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Kyocera Echo brings first dual-screen design to Sprint

Sprint CEO Dan Hesse and Kyocera executive Junzo Katsuki present the dual-screen Android 2.2 ECHO at an event in NYC, Feb. 7, 2011

Photo credit: Tyler Weggel

Ever wanted to use a fully-loaded smartphone that has a screen big enough not to need a magnifying glass, but are not quite ready to upgrade to a tablet that can’t fit into your vest pocket? Sprint may have you covered. On Monday, Sprint debuted a dual-screen touchphone that actually flips out and syncs into larger 4.7 inch screen, but can fold into half the size.

The key, from a hardware perspective, is a liquid metal pivot hinge designed by Kyocera, that allows users to have a single-pane device, which fits into a coat pocket. Flip it open and around, and the device expands to much larger real estate with two 3.5-inch screens that snap together into a continuous screen – not unlike the way heavy PC users add a second monitor to expand their workspace. Apps that have been customized for the Echo can make use of both screens. For instance, Amazon’s Kindle e-reader app (downloadable on Android), allows you to scroll through e-books on both screens, without having to squint at the 8-point font.  In Google maps, you can see twice the geographic area.

The Echo offers two subtle but distinct variations on multi-tasking. One allows users to simultaneously view any single app with complementary and enhanced capability. For example, you can have a close-up of a selected photo on one screen, while viewing thumbnails of the corresponding photo gallery on another screen, allowing you to preview what’s coming without having to lose the original photo. Similarly, you can watch a YouTube video on one screen, while queuing up another 4 to play in sequence on the second screen (an app called “VueQue”). Most compelling, the device allows you to see your e-mail inbox screen with a list of preview headers on one side, while the other side acts as a reading pane, with the selected e-mail shown in its entirety – exactly as you would in a desktop environment.

The second allows users to have two separate applications running concurrently. Hyperactive teens can go wild with Twitter and Facebook at the same time, or pair up any of seven functions: Web browsing, text messaging, e-mail, voice talk, photo gallery, video watching, or contacts. Want to view two websites side by side without having to tab through them? Check. Want to see your contacts list, or an e-mail sent from one of your contacts, while dialing your phone? Check.

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