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Two smartphone screens aren’t yet better than one

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T-Mobile introduced another Android handset on Monday with a unique feature to help it stand out from the sea of Android(s goog) smartphones. The LG DoublePlay has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard that’s split by a second touchscreen. The 2-inch sub-display complements the main 3.5-inch touchscreen for what the carrier calls “simultaneous mobile activities.”

The DoublePlay will be available in time for the holiday season and few details on the specifications are available. Based on the carrier’s news release, the handset appears to be mid-range phone and not a high-end performer. A 1 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon(s qcom) powers the DoublePlay and it uses a 5 megapixel rear camera sensor with LED flash for still images and to capture 720p video. T-Mobile hasn’t yet said if the handset will support its 42 Mbps network.

Although I haven’t held or used the device yet, I’m leery of the split keyboard with extra screen for a few reasons. One of the biggest battery hogs of any mobile device is the display. In the case of the DoublePlay, that means use of the second screen could drain the phone’s battery faster than a similar phone with just one screen. Perhaps the second display can be turned off, but if not, it will be using power each time the hardware keyboard is used.

And one of the main draws for consumers who desire a physical keyboard is to improve the typing experience, so that keyboard is likely to be used quite a bit. But is the addition of a secondary display worth the much smaller keys on a physical keyboard? For some, perhaps, but I’d expect that most potential buyers would value a full-sized keyboard over a small secondary display. Android’s multitasking is more than capable for task switching, which reduces the need for a second screen. And Android poses enough fragmentation challenges for developers who have to code for different display sizes and resolutions.

Besides, smartphones with two displays have already been tried on the market; the Kyocera Echo was the most recent attempt, debuting earlier this year. Do you remember that model for Sprint(s s)? Probably not, and there’s a reason for that: two screens aren’t always better than one.

7 Responses to “Two smartphone screens aren’t yet better than one”

  1. I do agree that touch screen smartphones are not for everyone and there will always be a need for physical qwerty keyboards. The LG DoublePlay might be onto something here as I think the additional screen does serve a purpose especially if you are constantly multitasking between different applications. It could serve a real business need.

    John Illsley

  2. Andy Dietler

    Can you maybe articulate why you don’t like it? Maybe it will effect battery life, but keyboard phones are usually bigger and have bigger batteries. Your only other argument is that it’s been tried before and wasn’t successful. This is shite journalism.

    • Andy, it’s not about why I don’t like it; it’s about will a large number of consumers like it and what’s the value proposition. As noted, it has been tried before and didn’t compel many to buy. Why is that? Because it doesn’t add more value than the faster battery drain and because the use case for two displays on a smartphone isn’t something consumers are clamoring for. In essence, consumers buy a slideout QWERTY for the better typing experience. Smaller keys won’t give them that, so they’re gaining a 2-inch display that may/may not work with all existing Android apps and force them to be doing two things at once.

      Having said that, why do you think this is a good idea? I’m happy to have discussion on the topic…

      • vincentisdoinghisiphone

        its interesting to read a review of a product that has not been used by the reviewer. as far as the keys being small, the best physical keyboards ive used in the past have been palm and blackberry, both small keyboards compared to android. ive always felt the larger keys required larger movements resulting in miss hits. have you ever seen a person text on a palm/blackberry keyboard, i feel like michael johnson on them. as far as the second screen, well maybe theres other functions that you might not be thinking about. i hate having to exit a game to reply to a text or whatnot, seems you have the choice of keeping the game open and possibly putting a selected sms app . how cool is that, your playing a game, you get a text, open slider and click text app and voila. you really shouldnt judge a product that you have not personally used 1) for the the sake of the consumer and 2)for the oem that put there time and money in producing something the comsumer might really enjoy. tisk tisk boo on you.

        also i could see this as the killer teen phone. them teenz can text too fast on a physical keypad and personally i hate the physical keys, i would really like the added flexibility of the second screen. you must be an apple fan.

      • vincentisdoinghisiphone

        seems to me a bit unfair to judge a product you havent tried as of yet. i personally do not like physical keys, but if i were to, this seems to be a great choice. too many times ive been in the middle of a game and get a text and have to leave game and them proceed to my message, with this phone, seems you can leave game as is, open slider, click text app and boom. seems like a win. ive seen teens use the tmobile sidekick like a rocket, prob rival my typing on my chromebook. it would be an injustice to the consumer and for sure the oem for you to base a review on your personal impressions.

        as far as the small keyboards, probably the best physical keys are on palms and blackberrys, both rather small keypads compaired to there android counterparts. it always struck me as odd that the keypads on new phones are rather large.

  3. Totally agree with your assessment. That being said, I like the fact that OEMs are experimenting and innovating. It’s nice that you can do different things instead of just having one model with a 3.5 inch screen.