Next of Kin
By No-Control (Mike M.)
Microsoft took a big blow when the kin product was pulled after just a scant couple of months on the market. Being billed as a teen phone and the successor of the sidekick. I was interested in this as I have a child entering teenhood. He had been a good sport, using my wife's old feature phone, a pink Venus. So late this summer I wanted to find a replacement and took a look at the Kin. The phone was an awesome little device, but as has been well documented the mandatory data plan Verizon saddled it with, made it financially unattractive to say the least. While the sweet cloud service and included Zune service were great, it wasn’t enough to make up for the greedy data plan. Apparently everyone else thought so as well and it was pulled from the market. I was off to find him a cheap feature phone….sadly none exist! Since I rarely enter contracts for subsidized equipment the cost of these feature phones was a bit ridiculous. $350 for a basic QWERTY phone? Really?
Reason enters the room. Microsoft and/or Verizon decided to re-release a neutered version of the Kin phone, bill it as a feature phone and give it reduced data plan. Unfortunately the primary victim of the neutering was one the awesome cloud service. But at $100, off contract, and a base optional data plan of only $10/mo the phone was a steal. The following is my 3 month experience with the little guy along with some input from it’s primary user, a 14 year old texting machine.
A not so smart phone?
My initial thoughts after the first week is that the hardware has a bit of a cheap feel to it, but not in a bad way. You can tell that material feel wasn’t one of the top priorities. The design is a bit small for my hands, but not complaints from the youngster. The touch screen is responsive and the menu is easy to navigate. Similar to windows phone 7 the tasks are broken down into separate tiles. Phone, text, email, contacts, Zune, browser, photos and settings. Some comments on each are below. While there are no apps for this, for all intensive purposes it is a smartphone in every other respect.
- Phone – The primary interface for making phone calls simple and easy to use.
- Text – The texting portion is MMS and easy to read fonts make it useable, but pics and video on it fall victim to the small screen size. Perhaps less of an issue on the Bigger TWOm version.
- Email – Which can connect to web (Gmail, Hotmail, etc.) or POP/IMAP accounts and exchange. Set up was easy and painless for both his Hotmail and our family domain.
- Contacts – Contains listing of your contacts unfortunately this will not sync with outlook, Hotmail or web based lists. having to manually enter them is a pain, but thankfully he’s young and has patience. I have better things to do however.
- Browser – It accesses the internet….not much else to say. Load web pages, and mobile versions of pages just like most other smart phones. I haven’t tested for flash support.
- Photos – Accessing the photo library is easy as is the camera functions.
- Zune – As a media player this is an awesome setup, iTunes can suck it.
- Settings – Accessing the phone’s settings. is pretty simple and painless. Nothing is buried deep, finding the desired setting toggle is intuitive and easy to find.
3 months of heavy testing, an understatement
The actual phone portion is pretty good. 3 months later I’m quite impressed with it durability and function. It’s primary function as a phone first is quite good. Reception has never been an issue. Sound is excellent on both ends, no tinny sound or bathroom special effects. The camera also takes excellent pictures which was a nice surprise. I found the smallish keyboard a bit crapped but like a well seasoned crackberry user the boy could tear it up. Keys have resisted wear and all look as they did on of the box. the slider mechanism is still tight, despite constant unnecessary use from teenage induced boredom. Zune is the so sweet as well the drag n drop sync works well and the small memory (4GB) doesn’t hold copious amounts of mp3’s, but it does hold just enough to get you through 4hr long car rides with minimal drama. Overall the unit has held up very well despite constant throwing, crushing blows and drops, from an active teen.
KIN = FAIL well deserved?
I don’t think so. Kept in perspective of what it is, a cheap cell for entry level users, it has a lot to offer. Great phone, QWERTY keyboard for pounding out texts with buddies, great media player for rockin out, great snapshot camera for capturing moments with friends. The email is solid as is the browser. Only things missing from that a budding teen would miss is gaming and social integration with Facebook and Twitter. He thinks its great little phone and it scores high among his friends.
The KIN is a winner in my book.