With the abject failure of the Sprint exclusive Kyocera Echo and Sony Tablet P, it stands to reason that the dual-screen Android smartphone/tablet hybrid is one form factor that the marketplace simply does not want.
Unfortunately, someone at NTT DoCoMo forgot to pay attention to the past failures by Sony and Kyocera, as it plans to release its own dual-screen Android device with the help of NEC-Casio soon in Japan, according to Japanese business daily Nikkei.
The phone will feature dual 4-inch displays of as yet unknown resolution running Android Ice Cream Sandwich with each display being capable of differing functionality depending on the activity being done, and like the failed Echo and Tablet P, have the displays merged together to form a 6 inch tablet running a single application.
While I have no doubt the form factor will be a driving factor in the phone’s initial sales when it’s released, owing to the popularity of ebooks and digital comics in Japan, the fact that past attempts were stuck with low resolution displays and equally poor software does not bode well for this device, owing to the poor optimization of Android for dual displays.
Even with Ice Cream Sandwich underpinning this device, Android still has yet to be properly optimized for more than one input display, making the Echo and Tablet P exercises in frustration and what usually happens when software is pushed too close to its limits for the sake of differentiation and novelty.
NEC Casio may be pushing this as a tablet in a more convenient collapsible form factor, but until customers actually sit down and use it at length, the inherent problems with the form factor don’t immediately make themselves apparent, unless you’ve been unlucky enough to use either an Echo or Tablet P, or worse yet, willingly own either despite their many, glaring faults.
While more detailed specifications have yet to be revealed, the only way the phone is going to work effectively for the market is if NEC Casio and DoCoMo did their research and looked at both of the aforementioned failures to see what could be improved and done better for the Japanese market, such as the need for high resolution displays and a proper multi-tasking implementation for all applications to take full advantage of both displays, as the multi-tasking implementations on the Sony and Kyocera models for dual-display use left much to be desired and were quite unusable in practice.
Judging by the fact that the form factor was even considered as a worthy and viable addition to DoCoMo’s Android smartphone/tablet lineup and enough to spend considerable development time for release within the next three months, I’m going to guess that they’ve either corrected all of the mistakes and done the form factor correctly, or they’ve completely ignored past failures in an attempt to fill out the lineup. I’m hoping for the former, but something tells me the latter situation is much more likely given the state of the current market.