Wired.com have managed to get their hands on some KIN One and KIN Two Usability Study videos, and it shows how Microsoftâ€™s aborted feature phones/ smartphones disappointed reviewed with slow and laggy touch performance.
Windows Phone 7 was of course released a bare 5 months later, and was exactly the opposite of laggy, earning a reputation of a fast and smooth operating system, not by co-incidence, but because it was an obsession of the development team.
See two more videos after the break.
There are times such as this that words cannot describe my puzzlement. It seems that PPCgeeks.com have obtained a leaked Q4 roadmap for Verizon which includes of all things, the return of the Kin Phones! This time around though, they are slated as feature phones. Engadget is confirming the return of these phones adding that the â€œKin Loopâ€ and automatic photo uploads are out and so is the Data plan requirement. I for one Iâ€™m still curios about these developments because the ‘â€Loopâ€ was an integral part of the interface and Iâ€™m not sure how appealing the phone will operate without it . Of note however on the leaked document, it mentions calendar functionality, something which was a glaring omission on the original software.
I really donâ€™t understand what Microsoftâ€™s strategy in timing if this story turns out to be true since they have just released WP7 unless, they are trying to use it to go after the low end Android devices. I have always thought that Microsoft should relaunch these phones at a later date but not yet. Next year would be better after WP7 receives its first major OS update. What do you guys think?
We had previously declared the Kin twins death about two weeks ago, but if you stepped into stores you could still see them being soldâ€¦ Not anymore. Today is the take down day of these Microsoft devices after awful sales and bad reviews (by myself included) it seems like its their time to go.
There is not much I can say about this except it was good to see this devices and what Microsoft’s money can do, but its even better to see the progress of Windows Phone 7.
I know I am not the first to say goodbye to these devices, but since I have had them for their whole short life span, I really feel I mustÂ eulogizeÂ them. The first day I received them I was overwhelmed with excitement. I mean the device was something that made rumor headlines for a long time, and I could finally play with them at home. I first saw Ms Kin One in her white cylinder. She looked very different in the way her body was made, a little something I have never seen before. She has a very small figure with a very nice little sliding action.
Okay enough weirdness. The phone was truly something I was excited for, and when I first took it out, the excitement left my face. The build quality seemed like something I would get from a Chinese knock off, except they look better. Turning the device on was a huge mystery, I could not find the power button. When I finally turned it on and set it up, I was already bored.
Playing with the device was the hardest thing I have ever had to do with a phone. The devices were so boring, and plainâ€¦ I could not bring myself to think Microsoft actually put any effort into it. Without games, apps, or a good camera the phone was totally like a dumb phone, and I call it a dumb phone because that OS has absolutely no smart phone features.
Since this is a memorial I have to say something nice about itâ€¦ I cannot think of anything. The nicest thing about the whole thing isâ€¦ I did not have to pay for it. The person that allowed me to review the device gave them to me without a second thought, asking me to do the best review I can. She knew the device has not received much public attention, so I was to review it, and add the things like â€œThe Studioâ€, and all.Â Now it has been about 40 days since I received the devices, and she is yet to ask for them back. She does not really want them back, and so she says she will get them when she gets the time.
Needless to say, this device was a major disappointment for me. I can say with a straight face and if you follow me @WMPerson, you will know I have always said â€œThis device is the worse I have ever used. I even think the Palm Pre and Pixi are way ahead, and my old Nokia N95 8GB is like the future compared to this phone.â€ Since you all know how I feel about the device I want to end by sayingâ€¦ This phone had all the potential Microsoft could have given to it. It could have been a great device, but with bad build quality, a terrible OS, and many moreâ€¦ Its life expectancy was not very long in a market of Droids and iPhones.
I am hoping Microsoft (A software company) does not waste their money on buying companyâ€™s like Sharp (A hardware company), and trying to follow the trend of Apple (A software, and hardware company), because as we see with these results equals crap products. Microsoft should focus on making great software so companies like HTC, LG, Samsung, Asus, and others can continue to use that on their great hardware, and we can all enjoy Windows Phone 7.
To end it all, I would like to say:
Rest in pieces my crap friendâ€¦ I wish I never had the displeasure to know thee.
