of Pokemon thrown in on one device, perhaps allowing it to import everyone's saves from their games all the way back to the plain gameboys using some sort of weird cart dongle thing. If they added that functionality in Japan, it would get eaten up!


RE: My review is shorter...
By DJMiggy on 4/13/2011 2:02:42 PM , Rating: 2
Can you say ambitious?


By therealnickdanger on 4/13/2011 2:49:47 PM , Rating: 4
Why not just use an emulator on your Android phone?


Donkey kong.
By greylica on 4/13/2011 11:00:50 AM , Rating: 4
Does anyone remember the 30 year old ''Donkey Kong Jr'' Dual Screen Nintendo Game ?
Ohhh, I'm getting old...




RE: Donkey kong.
By ShaolinSoccer on 4/13/2011 12:56:22 PM , Rating: 2
I had a dual screen mario game from the 80's

http://www.mariowiki.com/Mario_Bros._(Game_%26_Wat...


RE: Donkey kong.
By invidious on 4/13/2011 1:02:26 PM , Rating: 2
Fold up ?
By KOOLTIME on 4/15/2011 12:02:11 PM , Rating: 2
Trying an Android Fold up wanna be IPAD ?? thats what this seems like, but big problem as some stated is limited 2 screen app use ?? Whats the point of screen real estate that has limited use ??

Seems this would be like buying a 60" LCD TV but only able to watch 30" of it most of the time.

Only Slight more portable due to fold up option but IPAD type seems better at this point, no screen limitations, which is the entire point of dual screens right ?? The rest of the functions their is nothing new to offer, that every other phone doesn't have already.




RE: Fold up ?
By Lazarus Dark on 4/16/2011 11:24:10 AM , Rating: 2
I would actually like to see this dual screen concept used on the Moto Droid slider form factor. Instead of the physical keyboard, make it a second screen. It's a much cleaner and probably more durable form factor. This is the only way I would want to give up my physical Droid kb. You could put the onscreen keyboard on the slide out screen, so you can still see the page you are typing on! (I hate that when using the virtual keyboard it takes up the whole screen so you can't reference back to what you are commenting on). Then when not using the virtual kb, you've got more room to view web pages, run two apps, etc just like they want for this Kyocera.


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