Tuesday, June 07, 2011

#WIRELESS: "Smarter Apps Harness Dual Touch Screens"

Multipane apps are enabling a tablet-like experience on smartphones. This is done through touch-enabled functions that are activated from one touch screen, with results displayed on the other touch screen.
Multipane smartphones allow apps that ordinarily take over the entire screen to also spread out functions across dual touch screens, creating a tabletlike experience on dual screen smartphones. Sprint started the trend when it introducing the world's first dual touch-screen smartphone, Kyocera's Echo, whose second screen slides out on a patented hinge.

Apps can use both screens over-under like a tiny laptop--using the lower screen for a virtual keyboard and the top one as the display. Recently, Sony announced a similar dual touch-screen smartphone called the S2, whose two screens also make it resemble a tiny laptop.

Software developers were already faced with rewriting their apps designed for single portrait-oriented displays to take full advantage of the landscape-orientation of tablets (for example, iPad/Galaxy Tab). Now in addition to smartphone and tablet versions, software developers are being asked to retool their apps for dual touch-screen smartphones, too.

One solution, however, makes the best of both worlds--smartphone and tablet--and is now being taken advantage of by app developers who orient the Echo's two screens side by side. So far, 30 apps have been specifically customized for Echo's dual display, mostly using the over-under orientation with the virtual keyboard on the bottom. Most gaming developers have gone with the over-under orientation, putting their specialized control surfaces on the bottom screen and the arena on the top screen.

A third choice, however, is to recreate the tablet experience on a dual-screen smartphone by spreading out the functions of a tablet over both screens. By using a side-by-side format, Metago's Astro File Manager will debut in a dual touch-screen version next month--re-creating a tablet experience on a smartphone.

"You get the best of both worlds," said Metago founder Kevin Payne. "We were already developing a tablet version of the Astro File Manager that featured a new control panel alongside our traditional directory panel, so for Kyocera's Echo we took advantage of their side-by-side screens to re-create that tabletlike mode."

Metago’s Astro File Manager is one of the most popular apps for Android, with more than 11 million downloads and counting at a rate of about 25,000 per day. Using a traditional directory view, the Astro File Manager is both an applications manager, a task manager and an SD Card manager, permitting users to browse, search and preview both text and image files. Toolbars and button-activated functions extract archives, create shortcuts, bookmark items and connect to PCs, file servers, cloud services and other mobile devices using Bluetooth and many other network protocols.

For the future, Metago plans to release a suite of related business apps designed for routine daily usage, including device management services and backup support.