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Network World - While Sprint's new dual-screen Kyocera Echo smartphone is an industry first, its debut is being met with some skepticism.
Sprint is selling the Echo as a sort of hybrid between a smartphone and a tablet, as the device has an innovative hinge design that allows it to open up to display two separate touchscreens. This will let users multitask more easily than on regular smartphones, Sprint contends, as you'll be able to use one screen for Web surfing and video watching and another screen for e-mail and text messaging. You also have the option of putting the device into "tablet mode" and have one app spread across both screens.
While this is all very cool, the unique design of the device has forced some design compromises that could hinder the device from becoming a hit like Sprint's popular HTC EVO 4G device that debuted last year. In the first place, the device doesn't take advantage of Sprint's high-speed WiMAX network, which was the EVO's initial claim to fame. Instead, the device will run on Sprint's 3G CDMA-based EV-DO Rev. A network.
Sprint spokesperson Stephanie Greenwood says Sprint wanted to get the Echo out to the market quickly and integrating WiMAX connectivity into the device would have meant the company would have had to wait significantly longer to release the device.
"The product development for such a groundbreaking device is understandably greater," Greenwood says. "We are confident that 3G speeds will be sufficient for the ways in which Echo will most likely be used."
Another potential pitfall for the device is its battery life, as the device's two screens are sure to suck up energy at a rapid clip. The device's battery life is apparently such a concern that Sprint is actually shipping a free extra battery with the Echo that will let users replace the used-up phone battery with a fresh new one without losing connectivity. As PC Magazine's Lance Ulanoff notes, the battery power used on the Echo makes it unlikely that Sprint will ever release a WiMAX-enabled version of the device since "a 4G model would last for just a few hours." Ulanoff concludes in his initial review that the Echo is a clever experiment that is unlikely to reshape the smartphone market as past devices have.