The Echo ships with Android 2.2 installed. In many regards the user experience is exactly what you would expect from an Android 2.2 handset. The basic Android functionality is there, as are many of the standard Android apps. You'll also get some Sprint-specific apps such as Sprint Football Live, Sprint Radio, Sprint TV & Movies, and Sprint Zone.
Kyocera has encouraged developers to create apps that take advantage of the Echo's unique form factor and dual-screen design. To that end, Kyocera provides its own web-based mini-app store of sorts that provides access to apps that take advantage of the Echo's dual screens. Some of these apps are also available through the Android Market while others are only available directly from the third party developer.
Click to enlargeThe Echo comes with the popular SWYPE keyboard. We really like SWYPE, so we're glad to see it included as the standard keyboard on the Echo.
The Echo can act as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five devices. In order to enable this feature, you'll need to pay an additional $29.99 per month beyond the standard data plan and Sprint's $10 Premium Data add-on charge for smartphones.
Definitely the most unique feature of the Echo is its ability to operate in dual-screen mode. While the phone is open, you can use the phone's displays independently with two separate applications displaying—one in each screen—or together in a tablet-style mode so you'll get a larger screen to view maps, videos, websites, documents, and more.
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As of this writing, seven of the Echo's applications (messaging, e-mail, Web browsing, phone, gallery, contacts and VueQue) can run concurrently but independently on the dual displays in a Simul-Task Mode. In other words, with these apps, you'll be able to open one app on one screen and another app on the other screen.
To use two applications at the same time, you simply open one application and then touch both screens at the same time to open the Compatible Simul-task Applications window and select the second app you want to view. If you want the apps to swap screens, touch both screens again and press the swap icon. When you're using Simul-Task Mode, the touch-sensitive buttons below the active screen will be enabled. In Simul-Task Mode, you can interact with applications in landscape or portrait mode.
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There were numerous times during the course of our review that we appreciated the ability to view two applications at the same time. For example, on one instance, we wanted to look something up on the Web while texting a friend. Being able to view both applications at the same time in this instance was quite handy and useful.
We also enjoyed using the Echo in Tablet mode, particularly while browsing the Web. Although there is a separation between screens that breaks up the view, you still get additional screen real estate which can be handy, particularly for sites that are not optimized for mobile browsers. In both single-screen and Tablet mode, you can tap the screen twice to zoom in and out within the browser.
With select apps, Kyocera also enables an Optimized Mode that offers additional functionality to some of the applications. For example, with Optimized Mode, you'll be able to compose email on one screen and use the other screen as a touchscreen keyboard. By placing the keyboard on its own separate screen, you get a larger view of your message as well as a roomier keyboard. Another example of the Optimized Mode can be seen with the VueQue app which enables you to watch a YouTube video on one display while browsing and queuing additional YouTube videos on the other.
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