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Microsoft Kin One Review

Highs

  • Clever social-network-centric OS
  • Mirrors all activities and auto uploads photos to Kin Studio Web site
  • High-quality 5 MP (Kin One) and 8 MP (Kin Two) camera with flash
  • 4GB (Kin One) 8GB (Kin Two) built-in memory
  • Light, sleek, stylish uncluttered exterior

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 8

Lows

  • Cluttered, claustrophobic OS
  • No third-party apps
  • Slippery exterior
  • Unintuitive music player
  • Hard to get high-quality video off phone
  • No external memory card slot
Does an amped-up Sidekick have a place in 2010? Microsoft hopes to find out with the Kin One and Kin Two.

Multimedia

The Kin One makes a decent music player for music, yes, but its screen is too small and too square for enjoyable video viewing. Even with a bigger screen, the Kin Two’s low-resolution (HVGA) LCD lacks the deep color and contrasts of the varying higher-resolution Motorola Droid screens.

The Kins are Zunes with a cell phone built in. You sideload music, videos and pictures content via the Zune online client, which wasn’t as easy or as quick as it should have been. But playing back music isn’t exactly intuitive. To get on-screen transport controls – to even get a song playing – you oddly have to tap a volume control key. The whole music-playing experience is unnecessarily confusing.

Oddly, neither Kin let’s you use music tracks as ringtones.

Sound Quality

Both Kins sound a bit hollow, but no more than any halfway decent cell phone. There could be a bit more volume, however, and you’d think there would be some noise canceling considering this is a phone designed for social young adults. Both phones also lack volume and aural quality on the speakerphone for voice and music.

Phone Functionality

As noted, there is no dedicated send button to get directly to either phone’s dialer. The dialer on the Kin One, not surprisingly, offers small touch-screen keys, which make it easy to misdial. Touch keys on the Kin Two are just as tightly packed, but larger and easier to tap quickly.

Getting phone numbers into your contact list is an issue. The Kin imports your Facebook and MySpace contacts, but if your friends don’t add their phone numbers to their profiles, you won’t get them, and you’ll have to annoyingly add each manually.

Microsoft has created a new way of sending e-mails and media to multiple recipients. At the bottom of every Kin screen, is a Spot. You tap, hold, then drag contact icons, photos, Web pages, or anything sendable to the Spot. Tap the Spot to choose how you want to send it. As with the whole Kin experience, the Spot is decidedly different and adds a bit of existential cell fun, but I’m not sure it’s better than traditional methods of building a “send to” list and adding attachments.

Scrolling through lists on the capacitive touch-screen is not as smooth as it is on other touch-screen phones.

Web

Both Kins deliver a clean, but slower-than-average EVDO browsing experience, with pages on mobile-oriented sites such as CNN, The New York Times and ESPN needing six or more seconds to load, although links within these sites snap into place a bit faster.

Camera

Even though both Kins have an external camera shutter key, the round silver button is too flush to the surface to be of any practical use. Plus, when you try to push it on the Kin Two to snap a picture, the QWERTY tray starts to slide open, causing the whole phone to quiver and the photo to blur.

The Kin Two sports an 8-megapixel imager, the Kin One a 5-megapixel. Both take excellent photos for a cell phone, although as usual, when blown up, you’ll detect digital extrapolation smudge and lack of detail and focus away from the center. Oddly, the Kin One has a wider angle lens than its larger sibling, which means you get more image in your Kin One snaps. You can turn the geo-tagging on and off, although we can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want it always on.

Even with a flash on each phone, indoor shots are still dark.

The Kin One captures VGA (640 x 480) video, while the Kin Two shoots in high-definition 720p (1280 x 720). The problem is getting this higher-def footage out of the camera. Kin.com doesn’t automatically upload high-quality video, just low-res footage. Since there’s no removable microSD card, and neither phone will let you add the video as an e-mail attachment, you’ll need to physically connect the phone to a computer and sync it to transfer footage.

Battery Life

Microsoft doesn’t supply rated talk times, which makes sense. In a phone designed primarily for non-verbal communications, rated talk time is pretty much irrelevant. The Kin One is rated for up to 8.75 days of standby, and the Kin Two for 9.7 days, which are both above average.

Conclusion

Microsoft’s Kin OS make the specialized Kins seem kind of alien, and it’s an acquired taste. It would be foolhardy for us to express an opinion on the look and feel, since some people will cozy right up to its unusual social network approach. You won’t take to the Kins if you’re more verbal and want a multi-function device – in other words, neither is a Droid alternative. Between the two, the Kin OS is too big and too cluttered for the cute Kin One. Neither phone is helped by their slipperiness or their impossible to feel-by-touch external controls. But if texting and keeping up with your virtual friends is all you want from a mobile device, either Kin can cleverly keep you connected.

Highs:

  • Clever social-network-centric OS
  • Mirrors all activities and auto uploads photos to Kin Studio Web site
  • High-quality 5 MP (Kin One) and 8 MP (Kin Two) camera with flash
  • 4GB (Kin One) 8GB (Kin Two) built-in memory
  • Light, sleek, stylish uncluttered exterior

Lows:

  • Cluttered, claustrophobic OS
  • No third-party apps
  • Slippery exterior
  • Unintuitive music player
  • Hard to get high-quality video off phone
  • No external memory card slot

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