updated 09:20 am EDT, Wed May 5, 2010
Microsoft Kin debuts needing $70 plan
Verizon today stirred controversy by launching Microsoft's Kin phones on its network with high costs. Despite carrying a feature phone OS, both the Kin One and Kin Two will require a full $70 smartphone plan to use. The prices are also in smartphone ranges and put the One and Two at $50 and $100 respectively on contract, but only after a $100 rebate on each. Both start pre-orders today and go on sale May 13th.
The prices come even though nearly all of Verizon's full smartphones now cost as much or less than the Kin while offering more software features. Phones still considered mid-range or even high-end, such as the BlackBerry Storm2, BlackBerry Tour, Droid Eris and Touch Pro2 all cost as much or less than a Kin Two. Some smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Curve 8530 or the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus, cost as little as $30 on contract but have support for third-party apps and often many of the same social integration features claimed by Microsoft.
The Kin phones have also been met with multiple poor reviews. Both the Engadget and Laptop reviews have cited a poor interface that is described as being stylized but fundamentally limited and counter-intuitive; Twitter interaction doesn't include direct messages, profile views or retweets, for example. The larger OS is characterized as unnatural and being a step back compared to the smartphones it now has to compete with.
It's "as though decisions about how things should work were made almost arbitrarily, without anyone stopping to test them in the real world," Engadget's Joshua Topolsky said. "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."
Many have noted that the $99 iPhone 3G is also likely to deter Kin buyers who aren't already attached to Verizon, especially in the youth market Microsoft is trying to reach.
These and others, such as Gizmodo, also complained about a camera that frequently doesn't meter the light levels properly and has an overly strong flash. Most reviews have also complained about the interface being slow and the Kin One's screen being too small and low-resolution to use.
Only the Kin Studio, Microsoft's online sync service, has so far received largely widespread compliments for its automatic syncing of not just media but contacts, messages and feeds. Apple, Google and RIM could all stand to emulate it, Gizmodo said. However, there aren't currently any plans to introduce the feature with Windows Phone 7, and so the company's more powerful phones will have no distinct advantages over their closest competitors.