Microsoftâ€™s KIN handsets have not exactly set the world on fire. Part of the reason is the limited functionality of the OS. It seems Microsoft is finally getting around to addressing that issue.
On Microsoftâ€™s Social forums a moderator responded officially to a complaint by saying:
Mike M. – KIN Support Moderator
Your feedback has been heard — there already is a KIN update (scheduled for mid-summer) in the works that covers many of your concerns.
Conflipper, who tends to know about these things, believes the update will add Twitter Replies, Retweet and the ability to to view more then 3 Facebook pictures.
Mid-summer should be some time towards the middle or end of next month.
Pity Microsoft could not slip in a calendar and calculator, but I guess we can ask for too much .
The Kin One and Two are two devices Microsoft made as a cut off Windows Phone 7 phones, and after using these them it seems I might not be much of a WP7 fan after all. The devices released early last month to Verizon Wireless seemed to be a promise of something new from Microsoft. Before I get too personal, let us get into the review.
The biggest hurdle the KIN One ad Two face is price, so the news that BestBuy is now discounting the social networking handsets to free from the $50 KIN One and $50 for the previously $100 KIN Two is welcome news.
Unfortunately it does not address the main bugabear, the monthly recurring contract fee, which features a mandatory $29.99 data plan.
The KIN handsets have been on sale now for more than a week, but Microsoft has as of yet not released any early sales data.
One of the selling features of Microsoftâ€™s KIN handsets, and one Microsoft feels justifies the price, is the KIN Studio, the deviceâ€™s automatic back-up service.
Pocketnow has taken a closer look at the Silverlight-powered web-based service, and found the software has hidden multi-touch features and for a web-based service is surprisingly dynamic.
The website is a good example of how Silverlight can help cross the barrier between local applications and websites, and appears to do it rather more fluidly than flash can.
The new devices from Verizon Wireless are targeted to teens, but are they truly for teens. The new device is a great new way for â€œteensâ€ to text, browse, and stay connected on Facebook, but one feature requires something teens donâ€™t have. TO be able to use the Zune integration, you are required a Credit Card, but last I checked, most teens do not have those available to them. This makes the feature a bit of a waste, because some teens will not be able to use it. While that could be seen as a bad feature, a lot of teens could simply ask their parents to let them use their cards, since they are on their parentâ€™s network.
If a teen can get a card, they can enjoy a great new way of listening to all the music you want for one low price a month. So far I have been enjoying the Zune services on my Kin One, and Two, it is a great, low cost system for me.
Well after a great whole month with the Droid Incredible, I had to let go, and now have the Kin One and Two in my hands. The device was delivered to me today with everything intact, and so far I have some positives, and a little negatives.
The devices are very small, and are also very easy to hold. It loads very fast, and allows me to log into my Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Windows Live, and Rss feed, which makes it the most connected device ever. The menu system looks great, but mostly due to the images taken from my twitter and facebook account and placed on my background.
This device has some negatives. The most notable is the really complicated, and hard to understand menu system. The device is a bit hard to navigate, and takes quite some time to get used to. The buttons are very hard to use, and it is also very easily missed and it leads you to the camera or power off.
I will do some reviews, videos, and more with the device, but as usual I like to wait a bit before I give a review. I do that because then I have a better idea of what I am talking about, and can do it with greater details. Look out for more this week.
I have now used KIN for a week. I bought my KIN One from the Microsoft Store in Mission Viejo, California. Because it had come out that same day (I was actually the first one who bought it, other than an employee), the process took a little bit of time, as they had to fix some things on my account. Overall the people there were very attentive, and although I would have liked to have applied my Verizon New Every Two discount, I was still happy to support my Microsoft Store.
My previous phone was an HTC/Verizon SMT-5800 with Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard (non-touchscreen). I liked that phone because it has both a keypad and full slide keyboard, and it has served me well, although it was already getting long in the tooth. In January, my contract ended, and my original plan, like most people, was to wait for Windows Phone 7 to come out in the fall. Indeed, I had looked at the leaked pictures of what was then called the Microsoft Pink project Turtle and Pure phones, and I thought they were the most uninteresting, and slightly ugly, phones ever. Iâ€™d also been reading about the whole Sidekick data loss fiasco, and about the disillusionment within the PMX team (feature cuts, resignations, possible sabotage, etc.), and I was of the opinion that Microsoft should have killed Pink.
