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Microsoft Kin Reviews Are In, Not Exactly Glowing

Two Thumbs Down for the Kin
Less than a month ago, Microsoft unveiled the Kin One and Kin Two, a pair of social networking-oriented phones that, like their spiritual predecessor the Sidekick, exist in a strange middle ground between proper smartphone and simple feature phone. Now, days before launch, several outlets have had a chance to put the devices through their paces, and the reviews are, at best, mixed.

The cell phone-focused Boy Genius Report has yet to release a full review of the handsets, but its preview was less than thrilled with the Kin Two. The Boy Genius himself said, "We cannot remember a phone in recent memory that has felt so cheap and so clunky to use." His initial impressions went beyond cheap hardware though, and extended to the overall experience: "I do not remember ever being so frustrated with a phone. It is slow and far from intuitive."

Gizmodo's John Herrman was a little happier with the devices, at least in concept. The only major hardware issue he had was the unresponsive camera button. In fact, Herrman was thrilled with the multi-paneled social networking OS, saying, "[It's] one of the more exciting pieces of software I've seen in a while." Still, that excitement was tempered by a healthy bit of disappointment in the execution. Herrman found the social networking features incomplete, and couldn't understand why Microsoft omitted a navigation app, a calendar and any way to watch Web videos like those on YouTube. Even the included browser drew ire for being "excruciatingly slow." Overall, the impression is decidedly negative, despite the blog's headline proclaiming the Kin handsets "the best cellphones you'll never buy."

The most scathing review, however, came from our friends at Engadget. Editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky was rather indifferent to the design and hardware (although he did have the same gripe about the camera button and general picture-taking performance). The OS and social networking features, however, took a hard beating. In regards to Microsoft's attempt at appealing to a digital, but not tech-obsessed, lifestyle, Topolsky wrote, "Microsoft misses the mark by a long shot." In particular, the much-lauded Spot was ripped to shreds for only allowing sharing via e-mail (instead of integrating with Zune for sharing music), and for being generally "cumbersome." The rest of the interface didn't escape Topolsky's bitter pen (keyboard?), either. He says, "[It seems] as though decisions about how things should work were made almost arbitrarily, without anyone stopping to test them in the real world."

All were equally disappointed in the pricing: $49.99 for the Kin One, and $99.99 for the Kin Two, after a $100 mail-in rebate. Customers are also required to sign up for a $29.99 smartphone data plan, which strikes us as a poor decision when targeting teens and tweens, as it appears Microsoft is trying to do.

It seems as if Microsoft has an unmitigated failure on its hands, although it's hard to say for sure. Slow, buggy and over-priced are qualities that rankle the feathers of tech-bloggers, but your average 15-year-old Facebook addict may embrace the seemingly simple design and promise of constant connection. [From: Engadget, Gizmodo and Boy Genius Report]

Tags: kin, kin one, kin two, KinOne, KinTwo, Microsoft, microsoft kin, MicrosoftKin, pans, review, smartphone, smartphones, top