Kyocera might not be the first brand that comes to mind where smartphones are concerned, but it sure does not mean that they are non-contenders in this particular market either. And with its newly released toy ready to shake things up in the smartphone arena, it seems like the Japanese OEM might just be able to succeed where Microsoft's Courier project had failed. Anyone fancy totting a dual-screen, Android-powered device for a mobile phone?
Smartphone OEMs have always been quick to boast about having plans to 'produce' devices that will be so fully-featured, it is capable of doing just about everything you need while on the move. Okay, make that 'almost everything': after all, for all its capabilities, it still does not possess the key feature most people want: allowing users to break into the fabric of space-time continuum and reaching into their smartphones to strangle the annoying telemarketer on the line into a bloody mess of flesh and bones. Eww.
Macabre jokes aside, the fact remains that while the smartphone is fast taking over the netbook as the mobile Internet device of choice, its tiny display means that users are not able to fully enjoy the benefits of multitasking on a smartphone. Of course, nobody expects a smartphone to feature multiple floating windows like what today's conventional OSes can offer, but the ability to work with at least two different apps concurrently will definitely be a major boost for mobile productivity. And it appears that US consumers will get first dibs on such a device, thanks to the introduction of Kyocera's new smartphone, the Echo.
According to Kyocera's product page, the Echo is the company's latest attempt to revolutionize the smartphone. By shoving an extra display into a device such as a smartphone, Kyocera claims that both the Echo's displays are connected via a special hinge which allows them to exist either as a single large display (like a slate PC) or as independent displays. And of course, we all know what this means for productivity and entertainment; single-screen mode will definitely be an asset for those who believe in straining their eyes to watch movies on a mobile Internet device, while busy professionals will probably appreciate being able to tweet about their ungrateful boss on one screen while pretending to look busy by having Gmail open on the other.
Of course, not all apps available for the Android ecosystem will be compatible with Kyocera's smartphone. According to the company, apps that can take advantage of the dual displays have to be specially cooked for the device, and that the Echo will only sport seven such apps in its initial launch.
That being said, it was a little disappointing to find out that Kyocera is opting to go with the relatively old Froyo build of the Android operating system as opposed to the more recent Gingerbread. And the same can be said about Kyocera's choice of hardware for the Echo. While it will feature a five-megapixel camera capable of recording 720p videos, the 1GHz Snapdragon used to power the smartphone is already starting to show signs of age, especially at a time where other OEMs are turning to NVIDIA's dual core Tegra 2 and 3D-capable Tegra 2 3D platforms to provide superior processing power. On top of that, Kyocera's choice to not include details such as the amount of onboard flash storage and memory suggests that the Echo users might need to do all their data storage on external MicroSD cards.
Last but not least, remember our little line about the US getting first dibs on a dual-display smartphone? That's right; the Kyocera Echo is currently headed for Sprint as this story is being written, and this should probably be the clearest of signs that Singapore is not about to get the Echo anytime soon, if at all.
And if you are wondering why that is the case, the answer could not be simpler: Sprint is a CDMA network. Which, needless to say, is completely incompatible with our local GSM networks here. So you can save that piggy bank of yours this time by not bothering (or thinking) about importing it over. But just so that we make it clear, the Echo can be only be purchased from Sprint for the price of US$199.99, and that is after signing up for a mandatory two-year contract.