At the same time, last fall I was also an early adopter of the Zune HD, picking up my pre-order the day it came out in September, and loving it since. This thing does almost everything: enough storage to put all my music, pictures, podcasts and video. Video looks superb on the device, as well on both HD and standard-def televisions. The games are fun and addictive. Overall itâ€™s a gorgeous device, small and svelte, and Iâ€™ve definitely felt the device is worth the $300 I paid for it. Its one Achilles heel, of course, is that the morons at Microsoft decided not to put Bluetooth stereo on it, when most other high-end touchscreen MP3 players out there (iPod Touch and Samsung P2) have it. What makes this omission even more nonsensical is that the device already has WiFi and FM radio; what made them stop at that and not complete the picture with Bluetooth? It is a serious head-scratcher.
Anyway, so I had both my Windows Phone and my Zune HD. It was getting to be a pain having to carry them both around, because not only did I have to carry both devices, but also their respective charging cables. It got to be a tangled-up hot mess, but I was willing to endure this until September, when Windows Phone 7 would merge both my devices into one.
What, then, made me do a 180 and get the KIN, a device I had previously hated, and which seemed ill-equipped for a power user like me? Three simple acronyms: A2DP, AVRCP and 4G. Iâ€™m serious when I say that the one flaw of the Zune HD is its lack of Bluetooth Stereo. Upon learning that the KIN devices had A2DP and AVRCP (the ability to control play/pause/skip through a Bluetooth headset), I started seriously thinking about them a little more. Furthermore, I was already slightly uncomfortable with getting a Windows Phone 7 handset this fall, knowing that LTE would come out next year and make whatever phone I got instantly obsolete. Therefore, I changed my plans and decided that KIN would be my stopgap device until next year when I could get a nice 4G Windows Phone 7 handset.
For this review I’d like to focus on things that have not been brought up in other reviews, as well as things that matter to me. At this point, I think most people are in agreement that KIN has more cons than pros. Even though Microsoft will never admit it, I think they know this, too, and hopefully they are busy fixing its flaws and itâ€™s my hope that they push out a firmware update sooner rather than later, and that we get our promised â€œmerging of the platformsâ€ (Windows Phone 7 and KIN) very soon as well, hopefully as early as this fall.
First, the social networking. This is a big selling point of the phone, so itâ€™s so bizarre that Microsoft didnâ€™t get even this right off the bat. The most serious omission is that there are no alerts about new Facebook and MySpace notifications, or Twitter mentions/DMs. This is elementary, for goodness sake! Doesnâ€™t Microsoft think you want to know the latest of what people have to say of your status/pictures/etc.? Then we have the KIN Loop, which is an area that is constantly fed with new status updates/etc. from all your social networking sites, plus your RSS feeds. Whatâ€™s missing is a way to filter so you can exclude certain people/content, and prioritize others. So much with keeping up with your â€œFriendsâ€ friends, or however Microsoft is marketing that.
Oh, and then thereâ€™s an area where you can pin your favorite contacts, but this is just a glorified speed dial list, with no easy way of even rearranging your contacts, if thatâ€™s even possible. I would have thought that this would have been a secondary KIN Loop, with status updates and news from just your favorite contacts; that would have made more sense. It also would be nice if KIN would distinguish between Facebook friends, fan pages and groups, because although you can see status updates from fan pages and groups in the Loop, you cannot see them in your contact list or in universal search.
The one last thing Iâ€™ll say about social networking is the number of times Iâ€™ve used the KIN Loop: 0 times. The number of times I plan on using it in the future? 0 times. I think other KIN owners must feel the same way. Although sharing pictures/web pages is something you do, itâ€™s certainly not something you do constantly, especially not from a phone, and certainly not enough to warrant it being a selling point for the phone. That feature just seems like an area of wasted resources.
