May 6, 2010
The early reviews are in for Microsoft's new KIN phones—and pundits, for the most part, aren't overly impressed with Redmond's attempt at a mobile device geared primarily toward social-networkers.
"The KIN One offers young people a different and fun social networking experience, but its lack of certain basic features and required monthly data plan will limit its appeal," declared Cnet. As for the KIN Two, Cnet said it "offers some upgrade features over the KIN One, but you can get far more for less with a number of Verizon's other smartphones." Both devices in the family—KIN One and the more feature-rich KIN Two—emphasize touch-based social networking above all else, including other features, like built-in cameras, slide out QWERTY keyboards, and voice calling, that are standard on both models. KIN One is the lite version. It's got a smaller keyboard, a 5 megapixel camera, and 4 GB of storage. KIN Two's keyboard is meant for two-handed texting, and it includes an 8 megapixel camera and 8 GB of storage. Both feature a built-in media player powered by Microsoft's Zune software. Bloggers at Gadgetell lamented the fact that both phones automatically update feeds from social networking sites only every 15 minutes. "For teens and others on the go, how is this acceptable," said the blog. The widely read tech blog Engadget was also unimpressed. "It's clear to us from conversations we've had with Microsoft that there are people at the company with good ideas about what phones should and shouldn't do, but we don't feel the KIN is representative of those ideas," said Engadget. "The execution (or lack thereof) on these products makes us legitimately concerned about what the company will do with Windows Phone 7," Engadget concluded. Not everyone hates KIN, however. The Wall Street Journal's Katherine Boehret said she liked KIN One's overall look and feel. "Though Microsoft's KIN One has some polishing to do on its camera and on its social-networking tools, it's a uniquely attractive device that's a pleasure to use. I only wish all mobile devices had worry-free backup websites like the KIN Studio," wrote Boehret. KIN phones, manufactured by Sharp, debut in the U.S. this week on Verizon Wireless. KIN One is priced at $49.99 while KIN Two is $99.99. Pricing for both is based on a two-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate. Microsoft also recommends that KIN users subscribe to a Verizon Wireless Nationwide Talk plan, which starts at $39.99 per month, and a Verizon Wireless Email and Web for smartphone plan, which starts at $29.99 per month. The phones' main interface, the KIN Loop, offers feeds and status updates from Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft's own Wonder Wall, and other Web 2.0 sites. To share an item with a group of friends, users just drag it into a small circle called the KIN Spot. Graphically, the item then disappears down the circle like Alice through the rabbit hole—and it's shared. KIN's primary emphasis on socializing means it's unlikely to appeal to professionals, who will likely wait until Microsoft rolls out Windows Phone 7 devices later this year if they want a work-savvy mobile experience based on Windows technology.
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