KIN One and Two reviewed – Microsoft tries to sell a feature phone as a smartphone

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Engadget have published their review of the KIN One and KIN Two, one of course it would be a bit much to expect too much positive from them, but no-one can argue that the two devices are not very limited, which unfortunately and clearly does not justify the smartphone prices Microsoft and Verizon intends to charge for them.

The KIN One will be $49.99 and the KIN Two $99.99 after a $100 mail-in rebate, and will require a standard $29.99 data plan, bringing the monthly bill up to around $70 per month. As Engadget notes:

To offer what is clearly so much less than a smartphone with a smartphone data plan is insulting to consumers, and doubly insulting considering who it looks like these phones are aimed at. If you’re going to shell out this kind of money each month, it would be foolish to even consider these devices given the much, much better options out there. Even counting out the iPhone or similar devices on other carriers (many of which are rather attractive), just take a look at the offerings on Verizon right now. You could get a Pre Plus — an immeasurably better phone with much of the social networking integration of the Kin devices — for $29 coupled with a smartphone and voice plan. Or you could spend a little more upfront and get a BlackBerry Tour 9630, Droid, Incredible, or Droid Eris — all much, much better phones with excellent social networking options. The list really goes on — and again, if you were a teenager or young adult with all of these great options laid out before you, the idea of choosing this severely limited device which doesn’t do a single thing better than even the most basic Android device is kind of crazy. Microsoft has hinted that it wants to shake up the text-centric featurephone market with Kin, but guess what? You categorically cannot even fathom to do that when you’re charging for smartphone data. It’s insulting to suggest otherwise.

So what about the handsets themselves? They note the screens, while capacitive, are plastic, and build quality is a bit iffy, with many open spaces and notches. The matte coating is however pleasant to touch. The KIN Two has a pleasantly clicky keyboard while the One is a bit mushy. 

They confirmed the Tegra CPU, specifically the Tegra APX2600, same as the ZuneHD, and 256 MB DRAM. They felt performance was not amazing, but adequate.  The display appeared cramped and washed out, but multi-touch gestures worked fine.

They were particularly unimpressed with the camera, finding the shutter button difficult to use on both devices. The super powerful LED flashes also seemed more a liability than a help, often washing out pictures even more. The HD video capture on the KIN Two was however adequate, if not stunning.

Engadget called phone sound quality and afterthought.

They found the software complex and unrewarding, and complained that music could not be shared at all. Regarding the twitter integration they note:

The Twitter implementation is a great example of that. You can add your Twitter account to the phone and see updates from people you follow, and you can update your status from the top of the Loop… but that’s all you can do. You can’t retweet something, you can’t send a direct message, you can’t go to single person’s feed to see all their updates, and you can’t even open a link in a Twitter message from the Loop! To do something as simple as look at an image someone has tweeted, you must first click on the tweet, then click "open in browser," then wait for the tweet to load on twitter.com, then finally click the link to see the image or URL. It’s a shocking omission for a phone which claims to be about nothing but social networking.

They called the browser “abysmally slow and buggy”

The Zune software fared a little better:

The only real saving grace on the software side is the Zune app, which is identical to the Zune HD interface, but allows you to download music and movies over the air (yes, even over 3G), which is almost worth the price of admission. Almost, but not quite. We had some Zune issues too, like the aforementioned lack of the Spot, the fact that it only displays in portrait mode (except searches, which then forces you to do some weird rotating back and forth), and a situation with certain albums we tried to download which were "computer only" — meaning it didn’t matter if we had a Zune Pass or not.

Battery life was good.

They conclude:

And that about sums it up — there are much better choices for much less money on the market, and Microsoft hasn’t demonstrated to us why you would choose this phone over those. You could argue that the 720p video recording is a hook, but our results weren’t that outstanding, and we don’t know anyone who needs HD video on a phone so desperately that they’re willing to overlook all of these faults. In the end, we’re left with two orphan devices — phones that feel like they should have been killed before they made it to market, but somehow slipped through. 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. The execution (or lack thereof) on these products makes us legitimately concerned about what the company will do with Windows Phone 7. We can only hope that the similarities between those devices and the Kin handsets don’t stretch much further than the "Windows Phone" label, because in our estimation, Kin is one side of the family that needs to be disowned… quickly.

Read their full review here.

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Site Admin and Windows Phone enthusiast, he has been using Windows Mobile devices since before they were called PocketPC™s. He is currently sporting a Nokia Lumia 930.