The music experience (Zune) is also an area with some bizarre omissions and design choices. Iâ€™ve seen other reviews saying that the Zune player is the KINâ€™s saving grace; but being a day-to-day user of the Zune HD, I can tell you thatâ€™s far from the truth. This might not be a problem on the bigger Kin Two, but the KIN One Zune interface is very, very cramped. The interface has the same dimensions as the Zune HD, even though the screen has half the pixels. They really should have reduced the font size of everything by a little bit to give it some breathing room. My biggest pet peeve of the interface is that in the Now Playing screen you cannot slide the album art to the left to skip to the next track, like you can on the Zune HD (and from screenshots Iâ€™ve seen, on the KIN Two). Seriously, what was Microsoft smoking when they left that out?
Unless you have a Zune Pass, thereâ€™s no way for you to browse the Marketplace to sample and buy songs, which means that if you tag a song from the radio, you cannot instantly download it over 3G, not until you connect it to a computer and download it from the software. And then if you have Zune Pass, youâ€™ll be missing on the greatest feature of the Zune ecosystem: Smart DJ. What was Microsoft thinking in leaving that out? Itâ€™s already on the Zune HD, how difficult would it have been to port it over?
Performance-wise, this phone leaves a lot to be desired. Scrolling is for the most part smooth throughout the interface except where it matters the most: the KIN Loop, which is very hiccuppy. And since the screen is already very small, you have to scroll with your finger constantly. Iâ€™m not very hopeful of the performance increasing on the phone, because the battery life is also very abysmal; definitely not the two days Iâ€™ve heard promised by Microsoft (Iâ€™ve gotten 2 hours listening to music and doing some light browsing on my daily commute). Something tells me the KIN is at its most efficient right now, and if so than that is some very bad newsâ€¦
For all its flaws, there are a couple of things KIN does alright with. The camera has been heavily promoted by Microsoft, and for the most part I think they are right. In daylight the camera is amazing; it surprised me the first time I saw how sharp the pictures came out. In nighttime and evening, things are mixed. Close shots with the flash are alright, but forget about using the flash to take wide shots.
The RSS feed reader is a very nice, and puzzling addition to the KIN. I donâ€™t know that their target demographic knows what an RSS feed is; nevertheless it will definitely serve a power user like me well. I just wish it wouldnâ€™t show up in my KIN Loop; or rather, that I could have a KIN Loop thatâ€™s dedicated to JUST RSS feeds. I especially am looking forward to using the RSS feed reader in the KIN Studio; ever since Newsgator shut down, Iâ€™ve been meaning to find an online feed reader replacement that WASNâ€™T Google Reader. Seriously, please boycott Google.
Anyway, there are also a bunch of little things I also like about the KIN: when you get an incoming call, itâ€™s very cute that to answer it you â€œflip the pageâ€ (like you do when unlocking the phone). The ringtone selection is very nice, definitely themed, but for the moment it doesnâ€™t make me go out and get ringtones of my own, although when I eventually do that, Iâ€™m not even sure how to load ringtones on it. Lastly, universal search (of contacts, web pages, places near me) is nice, especially since thereâ€™s a dedicated button for it on the keyboard. A sign of Windows Phone 7 to comeâ€¦
Personally, in my opinion this phoneâ€™s saving grace, and the reason why Iâ€™ll endure it for a year or more, is the main reason I got it in the first place. This is the first Zune that has Bluetooth stereo, which is a very big deal. For 4 years Zune has suffered from having to use tangled-up headphones, and in this past year, a lack of buttons (i.e. no easy way to control your Zune HD via braille). And itâ€™s not like we have an enormous ecosystem of third-party vendors that can easily make a Bluetooth stereo adapter to use (ahem iPod ahem). So personally I am very excited to finally being able to use Zune with A2DP, and to get my song plays counted. Although 4GB is not very good storage for any power userâ€™s music collection, thankfully Zune has amazing sync groups, plus the ability to downconvert high-quality songs, so that I can listen to enough music and podcasts to get me through my day.
