Sprint chokes on opportunity to raise the smartphone bar with Kyocera Echo

Summary:Sprint had the opportunity to wow a New York audience with news of an amazing new smartphone that could potentially make millions (OK, maybe thousands) of people forget that Verizon's iPhone will hit retail shelves in a few short days.But that didn't happen yesterday.

Sprint had the opportunity to wow a New York audience with news of an amazing new smartphone that could potentially make millions (OK, maybe thousands) of people forget that Verizon's iPhone will hit retail shelves in a few short days.

But that didn't happen yesterday.

Credit: CNET

Credit: CNET

Instead, Sprint came across as, well, desperate. The company pumped up a special event to announce the new Kyocera Echo smartphone, an Android-powered, dual-touchscreen device that brings a new buzzword - simultasking - to the smartphone stage.

But even a special appearance by magician David Blaine - who opened the event with some underwater illusions - wasn't enough to distract anyone from what this device won't have.

For starters, the device is a 3G phone - which is pretty much a poison pill that will ensure that the device is dead on arrival. After all, the HTC Evo, which is still the most touted phone in Sprint's portfolio, is running 4G. Why would anyone drop $200 on a device and, more importantly, commit to another two years of 3G, when 4G is rolling out now.

Second, there's no front-facing camera, which is a big deal if you're comparing it to the iPhone or latest 4G Android devices. How are you supposed to have video conversations on one of those two screens if you don't have a front-facing camera?

Finally, the device comes with an extra battery and a special charger, which means - of course - that the primary battery leaves a lot to be desired.

For more details, see CNET's live blog coverage of the event and review

So, in a nutshell, you're looking at a battery-sucking, 3G Android device with no front-facing camera that isn't even out yet and won't be until some time in the Spring. Is that changing the minds of anyone who was thinking of switching to Verizon to pick up an iPhone that can actually make - and hold - a phone call? I doubt it.

It's unfortunate that Sprint chose to hold a splashy event and drop all that cash on a New York City venue and an appearance by David Blaine when, in all honesty, this phone is a dud.

Sprint has a chance to really elevate itself with its unlimited everything plans, differentiating itself from the others who are struggling with how to maintain control over the amount of data that customers are using.

But Sprint and Kyocera blew it on this one. The Kyocera Echo is offering something interesting and unique with its dual touchscreen device - but unfortunately, that's the only thing that raises the bar on this device.

Also see:

Topics: Telcos, Hardware, Mobility, Smartphones, Wi-Fi

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