Sprint (S) is launching the Echo, a dual-screen handset made by Kyocera. The product will have two 3.5-inch touchscreens, run on Google's (GOOG) Android operating system, and cost $199.99.
In its press release Sprint said, "The easy-to-use device offers four modes of interaction:
Single-Screen Mode with all the functionality of a single-display touchscreen smart phone;
Simul-Task Mode with two of the phone's seven core apps running concurrently but independently on the device's dual displays;
Optimized Mode with both displays supporting a single, optimized app with complementary functionality and enhanced usability;
Tablet Mode with one application spread across both screens for a full 4.7-inch viewing area.
Those are a lot of features in one smart phone. Do consumers really want something so complex? Sprint has a huge disadvantage in the marketplace because it does not have the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, which is now available though its two larger rivals -- AT&T (T) and Verizon Wireless (VZ). Demand for the iPhone is so great that Verizon Wireless had to cut off pre-orders of the smart phone online just one day after it went on sale. And customers are expected to start lining up when the Verizon iPhone hits stores later this week.
There are rumors that Apple will introduce a new version of the iPhone 4 later in the year, which could touch off another frenzy of demand for Apple's market-leading handset.
Sprint is left with a strategy that puts it in a hole. It must try to market products that consumers will like as much as the iPhone. The market is skeptical. The company's share price has suffered, and it has lost customers most quarters over the last two years. That process will probably not reverse itself -- even with the launch of products like the Echo.
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