As they remediate and improve this phone, I hope Microsoft keeps in mind its marketing talking points and makes sure it delivers on them. They first need to fix the obvious omissions and then make this a phone that is special and unique, and that would make people buy this over other phones with a $30/month data requirement. The KIN Spot seems like a lost area that few people will use at all, and even fewer people will use often. The KIN Two is probably better suited, at this point, for comfortable music navigation, until they fix the cramped interface on the KIN One. No matter for me, though, because Iâ€™ll be playing, pausing and skipping tracks with my Bluetooth stereo headset.
Thankfully, most problems I (and others) have with the KIN can be solved using firmware updates. The question is how soon relief will come. In the meantime, though, itâ€™s a bearable enough phone, and there are definitely no show-stoppers that make me want to go back to Mission Viejo to return it.b7,
The KIN One and Two phones are meant to be hitting Verizon stores any time now, but if you are rearing to get one right now (and want your $100 rebate instantly) is seems Best Buy is the place to look, as Engadget reports the Microsoft branded handsets are now showing up there.
The KIN One is of course retailing for $49.99 and the KIN Two for $99.99 with the almost mandatory 2 year contract.
Are any of our readers picking up one of these handsets, either for themselves or their family? Let us know below.
Matt Miller has provided the concluding part of his review of the KIN One and Two by a 14 and 16 year old.
Unexpectedly the device did not fail in the area where we felt was its biggest weakness- the lack of games, as it appears no self-respecting teen plays games on their phones in any case.
Its appears the greatest weakness was Microsoftâ€™s high concept user interface, which remained complex even after a weak of use, and with little pay-off, due to the weak Facebook and MySpace integration, a real failing for a social networking phone.
Danika: Overall the Kin Two was an okay phone. I think they could have done much better with it and I donâ€™t think a lot of teenagers will have it due to the large data cost. I myself would not recommend it to my friends, the Kin and Loop update page is not really worth it since it just limits you to status updates.
Maloree: In conclusion, the Kin One was an overall great phone. It had some flaws, but donâ€™t all phones? The phone is really focused on friends and social networking which is great for teenagers and adults in their early 20â€™s. The camera was good quality, but not having zoom was inconvenient. I would personally not go back to this phone, but I think some people will be very interested in it. They are advertising fast in the movies and on MySpace. I enjoyed my time with it, but I didnâ€™t find it good enough to switch from my current phone.
Read the full review here.
Press Release: Mark/SpaceÂ®, creator of award-winning desktop and handheld synchronization software, announced the immediate release of KIN Media Sync for Mac computers. Mark/Space was chosen as the exclusive provider of Mac media sync software for the new KIN ONE and KIN TWO phones from Microsoft. KIN Media Sync uses Mark/Space GoGadget technology to make it easy for KIN owners to connect their phone to a Mac to sync music, video, photos and podcasts.
"We partnered with Microsoft to develop the best Mac media sync software for the new KIN phones," said Brian Scott Toney, Mark/Space Director of Sales and Business Development. "Our media sync capability has been a reliable staple of Mark/Space products for more than a decade. Leveraging our expertise, KIN Media Sync for Mac lets KIN owners fully enjoy the media features of their phones."
With KIN Media Sync, Mac users can sync individual songs or entire albums, genres, artists and playlists of music between a KIN phone and iTunes on their Mac. Photos snapped with a KIN phone can be synced with iPhoto, and albums of photos from iPhoto can be synchronized to a KIN, too. KIN Media Sync also makes it easy to transfer digital video and home movies from a Mac to a KIN. Movies are automatically converted for the best viewing experience on a KIN phone’s screen.
The KIN Media Sync project for Microsoft adds to the growing list of recent partnerships Mark/Space has had with a number of device manufacturers, including Nokia and Palm. Mark/Space media synchronization technologies and software are available for Windows and Mac OS X computers.
Availability and Pricing
KIN Media Sync is available for Mac OS X. It can be downloaded free from the Mark/Space web site, at www.markspace.com/kin. Registration is required to receive a registration code and activate the software.
This development is relatively interesting. We had known already that Microsoft will be doing a Mac client of sorts, but it is pretty unusual for the company to purchase in solutions developed by others, but in many ways it may be a better way to fill in the gaps in the platform rapidly for a company that appears to be money rich but resource poor.
Microsoft has spoken up to defend its KIN feature phones amid a flood of bad press for the newly introduced devices.
