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.
Where it 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. Beyond blah, actually, because the interface is where this phone could have at least redeemed itself. Two screens! Two screens! It’s probably an inherently dubious design move, and yes, it would (and will) ravage your battery life, but having two screens could have been something at least interesting. Instead, 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. 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.
While I’ll admit that Google Maps spread across two screens highly attractive (and nice to use!), 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. Not enough to justify the double vision. 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 1Ghz Snapdragon processor. Same old 5MP camera. Same old 720p video recording. No 4G support. If Kyocera wanted to make the Echo anything special, it should have made the phone act as crazy as it looks – a dual-core, 4G, game-thumping, media-churning beast. But instead 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.