(Image courtesy of Skattertech)
We got our hands on Microsoft’s KIN ONE and KIN TWO and what we found was a unique phone and an even more unique presentation. If there has ever been a device created that does not know it’s own identity, these phones may have single-handedly done it. Both phones present themselves as a share all platform and clearly catering to a specific marketing segment – the budget buyer and ferocious texter. We explain a little more below.
From the Outside
First off the screens, the KIN ONE shows a 2.6-inch, 320 x 240 QVGA touchscreen and the KIN TWO with 3.4-inch, 480 x 320 HVGA touchscreen. Both are satisfactory in color quality but nothing worth writing home to mom about. Exterior buttons were kept simple with a volume rocker, dedicated camera button, standby/power and bottom set gunmetal Home Key on each phone. Design of the KIN ONE may look eerily similar to the Nokia 7705 Twist minus the awkward rotating face. Slide the ONE’s keyboard up to expose a fully QWERTY keyboard with quick reference search button and convenience emoticon button where 16 expressions on readily available. Take that EMOJI. The TWO brandishes the exact same hardware however with an ugly duckling Palm Pre look. Why the TWO over the ONE – take into consideration your thumb size and storage needs. The KIN ONE limits you to 4GB of non-expandable storage and the TWO 8GB of non-expandable.
Software Designed to Share
This is where things get tricky. Starting up the phone for the first time you are prompted to enter your account information supporting most popular e-mail clients (Gmail, Yahoo!) assuming this will begin downloading your personal e-mail. Not so fast. What you have done is sent authorization off to KIN which then sends you an e-mail to the provided account that you have now registered a Windows Live account so you may access your KIN Studio backup. Still with me? Your home screen is divided into three sections, navigation screen one of three is your Loop. This is where a feed from Facebook, Twitter and MySpace is displayed and live updated every 15 minutes. At the bottom of this screen something called Spot. Spot serves as a drag and drop point for anything you wish to share that pops up on your Loop feed allowing you to blast out to either a social network, MMS or SMS.
Slide right of the home screen and you are presented with your favorites. Displaying in an odd uneven grid pattern, these are the people you choose to talk to most and would like to quickly reference without scanning through your entire address book. Depending on which phone you have, the KIN ONE allows for up to nine favorites where the TWO populates 15.
Slide left of the home screen to see the apps. Unfortunately these are not the apps of today’s language as the terminology here is deceptive. Here you will find phone settings, color schemes, access to the Zune Marketplace, your e-mail and even an RSS reader. Regardless of the page, populating the bottom left and right corners are two small buttons one titled Recent and the other showing the clock. Tapping recent allows for quick recall of where you last on the phone for a quick switch over. Touch the clock and battery life, signal strength, date/time and current ringer volume are displayed. Convenient and useful.
Both the KIN ONE and TWO have been heavily marketed as media sharing phones so not surprisingly the ONE is equipped with a 5 megapixel and the TWO with an 8 megapixel each supported by a white LED flash. But here is the kicker, the TWO shoots video in 720p – that’s impressive.
For the Record
The keyboard is plasticy, the in-hand feel is awkward, the side-function buttons are inconveniently placed, the OS feels underdeveloped and the web browser was ported from 1994, but here’s the hook – if you are looking for a reliable phone with long lasting battery life, efficient means to keep up with your friends on most popular social networks, a chronic camera phone user and insist on a QWERTY keyboard for under $100, you really can’t beat the KIN ONE or TWO. Affordability with many extras offered the big guys plus Verizon’s network, you really can’t go wrong. Pricing will run you $49.99 for the KIN ONE and $99 for the KIN TWO with a new two-year contract and $100 rebate but others vendors appear to already be slashing prices.