One sub-niche of tablets that seems to get much attention those days is the one covered by dual-screen devices like the Entourage Edge last year, the Kno and Sony S2 this year. Why I say this micro niche is catching momentum is because Imerj just presented their Smartpad prototype, essentially a dual 4 inch Android smartphone running 2.3 Gingerbread with a few customizations added on top of the default UI to make apps take advantage of the additional display.

    If you want to superficially characterize the Imerj SmartPad you can say it’s made from two 4 inch Android smartphones glued together, but it’s actually more than that, featuring a larger battery (1750 mAh) and a very thin bezel that separates the two 800 x 480 pixels AMOLED screens, so it makes good use of the additional volume. The device is ~14 mm thick, more like a last year’s tablet than a 2011 smartphone. The hardware inside the bulky Imerj prototype is pretty solid by today’s standards: dual-core TI OMAP processor, 1 GB RAM and storage from 32 to 128 GB (that’s a first) plus a microSD slot for further expansion.

    A single 5-megapixel camera is used for still photos, HD video recording and conferencing. As 3G data is concerned, the Imerj Smartpad only supports AT&T for now, but depending on the success of this gadget we might see versions for the other major networks.

    Imer's screens were built as close as possible to each other

    Imer's screens were built as close as possible to each other

    Now the software customizations, the most important part of a dual screen device: current apps can be made full screen on the two four screen displays with a minor tweak, says Imerj, but this also means current apps won’t be able to use the second screen until they’re updates by developers. In the list of installed apps there’s a symbol on the top right corner of each icon that accompanies the ones compatible with the prototype. Modified full screen apps can be used on just one screen too, if desired. You can put two apps side by side and work with either of them. Gestures on the top of the bezel, Playbook style, allow you to move apps from one screen to another, make them full screen or switch their position.

    For now the dual screen Imerj Smartpad uses Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and there’s no info about whether it will get Honeycomb or not. We also don’t know when it will arrive to market and at which price, but given the pretty solid beta software it was running I’d say there’s a chance to see SmartPad in stores before Christmas. I have to say I’m looking forward test a dual screen device like the SmartPad, as it seems to offer the same portability as a smartphone with the added functionality of a larger screen tablet. Only time will tell if dual screen devices with get enough impulse to reach significant sales figures.

    Here’s a hands on preview with the prototype from Engadget: