Kyocera's Double-Headed Echo Phone Is Mutant Without the Super

The Kyocera Echo is the strangest phone I've ever seen. Inside, it's just mundane—but on the outside, it's a batshit bizarre, morphing, dual screen stab at DS form with iPad function. It fails at both. It's freakishly bad.

The Echo could have been something spectacular. With a form so over the top, it's begging for equally radical function. If Kyocera wanted to make the it anything special, it should have made the phone act as crazy as it looks—a dual-core, 4G, game-thumping, media-churning beast. The dual screens should have been wonderful, taking all the pain out of multitasking. No more swiping between apps. No more choosing at all. Send an email about the weather while you check the weather. Shit-talk your friends while you beat them in a game. Play two turns of the same game at once! Record video of the dish you're cooking while you read from a recipe app!

Crazy things! And non-crazy things. Creative use of two screens could have lead to interfaces unlike any we've seen on smartphones before—immaculately organized, and oozing with information. But there's nothing on those screens but potential. Crazy potential! Why can't I use one of the windows as a dedicated touch keyboard unless it's flipped into the stupidly goofy miniature laptop mode? And why, why didn't they push gaming harder? An Android-powered DS killer would have been... pretty killer. But—nope. I will, however, emphatically note that Google Maps spread across two screens highly attractive (and nice to use!).

But that's about it. Where the Echo could have reveled in its strangeness, it's entirely weighed down by it. If you're adding a second full-size screen, it sure as hell better do something worthwhile. But the Echo's double head does nothing but stare back at you with bland menu boredom. Extra space for your email. More space for contacts. It's slow. It's wasteful. It's essentially two average Androids stitched together through some perverse design surgery. The Echo's attempts to make use of the second screen are mundane, without daring, and overall... blah. I'm just wondering why.

Why do I want to have a browser window and my email inbox open at the exact same time? I may have two screens, but I only have two eyes, and they can only point in one direction at once. Instead of a bigger, dual-screen mail browser, make a better mail browser. Instead of a YouTube client that allows you to queue new videos while you're already watching one, make a YouTube client that responds to swipes.

Most disappointingly, the list of apps that can be split between two screen is painfully lacking: only messaging, email, browser, phone, photo gallery, contacts, and the aforementioned YouTube client. An SDK will be available at some nebulous point in the future, opening up the double screen multitasking to new apps—an SDK that will surely see little to no use among devs. So what you're left with just isn't enough. Not enough to justify the double vision. Certainly not enough to justify the battery-ravaging cost of powering two screens at once. Not even close.

The only thing the Android 2.2 phone has going for it is two, 3.5-inch screens. Just sitting there. In its default mode, the Echo looks and feels pretty much like any other Android candybar. But it swivels open (feeling surprisingly sturdy and unlikely to disintegrate the tenth time), exposing its second screen. Once swiveled, click into place for what Kyocera is pushing as a pseudo-tablet. It's rectangular, yes, and uses electricity, but beyond this it has virtually no commonality with an actual tablet. Even when unfolded into its angry Optimus Prime mode, it's still just an Android phone with two screens. Spec-wise, it's more of the same. Same old 1 Ghz Snapdragon processor. Same old 5-megapixel camera. Same old 720p video recording. No 4G support. It's just a lab mouse with too many chromosomes.

The Echo mistakes enormity for capacity, thinking double the real estate will mean double the fun. But it's just double the… screen. It's just more glass. Multitasking—a term Kyocera and Sprint are hawking like a child who just learned a swear word for the first time is important. What's not important? Hypertasking and simultasking, two made up non-terms that Kyocera was also flinging around—easily seizing the crown for dumbest buzzwords encountered in my tenure on this planet. Making up words won't fill these screens with anything meaningful.

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