They’re all available from Verizon , possibly the most customer-hostile cell carrier but the one with the best network.
There are two Kin models: the Kin One and the Kin Two, which go for $50 and $100 (after rebate, with a contract).
They run the same operating system (a new one from Microsoft, a precursor to its coming Windows Phone 7 OS). Both are thickish because their screens conceal slide-out thumb keyboards. Each has only four buttons: power, volume, camera and (just below the screen) a Back button. Weird, but it works.
Shape is the primary difference between the One and Two. The more intriguing One is a compact rounded square. If it weren’t made of shiny black plastic, you might mistake it for a flattened brownie.
The Two is a more traditional black rectangle whose screen image rotates with the phone. It’s much easier to type on, of course, because its keyboard luxuriates in so much more space. The Two also has 8 gigabytes of storage (versus 4 on the One); a camera that takes 8-megapixel photos and 720p hi-def videos (instead of 5 megapixels and standard-def video); and, of course, a larger screen.
Now, technically, these aren’t really app phones at all. It’s true that you can do iPhoneish things like swiping to get to the next or previous screen or two-finger spreading to magnify a Web page. Curiously, though, you can’t actually install new programs on them; “Kin App Store” is still a mirage.
Instead, these phones are meant to be communicators for the young and hip. For example, one of the three side-by-side Home screens is a busy vertical stream of updates from your Twitter, MySpace, Facebook buddies; favorite blogs; news items; and so on.
Microsoft had three genuinely great ideas. First, the Kin is a full-blown Zune music player, running the same underappreciated Zune software, with access to the same $15-a-month all-you-can-download music plan.
Second, you can share almost anything — a photo, a Web page, a tweet — by dragging it onto a green dot at the bottom of the screen. It’s a parking place for stuff you mean to blast to your friends.
Microsoft’s masterpiece, though, is Kin Studio. It’s your own personal Web site, a scrolling timeline of everything you’ve done on your phone. Behind the scenes, this site quietly collects a copy of every picture and video you took, every phone number you dialed, every text message you’ve sent. It’s a backup, but it’s also a wild representation of what you’ve been up to (not to mention a dandy piece of evidence in a marital infidelity trial).
Over all, Microsoft has done an excellent job of cramming a hundred features into a very few controls, with a graphic design that’s young and cool without pandering.
But even a 20something might resent the sometimes balky touch screen, the jerky animations and the general cheap-feeling quality (it was made by Sharp, for some reason). And there’s no typing assistance of any kind; this phone doesn’t propose spelling corrections, auto-capitalize sentences or put apostrophes into “dont” and “youre.”
Then there’s the pricing problem. Verizon charges $90 a month, minimum, for a plan with text messaging — the same as you’d pay for a real app phone like a Droid or a Palm Pre. The Kin’s competitors cost a little more but also do so much more — at much greater speeds.
Like, for example, the HTC Incredible.
Designating your phone “Incredible,” by the way, takes chutzpah. Unless it’s a truly magnificent machine, you’re setting yourself up for ridicule. Give us speed, polish and good design, though, and maybe you can lay claim to a name like Incredible.
Actually, HTC pretty much pulls it off.
No app phone has ever been this fast. Everything happens instantly: opening, closing, zooming. The Android software isn’t as easy to navigate as the iPhone’s software — but here, even your mistakes don’t matter as much, because they don’t cost you much time.