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Hands-On: Kyocera Echo

Article Comments  86  

Feb 7, 2011, 6:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Our hands-on impressions of the innovative new Kyocera Echo Android smartphone for Sprint. See what dual screens can do for you.

We just had some hands-on time with the Kyocera Echo for Sprint, one of the most unique Android phones we've ever seen. With two full-size (3.5-inch) screens, this phone transforms into a small Android tablet when fully open, or you can tilt one screen up like a tiny laptop (or like an HTC Tilt, or a Nokia Communicator.) Behind the fancy new screens lie a 1 GHz processor and 5-megapixel camera with HD video capture, while data is 3G (EVDO Rev. A). In other words, this isn't the ultimate top-end super-phone. With that said, the specs are respectable enough for all but the most demanding power users.


The Echo has a plastic body with sharp corners, and it feels about how you'd expect from that description. The build quality feels about average; not rock-solid, but not about to fall apart. The side buttons are kind of square and sharp; that doesn't make them comfortable, but you'll have no trouble finding and pressing them. The overall weight is average for the size. The size is thicker than most 3G smartphones, but then again most of those phones don't have dual screens. It's actually similar in thickness to a 4G phone like the Epic. It will fit in a pocket, although the sharp corners will probably wear a hole in your jeans after a few months.

Echo Body  

The big hardware question, of course, is the hinge. The screen that flips is supported on two tiny arms, one on each end. There's nothing else connecting the two halves. It looks incredibly fragile, and even feels like it would be fragile when flipping it. I doubt there's any way to build a device with a lightweight slab supported on two tiny arms that doesn't feel fragile. However, in playing with it, it doesn't feel like it will fall apart. The arms are made of a cast metal alloy (like Liquidmetal) that does, in fact, feel quite strong and rigid. You'll want to handle it with care, but it feels like it could last if you do.

Holding it in landscape orientation with both hands and giving the screen a nudge with your thumb, the screen flips up on springs to the tilted position. The spring action is good; it doesn't take too much force, but doesn't flop around too much, either. Putting it in the flat / tablet position takes a bit more effort, as you need to grab each half with one hand, bend the whole thing flat, then push the halves together to lock it in that position. With practice, you can go from closed to flat quickly and without fiddling, but it is a full two-handed, three-step maneuver. Closing it - from either position - is also a full two-handed trick requiring some dexterity. To be blunt, it's cumbersome to manipulate. With that said, the flexibility of two screens in various positions is pretty great, and we're not sure there's a better way to design a hinge this flexible. That it's cumbersome to manipulate may simply be the trade-off for such a powerful form factor.

The screens are average quality for Android. They looked nice enough in our very limited testing. Putting the device flat into tablet position forms a surface with very little gap between the two displays, allowing them to work as one large display. We'd like to see even less of a gap, but it's not horrible. It's bothersome more in some applications than others. I wouldn't recommend an e-reader app in that mode, where it breaks up the text in a distracting way, but it wasn't bothersome at all in Google Maps, for example.


The base software is Android 2.2. Everything will look very familiar in that the interface is stock Android with no skin or extensive custom widgets. Kyocera has, however, added dual-screen support in key places.

When it's closed, everything is plain Android with one screen. When open, it defaults to joining the two screens as one big screen.

Echo UI  

However, there are seven key apps that Kyocera has optimized to work differently with the dual screens. For example, in Mail, you start with a list of emails, as usual. But opening an email opens it on one screen, while the list stays open on the other screen. Similarly, in the Gallery, you get a list of photos on one screen and a full view of one photo on the other screen (photos would look weird split across two screens anyway.) Kyocera will offer an API to third-party developers to harness dual screens. A special version of The Sims is included optimized for dual screens.

The browser goes a step further, letting you open up two different web pages at the same time, one on each screen. Want to browse Facebook and Twitter at the same time? Now you can! This feature alone will sell quite a few Echos, I imagine.

Taking things yet one step further, with the seven optimized apps, you can have two apps open at the same time; one on one screen and one on the other. That's downright ground-breaking. Talk about multi-tasking! Unfortunately, it's limited to just the seven optimized apps. Kyocera insists there are major technical reasons this is the case; standard apps aren't designed to work next to another app, and there are potential performance issues, too, since this is a step beyond multi-tasking (which can already tax the processor with certain apps.)

A special task-switcher manages the dual-app function. To bring it up, touch both screens at the same time (multi-screen multi-touch; neat!) All seven apps are presented on each display. Touch the one you want to run on that display, or touch the big circle in the middle to swap screens. It's a pretty decent interface for this unique feature.

The battery charger also warrants special mention.*

Echo Battery Charger  

The battery is only 1370 mAh. That's somewhat small compared to many 1 GHz smartphones today, and those phones don't have two screens, which can be expected to drain the battery faster than one screen. Kyocera insists that battery life does well in testing. With that said, they are doing some unusual things to address a battery problem they say doesn't exist. First they are including two batteries. That's unusual, but not unheard of.

