Dual-screen smartphones gone wrong (roundup)

LG's new V10 shows some second-screen restraint compared to the epic clunkers that came before.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The LG V10 is an Android phone with two screens. Barely.

About 2 inches wide and a few centimeters tall, this short strip of display all but blends into the phone's bezel. Still, the mini extension of your home screen counts enough to make it into this collection of dual-screen disasters. It's too early to know if the V10's diminutive display escapes the curse suffered by others of its kind, or if it, too, blazes out in its own ambition.

We've been documenting these, er, inventive dual-screen designs since 2010, when the idea of increasing screen real estate meant doubling the screens, not the phone's size. Back then, pocket fit was a premium and bigger phones weren't presumed better. Check out all the ways phone-makers have doubled your display.

Note: This story originally published November 29, 2011 and was updated most recently on October 2, 2015.

Samsung Continuum
The Samsung Continuum had a true ticker display. CNET

Samsung Continuum

Samsung took its flagship Galaxy smartphone that year one step further. The Continuum includes a tiny ticker screen across which marched RSS updates, weather and social-networking status updates. Customization was limited, typing a bit more cramped, and the constant flow of information overwhelming. While we came to appreciate the second screen, it never really caught on. Read CNET's full review.

Kyocera Echo
Kyocera's Echo unhinged like a book. A really crazy book. Josh Miller/CNET

Kyocera Echo

The idea of unfolding a dual-screen smartphone into tablet mode was lofty, and certainly unique. We actually liked some of the Echo's capabilities -- like turning the bottom 3.5-inch screen into a virtual keyboard while the top screen acted as a browser, or locking both screens together to summon a 4.7-inch map. However, the handset was bulky, the seam distracting, the learning process more complicated than usual. With otherwise unremarkable features, the Echo sold poorly, and was killed off in September 2011. Read CNET's full review.

LG DoublePlay
LG's DoublePlay doubled down on screens. Josh Miller/CNET

LG DoublePlay

A screen nestled within a keyboard? Get out! The DoublePlay wedged a tiny, low-resolution 2-inch touch display in the center of its split keyboard. It alternately showed icons you could press to quickly switch apps, or complementary features that let you do things like typing a message while reading your email on the main display. You can see the problems already: the secondary screen bifurcated the keyboard into distal lobes; it was too small to be truly useful, and too large to avoid distraction. In the end, we never quite found our stride. The DoublePlay's disappointing battery life further sank its appeal. Read CNET's full review.

Samsung DoubleTime
The more screens the better, right? Not so for the wacky Samsung DoubleTime. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung DoubleTime

One of the most successful applications of the dual-screen set, this phone had a second 3.5-inch screen on the inside. There were no tricks to learn or secondary functions; it was just another screen you accessed by opening the phone like a book. Still, the added screen-and-keyboard combo thickened the phone, and left us wondering why, other than as an expression of individuality, we would even need the inner display. Wouldn't the phone work just as well as a traditional slider? The $50 on-contract price was right, but Android 2.2 Froyo left us cold, when almost all other new Android phones of the day ran the newer Gingerbread-flavored version of Google's mobile software. Read CNET's full review.

Remember the YotaPhone? Both it and the YotaPhone 2 slapped a low-power e-ink display on the back. Andrew Hoyle/CNET

YotaPhone and YotaPhone 2

In 2013, Russian manufacturer Yota proudly showcased the first handset to use a power-saving e-ink display on the back side of the typical LCD running Android. YotaPhone intrigued us with its bold design. Would this be the smartphone to break the dual-screen curse? Alas, no. The YotaPhone still had its interesting, potentially useful concept, but some design and use issues with that second screen ultimately keep it in the realm of likable oddball. The same stood for the improved, but still unconvincing YotaPhone 2 of 2014.

The Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is the latest to angle its side display. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Edge family

It started with the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge, a curvy-sided extra-large phone that envisioned its single rounded side as a second screen complete with its own shortcuts and vertical scrolling information ticker. Next came the S6 Edge, the dual-curved version of the S6 flagship, which all but scrapped the original Edge screen design and came up with a new set of rules. Months later, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ was back to its 5.7-inch size with a set of tools that built up the S6 Edge's -- namely, you can add shortcuts for favorite people and apps, see alerts, and turn on night mode. There's also a funky calling feature where the edge of the overturned screen lights up when one of your favorites calls. Read CNET's full review.

LG's V10's second screen is almost indecipherable from the main display. Dan Graziano/CNET

LG V10

And now we've come full circle, with LG once again battling arch-rival Samsung on an even smaller, more tucked-away design. What did we think of the V10's always-there shortcuts bar? Read CNET's hands-on impressions here.

Featured Video
This content is rated TV-MA, and is for viewers 18 years or older. Are you of age?
Sorry, you are not old enough to view this content.

Top 5 Surprise Tech Hits

Sometimes a product may seem like a crazy idea, but it goes on to far exceed expectations. These are the most surprising tech successes.

by Iyaz Akhtar