The KIN devices have been accused of being overpriced for what they offer, especially when it comes to the recurring data plan. Microsoft however claims the automatic back-up service (which it gives away free for Windows Mobile users) justify the price, as well as the data-intensive social networking applications pre-installed on the devices, including streaming Zune music.
"We’re introducing a new category that’s not exactly a smartphone and certainly more than a high-end feature phone — a social or cloud phone — with a rich browsing experience and rich multimedia social networking where everything I do on the phone is automatically backed up in the Kin Studio [in the cloud]," Greg Sullivan, senior product manager with Microsoft’s mobile communications unit, said.
"Once they realize the value of this, they’ll realize it’s a great deal," he said.
Brenda Raney, a spokeswoman for Verizon, said that the Kin phones were "designed … to be a full service device [for] the person whose life is about networking." She went on to claim that many feature phone users were already paying for smartphone data plans.
There is however no doubt the phones, which lacks the ability to install 3rd party applications, are very far from smartphones, but according to Sullivan this is set to change in the future.
"Over the longer term, we’ll be merging [Kin and Windows Phone 7] platforms and having downloadable apps," he said.
He also went on to say that future devices could also have additional features such as video chat, if the market demanded it.
"If the audience is really interested in that, we have the ability to update the platform," he said. But audience surveys showed that video chat was not a high priority for the first version, he added.
Sullivan said that the mood at Microsoft is "really excited" following the Kin launch and with workers anticipating the Windows Phone 7 launch later in the year.
"There’s a realization that this market is nascent and there’s a tremendous opportunity over the next many years in smartphones and we expect to be there," Sullivan said.
Read more at ComputerWorld here.
Matt Miller has handed a KIN One and Two to two teens and asked them to record their impressions. We have linked to the video earlier, but his blog post now also contains a more detailed write up by the girls.
In contrast to the rather negative impression we had garnered from reviews earlier, the girls, 14 and 16, appear to take quite well to the devices.
One complains of some set-up issuesâ€¦
â€œAfter putting in the battery and starting it up the set up and main operating was very confusing because it wouldnâ€™t recognize my Gmail password. My dad had to help reset my password on my Windows Live account so I could login. I think they can make it a little more user friendly.â€
and the other complained that the interface was confusing.
â€œAfter I turned it on started exploring it I was very confused at first. It was hard to navigate it and get used to, but after awhile I got the hang of it.â€
They however soon found much to like about the devices.
I do enjoy the unlock screen when you have to flip a virtual page with a welcome message reading â€œNice to meet you.â€ Under settings they have a very personalizable feature of color schemes including my favorite blue also green, red, and pink. Texting on the keyboard is very easy to text with and also I love the fact that it shows it as a conversation. I think the texting features will be very teenage friendly. But the music you have to have a Zune Pass to get music so I will need my dad to help me set that up on the computer. The volume button on the side is very handy and easy to operate. The camera seems to also be very high quality, compared to my other phones! After using the phone for a couple of hours I have started to really like this phone and have gotten used to the form factor and keyboard. The speed is quite brilliant compared to the HTC Touch Diamond since it doesnâ€™t take as long of a time to get from place to place.
I like how when you update your status, you can upload the same status to all communities at once. The keyboard is easy to use and little pressure is required. The texting is in conversation bubbles which is my favourite feature so far. On the keyboard there is a button with a on it, upon clicking it a small menu pops up with quite a few different smiley face options, which is really cool and convenient. The camera is very nice and clear. It makes me want to take pictures and upload them because its so much easier then off the computer. When texting or calling someone you can get their phone number right off Facebook, avoiding the entering of all your contacts. The Myspace and Facebook parts of the phone are mainly about status updates and such, theres no really viewing of your profile or picture of others. It has few similarities to the website itself. And lastly, when you receive a text message it pops up on your screen as a bubbles shaped sticky note that you can click on immediately or ignore and exit out of. Overall my first impressions of the Kin 2 have been mostly positive and it seems to be a very teen friendly phone.
Read more at at Matt Millerâ€™s ZDNet blog here.
Are the devices more suited to their intended demographic than we expect? Let us know your thoughts below.