Sprint Nextel Corp plans to sell a Kyocera Corp <6971.T> phone with two screens and Google Inc operating software, as a way to stand out in a crowded U.S. smartphone field where Apple Inc gets much of the consumer attention.
Japan's Kyocera and Sprint Nextel, the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider, said the phone, which they showed off at a New York event on Monday evening, would be available this Spring to Sprint customers who sign up for a 2-year contract.
The event, kicked off by magician David Blaine, comes days before Verizon Wireless kicks off sales of Apple's iPhone, which is expected to draw huge interest by ending AT&T Inc's three-year U.S. monopoly of the popular device.
The phone, to be called the Echo, is expected to mark a big step up from Kyocera's most recent U.S. offerings, which were typically more basic devices.
Along with Google's increasingly widely adopted Android software, Echo will feature two 3.5-inch screens hinged together that can be used in tandem for different things, such as viewing the Internet and videos.
Sprint said the phone was designed to improve the screen size available for using one application such as email, but also support a different app on each screen at the same time.
Fared Adib, Sprint vice president for product development, said the device was designed for the roughly 70 percent of people who like two forms of entertainment at the same time such as surfing the web while watching television.
What we really wanted to do was bring something in the market that was pocketable and portable, but gave you the extra screen real estate, Adib said.
CCS Insight analyst John Jackson said that, since many phones have taken on a shape similar to the iPhone, phone makers are looking for ways to distinguish themselves.
Another avenue they have pursued is tablet computers, a market where Samsung Electronics Co Ltd <005930.KS> and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc have been following Apple's iPad lead.
The next new thing for this year may be dual-screen devices, Jackson said.
Most vendors are working on dual screen phones. It's similar to the tablet in that it's a speculative market, but it makes sense to experiment, Jackson said.
Sprint shares were up 2 cents, or 0.45 percent, at $4.42 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Bloomberg first reported the imminent launch of the Kyocera phone earlier on Monday.
(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Andre Grenon)