Microsoft KIN TWO– The Teen Review

A few months back Microsoft announced their next generation of Sidekick– the KIN ONE and KIN TWO, two new phones focused on the teenager and what we use our phones for. Did they do a good job? Honestly, yes and no. After using the KIN TWO as my main phone for the last few weeks, there are a lot of things going in the KIN’s favor– a great keyboard and great social networking in particular– but also a lot of bad, like a somewhat slow interface and that  required $30 a month data plan.

So if your on Verizon is this the next phone for you? Read on for the full teen take on the KIN TWO.

The Good:

Now don’t get me wrong, the KIN isn’t a bad phone; in fact, if it wasn’t for that $30 data plan I’d recommend checking out this phone for anyone looking for a Verizon phone not a BlackBerry or Droid.  The call quality is great, as expected on a Verizon phone, and the keyboard as mentioned above, is one of the best I’ve used. Texting and updating social networking sites was a breeze, and it shows that Microsoft and Verizon really made some strong focus to make sure both of these worked well.

Social Networking: The KIN also excels here. Viewing my Facebook, uploading pix and status’ and commenting on friends status’ couldn’t have been easier. Unlike phones like the iPhone, Windows Phone, and Android– where you generally need a specific Facebook app for the best way to get on Facebook– the KIN makes Facebook and social networking the core focus of the phone, and like the keyboard, this too was a true joy to use.

Camera: The KIN Two also rocks an 8 megapixel camera with autofocus, flash, and the ability to record video in 720p HD. Pictures taken from the KIN looked fantastic to say the least, just check out this shot I took from a Yankees game a couple of weeks back (click on pic for bigger shot):

Videos on the other hand– well, I’ll get to that a little later.

Zune: While were on the topic of multimedia, let’s talk Zune. The KIN is the first Windows Phone to feature Zune (something Windows Phone 7 will also do when it launches later this year), and it sets the bar really high. It’s pretty much is the Zune HD in a phone, and that is a huge plus in its own right. To transfer items, all you need to do is download and fire up the Zune software on your PC (or KIN Media Sync if your on a Mac), which is nicely designed and extremely easy to use– think of it like a much nicer looking version of iTunes. The Zune Marketplace is the place to go for buying new songs and videos (which when loaded on to the phone, play very nicely), and for those who love music– the Zune Pass is the perfect complement to that love. For $15 a month you get access to download and listen to any song on the Zune Marketplace– be it on your PC, Xbox 360, or KIN on the go. Any amount of songs, any time, no wait, no commercials, and at the end of each month you get to keep 10 of them (so basically $5 a month for access to listen to any song you want whenever you want). In my tests the Zune Pass worked great on the KIN. Downloading albums on the go off of Verizon’s 3G network took less than 2 minutes. Again for music buffs, this is for you.

(Pic from KIN.com)

KIN Studio: This is without question the biggest feature on the KIN. Basically, the Studio is the automatic back up service Microsoft has on the phone that automatically backs up all your call logs, texts, pix, videos, contacts etc. every 15 minutes or so onto a secure website that you can access anywhere you have a computer with internet connection. Want to get that pic of you at the beach off your phone? Just head to KIN.com and sign in and you can download it right to your computer (PC or Mac– it doesn’t matter as long as it can access the internet) without the need to fiddle with any cables and transfer software. Very nice, very easy, and something we hope to see Microsoft extend to Windows Phone 7 in the fall.

So that’s the good– and while there is a lot of that, there also is a lot of bad as well.

The Bad

YouTube and IM: One of the big things many of us do with our time on the internet is watch YouTube and IM friends, and it would make sense for Microsoft to throw in apps to do those exact things. For some reason or another however, the KIN lacks both features, a killer mistake for a teen focused phone like this. When asked about if these were coming soon in an update, a Microsoft spokesperson told us that there currently are no plans to bring these two features out– and that’s a shame.

HD Video Recording: Another big problem I had with the KIN is the HD video recording. As mentioned above, the KIN’s camera takes some great shots, and it’s HD video recording also is pretty high quality and videos came out looking pretty great. But with that great quality comes a huge catch– you can only record HD video for 1 minute, and if you want to share that video, your gonna have to cut it down to 30 seconds. Ouch is right.

Apps: One of the most common questions I got asked about the KIN while I was testing it was apps. Will it get them? Again, unfortunately the answer here is also no for right now– though that may change down the line as Microsoft aims to create one app store for all Windows Phones (something we won’t see until Windows Phone 7 in the fall, and this is with no guarantees that Microsoft will allow apps on the KIN– which is much lower spec’d than even the lowest of the new Windows Phone 7 phones).

Battery Life: Battery life for us was also a mixed bag– sometimes lasting through days fine, while  on others capping out mid-school day. In short, the battery here is nothing to ride home about, and the one word of advice I can give is to make sure you charge your KIN every night— otherwise expect to be without a phone most of the day (a trade-off I guess to the KIN Studio constantly backing up your stuff).

Now while there are also a bunch of other “minor problems” (such as no tabs in the web browser, no onscreen keyboard for imputing numbers to a text or searching through the Zune Marketplace without sliding open the phone and occasional slight lag), the KIN suffers from one tragic and killer flaw– that $30 a month data plan.

The $30 Data Plan: Listen, the KIN making constant backups to the Studio and constantly updating your Facebook, Twitter and other feeds is pretty data intensive, but come on– this $30 data plan means that the KIN is screwed from the start. Honestly, if the KIN had a $10-$15 a month data plan instead, I’d recommend it even with its minor problems to those looking for a phone to keep them connected to their friends and social networks at all times (or are just looking for a solid phone that offers cheap, decent email and web browsing on the go) and don’t have the money to pay $30 a month for a Droid or BlackBerry (and there are a lot of people who want that, particularly in a nice looking phone like the KIN with its great keyboard). But on a network that is surrounded with let’s face it, much better, more powerful phones like the Droid, Droid X, BlackBerry Bold 9650 and even Palm Pre Plus– there is no way one should go with this over any of them, phones  that do all the social networking the KIN does and much, much more.

Wrap Up

Overall, the KIN TWO is a very good but very flawed phone. While its keyboard, social network, and music capability really shine; it’s in the end killed by that horrible $30 a month data plan requirement. If you’re looking for a good phone to keep you constantly connected to your friends I’d have to recommend checking out some of those other Verizon phones like a Droid or BlackBerry, phones that take what the KIN does and give you much more bang for that $30 a month buck.

The KIN TWO is available now from Verizon for $49.99 on new 2 year contract and data plan.

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Posted on July 1, 2010, in Cell Phones, First Look/Reviews, Microsoft and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I got the KIN One and i absolutely LOVE it! I don’t need as much as most of the phones now a days offer. I Only need a full keyboard, something i can text with one hand with, a cute look, and a decent battery life. the rest are just benefits! if your looking for an app phone then go with something like the droid but if you don’t need that much why get the phone? And i know the critics are saying its not a good phone but when it’s all you need it’s perfect 🙂

  2. Actually i think they tyoke the data package off, because i cant afford the data package and im currently looking on verizons website for phone that dont have the data package and this is one.

  3. I just got this phone is you have your rents call the damaged phone center you can get it for free.

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