How would you like a smartphone with a nearly 5-inch display that also fits easily in your pocket? You’ll soon be able to get just that: the Kyocera Echo has a pair of regular-size displays that can be arranged side-by-side into a tablet shape.
This device is going to debut on Sunday, April 17, but I received a demo unit yesterday. So far I haven’t had enough time to fully test out the Echo, but I’m going to go ahead and share my first impressions.
BUILD AND DESIGN
I have to give Kyocera credit for coming up with the most innovative smartphone design in a long time. The Echo isn’t like anything else on the market right now — there’s nothing even particularly close.
It has two 3.5-inch, 800 x 480 touchscreens, but these aren’t arranged into the clamshell you’d expect. Instead, there’s a unique hinge that allows the two screens to be placed very close to each other — something that wouldn’t be possible with a clamshell. This creates a 4.7-inch, 960 x 800 viewing area, albeit one with a black band through the middle of it.
In my preliminary testing, I’ve found this arrangement to be generally useful, though there are exceptions. Reading emails, web pages, or eBooks is fine, as I hardly notice the black stripe across the center. The same is true of using Google Maps. When you’re watching video, though, you’re going to want to confine it to one 3.5-inch display, as the black band is just too distracting.
But tablet mode isn’t your only option. You can put the Kyocera Echo into a configuration that looks a bit like a clamshell, and run two different apps on the two displays. Unfortunately, only a few apps support this. Otherwise, one program is spread across both screens.
When you want to type, one of the touchscreens becomes a large landscape-oriented keyboard that’s easy to use. You can pick the standard Android Keyboard or Swype. I prefer the standard one, and I find this to be at least as easy to type on as a physical keyboard.
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