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Product Review: Sprint Kyocera Echo

The Kyocera Echo ($199.99 at Sprint after rebate and two-year contract) is an Android smartphone with a touch screen that flips open to reveal a second 3.5-inch touch screen.

It can operate at a tilt or snap flat. Loaded with Android 2.2, it’s built with a 1GHz processor and a 5 megapixel camera and with flash and autofocus. An 8GB microSD memory card is included, as well as a spare battery with portable charger that can tether to the phone as an external power supply. The Web browser supports Flash videos.

Seven core apps can work on separate screens at the same time, including e-mail, messaging, Web browsing and viewing YouTube videos through VueQue is great for a super multitasker. There are a few games available that incorporate both screens. But when not in that mode – or when using an app that wasn’t programmed specially for the Echo – the dual screens act like one larger screen.

The second screen comes in handy most often when typing: a large keyboard is on the bottom screen, allowing for more viewing space above. Overall, the performance is smooth and glitch-free. It also is quite sturdy; the dual-screen hinge gives the impression it is easily breakable, but it seems to be well made.

But the black line separating the two screens detracts from the joy of a bigger screen. And if you’re reading, that screen gap interrupts text. One could fold it back into one screen, but that takes away from the point of getting this phone.

Having two screens means it’s tempting to always have both on – and two screens drain the battery faster. (That’s why the Echo includes an extra battery and charger.)

Bottom line: Dual screens have a big wow factor – and it’s a neat tool for multitasking work e-mail with the Web on another screen. But it’s not going to be a good fit for every personality – especially since it needs more frequent charging.

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