- Wonderfully designed hardware
- Access to thousands of streaming songs
- An operating system under-delivers
- High monthly bill
- Spotty service
Wonderful hardware at an affordable starting price, but the software and pricing plans hold the Kin One back.
The compact, low-cost Microsoft Kin One is in the first generation of phones to hit the market sporting Microsoft’s Kin platform, a slimmed down, social media-savvy cousin of the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 operating system.
The Kin One sports a full, slide down QWERTY keyboard, a 5 megapixel camera with video support, a web browser and 4 GB of internal storage. It also boasts seamless integration with Twitter, Facebook and MySpace, connecting the dots in a user’s social circle.
It is currently available exclusively from Verizon for $50 with a $100 mail-in rebate and a two-year service contract that covers both a voice and data plan, which start at $39.99 and $29.99 respectively. A Zune Pass, which connects the phone with unlimited streaming music, is an additional monthly fee.
DESIGN & BUILD
The Kin One is a delight to hold: At 3.31-inch tall and 2.66-inch wide and just 3.6 ounces, its rounded shape fits easily in the palm of your hand. The keyboard slides out comfortably with a satisfying click, transforming the device into a more familiar shape conducive to full keyboard typing and ear-to-chin calls.
Overall, the Kin One’s hardware is the nicest thing about the phone: It’s compact, good looking, tough and just plain fun to hold and use.
The 2.6-inch QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) capacitive touch screen display looks sharp, whether browsing the web or shifting between pictures, and it holds up well even at an angle. Colors quickly wash out in direct sunlight, but the generally high-contrast UI design means the phone is still workable
The touch screen aspect also worked well: Taps appeared more precisely pointed than on other devices I’ve used, and the screen’s covering seamlessly blends with the rest of the case — quite appealing both visually and physically.
The keyboard is compact but feels natural for both two-handed and single-handed typing, similar to the BlackBerry Curve in size. Buttons are distinct and responsive, if requiring just a hair too much work to press down to make texting a breeze. Much more irritating is the phone’s lack of auto-correct, so every apostrophe and comma must be manually inserted and mistakes hand corrected.
Aside from the usual QWERTY basics, the keyboard also has buttons dedicated to starting a search, making a call and inserting an emoticon, all of which proved quite handy.
There is no option to use an on-screen keyboard.
The phone also has a few dedicated buttons outside of the keyboard that simplify operation:
- A volume rocker that intelligently switches between media and ringer volume, as well as the ability to quickly pull up the media controls if you’re in another application.
- A camera button that lets you snap a photo at almost any time, just by tapping down twice.
- A lock-screen button.
These are all responsive and natural to push, with the dedicated camera button making it easy to quickly snap a shot at a moment’s notice.