More interesting is the included charger. Unlike most phones that only charge the battery while in the phone, the Echo includes a separate charger for charging one battery while using the other. Going a step further, the charge also has a "reverse" mode where you connect the charger (with battery) directly to the phone, so it acts as an auxiliary battery. All of this is included in the box. To us, that smells like the Echo has a battery problem and the charger is a band-aid solution. But we won't know for sure until we get our hands on one long enough to run tests for a full review.

It's been a long time since we've seen a true Kyocera in Sprint's lineup, and long time since they've had an innovative smartphone. True industry veterans will remember the Kyocera 7135, a clamshell Palm OS smartphone that was fairly ground-breaking in its day. With the Echo, Kyocera is back at it, making serious smartphones in innovative form factors. We hope this is just the first in series of phones with this form factor that's not only nifty, but seems genuinely useful.

* Battery section added at 8:10pm.

About the author, Rich Brome:

Editor in Chief Rich became fascinated with cell phones in 1999, creating mobile web sites for phones with tiny black-and-white displays and obsessing over new phone models. Realizing a need for better info about phones, he started Phone Scoop in 2001, and has been helming the site ever since. Rich has spent two decades researching and covering every detail of the phone industry, traveling the world to tour factories, interview CEOs, and get every last spec and photo Phone Scoop readers have come to expect. As an industry veteran, Rich is a respected voice on phone technology of the past, present, and future.



This forum is closed.

This forum is closed.

Philip Berne

Feb 7, 2011, 8:55 PM


I think it's an interesting device. I don't care it's a Kyocera. Sure, they build mostly low-end phones, but so does GM, though every once in a while they put out a new Corvette.

I wouldn't fault Sprint for having an event for this phone, either. I heard some other journalists (okay, just Peter Ha from The Daily) complaining that they didn't want to go because the news was leaked in the WSJ. But this is definitely a phone you'd have to see and hold in your hands to cover properly.

The key is the number of apps that support the feature. They don't need many, just the most important few that people will want to run simultaneously. The SDK is a throw-away. They will not sell enough phones to make the SDK enticing to developers. But as l...
Thank you. Everyone seems to be up in arms because the announcement wasn't what *they* wanted it to be. They're letting their disappointment that it wasn't an iphone (or something equally pointless to hold an event of this magnitude) color their judgm...
I think the problem for Sprint is two fold.

1.) Longevity

This device will serve a very small mobile user segment in my opinion. Dual screens sounds cool but for now its merely a feature. I think customer have spoken already that they don't ...
It is not often that the reporters or moderators of Phone Scoop start their own thread. This says alot. I can only guess that this device was truly a pleasant surprise for you. The current reviews seem to mimic your opinion as well.

I can't help bu...
Exactly and after watching some videos of the phone in action it looks pretty sick and has a cool concept. Haters are gone hate. We will have to see more hands on before we consider this a fail. 🙂

Feb 9, 2011, 8:56 PM


Everyone is hating so hard on Kyocera. I know that they are not known for high end phones, but I have had 3 different Kyocera phones and 2 Sanyos and they have all lasted through the drops, bumps, scrapes, and everything else that I have put them through. How many of the people on here dissing them have actually had one of their phones, or are just going off the fact that they knew someone whose cousin's best friend's ex-girlfriend's mother had one and didn't like it?

Feb 8, 2011, 11:54 AM

Sprint haters...

Damn, every single one of the Sprint haters showed up for this article.

I'm 100% certain that if this phone would have been released by Verizon or even ATT, the same people who say the phone sux(with out ever having done more than see a picture of it) would be busting out the knee pads for a long tasty gulp of the gooey goodness that VZW and ATT would gladly dump in your hungry little nuthugging mouths. 🙂

Wow.... ATT and VZW DID NOT release a dual screen phone FIRST???!?! Quick release the hate trolls!!!
i think it was more about sprint hyping up this announcement that was supposed to be such a big deal, and its a different concept, but as much as sprint touts "its" 4g network, why would they release such a flagship device for their 3g network? if thi...
I love Sprint. I *Bleeping* HATE Kyocera. As I have previously stated had this been manufactured by anyone else (even Motorola) I would have let it slide. But for Sprint to make a big deal about a *Bleeping* Kyocera and have me licking my chops pon...
pay attention cametrolling, nobody's hatin on your beloved sprint. people are hating on kyocera more than anything, but I feel that's pretty justified considering their track record. sprint is definitely taking a gamble with this, we can all agree on ...

Feb 7, 2011, 8:17 PM


ok so i know this is a shot in the dark but...

if it has a tablet mode could it get 3.0 honeycomb?

or could it be possible that if it can't get it from google can it be rooted? Hmmmmmm...?
I am pretty sure XDA will have a root to 3.0 real soon after launch.

Feb 8, 2011, 6:31 PM

A lot of hate--

--from folks who come to this site because they're supposedly 'phone geeks'.

I think the Echo is innovative & interesting.
I agree. And isn't this what it was all about to begin with?

John B.
muchdrama said:
--from folks who come to this site because they're supposedly 'phone geeks'.

I think the Echo is innovative & interesting.

