Just as expected, Sprint and Kyocera revealed the Echo this evening at a New York City event, making it the first dual-screen Android smartphone.
Sprint CEO Dan Hesse showed off a giant mock-up of the Echo, demonstrating the phone’s unique construction. Rather than a clamshell design, like the dual-screened Nintendo DS construction, the Echo will always have one of its touchscreens exposed on the phone’s exterior, letting you use it like any standard Android slate. When you need more screen real estate, that display hinges up and out, reminiscent of the mechanism in HTC’s Desire Z. Combined, the two displays give the user an effective 4.7-inch screen. Each is a 3.5-inch LCD in WVGA resolution.
Representatives from Sprint went over a few different ways you’ll be able to interact with the Echo and its two screens. In what is being called “Simul-Task Mode”, you can run separate apps on each screen, letting you look something up in a web browser while writing about it in an email, for instance. Apps can be designed that are specifically aware of the Echo’s layout, optimizing on-screen components to fit perfectly on the two screens. For viewing very large documents or websites, you can spread one app’s output across both screens, treating them as a single large display.
As if this innovative hardware wasn’t enough to get us interested in the phone, Kyocera has a few other surprises in store, like a battery charger with its own spare battery, so you can either plug in and charge the Echo like a standard phone, or swap batteries for an instant full charge.
It’s a bit surprising that Kyocera has elected to go with the QSD8650 Snapdragon chip to power the Echo, as we’d expect a system like this to scream out for a dual-core processor. The 1GHz QSD8650 is just starting to show its age, so we’ll need to take a closer look at if it has the muscle to pull off this kind of multitasking.
As should be obvious from its role hosting the event, Sprint will be the exclusive carrier of the Echo once it arrives, with a launch price of $199. The phone will ship running Android 2.2.
Check back with Pocketnow later on tonight for our hands-on coverage from the Echo launch event.