It is interesting and innovating...
It's the first of it's kind...
yeah kyocera made another sideway flip phone!!!

for me i think they tried to make a phone w/c is like a tablet but more portable??
Exactly! Wtf are people looking for another iphone wannabe? Ppl complain about how all of Htc high end phone look the same and have the same form factor as every other candybar android phone. Finally someone comes along with a new design and ppl wanna...
I'm not a phone geek. I come here because I'm bored and I sold phones for a decade. Its basically habit.

Feb 8, 2011, 10:07 PM

Where the puck where all these haters

When the continuum dropped on verizon. That phone should have had video chat but verizon decided to put another screen on it instead. Or the motorola backflip from att. Good fobid att or verizon would have drop this cool a$$ phone fanboys and girls would be all over it.
Were those phones given the hype this one was? I know AT&T didn't hype the Backflip. They barely mentioned Android back then until it became apparent they were going to lose iphone exclusivity. I know for a fact Jay bashed the thing though. I have...

Feb 7, 2011, 7:05 PM

No wonder Sprint loses customers....

Unbelievable and no WiMAX either??? Are you f**king kidding me???? They got David Blane to come out for this?? FAIL.
Umm, who the fk is David Blane?
Sprint's position was to announce an "Industry First". Not announce a "Flagship Phone".

I think we should agree that they delivered on that promise.

John B.

Feb 8, 2011, 5:31 PM

FORGET this stupid phone....

...but did david blaine levitate?!?

Feb 7, 2011, 9:37 PM

innovative phone

i think this phone will be great specially if your more on using your for entertainment and multi-tasking!

BTW this one looks like nintendo DS 😁 just like SE's new experia that looks PSP GO
this spring...

Feb 8, 2011, 11:30 AM

If Apple made this?

If Apple made this phone you haters would be all over it.
not at all, i loathe apple, their products, their services and steve jobs
They wouldn't make this!

Feb 8, 2011, 8:53 AM

Ultimate Fail

I'm sorry, but Sprint has just announced garbage. This is what they announced a Press Event for? C'mon! lol. A form factor that not too many people will care about, from a manufacturer name Kyocera? LOL!!!! It's not even 4G, when they've ha 4G phones since last year. VZW announces the Motorola Bionic, THunderbolt, Xoom, and Iphone 4. AT&T announces the Motorola Atrix, but this is what Sprint tries to hype up? They should be slapped in the face for this. 🤣

Feb 7, 2011, 11:19 PM


I am amused that nearly everyone begins their statement with something to the effect of, "Sure it's a Kyocera, but let's give it a chance..."

Reputation should stand for something. If every time you build a piece of hardware it fails then we as consumers should have the right to glance at a new product you release with a critical eye.
Or not glance at a new product much. I moved on, and am now using an LG Ally. I like the physical buttons conpared to the touch capacitive ones.
TechWorld Observer

Feb 7, 2011, 6:57 PM

...not really what's the real annoucement?

👀 Yes we know Sprint owns Virgin Mobile and the want to bring a pretty good line of phone for their prepaid service, so this device makes a great addition to their service, but this evening's event is Sprint's event... so really what's the Sprint announcement worth paying $10 premium data for? you know... 4G Windows Phone 7? 4G iPhone? etc. what would it be???
You got me good 🤣 on this one for a second! but really what's the "impossible" "industry first" announcement? ...I won't tell anyone! 👀
This can't be it. IT CAN'T BE! 😢

No Wi-Max iphone? No bad-assed Blackberry? No Windows Phone Seven? A Kyocera? A *Bleeping* Kyocera???

Get a rope!

Feb 7, 2011, 6:54 PM

Color me unimpressed

Yeah sprint just got a NINTENDO DS oh wait it's a cell phone that is not even equal to the evo or the epic. Damn sprint this is horrible news. I mean verizon iPhone, Motorola Atrix, and sprint releases this crap.
Im with you on this one, freakin LAME kyocera...... REALLY?!
🤣 🤣 🤣 !!!!
Hitur Petar

Feb 7, 2011, 9:23 PM


PC Magazine gives this phone props in their hands on review. Kind of interesting to think that this might be the first of many similar phones to come. Dev Apps could really make this thing a work horse if other 2 dual screen phones come out. This review says EA Sports is already on board to develop for the Echo. Here's the review

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2379623,00.asp »
Hitur Petar

Feb 7, 2011, 6:56 PM

Some real possibilities here

Some of the shots of how the 2 screens can be used are pretty cool. Like when the keyboard is on the bottom and still a full screen on the top. And when its side by side and has all the app icons at once. Also the way they showed youtube and the way the photo thumbnails are on the bottom with the full photo on the top.

I could see myself using this and getting very accustomed to it and not wanting to ever go back. It's like at work when I first had 3 monitors, now using one is so tedious. I say more is better, so I hope Kyocera puts together a quality product that functions well and isn't buggy.
So now I can watch two porn flicks on one cell phone?

Feb 7, 2011, 6:41 PM

so thats it?

did sprint announce any thing else or is that it? its an interesting concept, but I'm not sure how it would hold up, it seems like with phones, the less moving parts the lower the risk for breakage. hope it was worth bringing in a magician.

Feb 7, 2011, 6:41 PM


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