Hands on: Microsoft Kin One review
14th Apr 2010 | 07:00
It's hard to describe how absolutely tiny this phone is
Microsoft Kin One: Overview
Microsoft's announcement of (semi) branded hardware was something of a surprise - but the actual devices that appeared were even more of a shock.
We'd seen early renderings of the Kin 1 and Kin 2 in the guise of the Turtle and Pure, but those pics didn't really do the phones justice.
Looking at the Kin 1, we see a phone that is so minute from Microsoft to beggar belief.
What is amazing is that while this phone is so dinky (we don't have the exact size, but to put it into context, that's not a massive hand in the picture) it doesn't feel at all unusable.
The framework is a little on the low-rent side, with a plastic feel and an unsatisfying action to the slide-out keyboard (you won't be endlessly playing with this one - which we guess is a good thing).
The keyboard also feels a little bit budget - the keys are nicely rounded and work well, but when pressed you can feel the plastic grating ever so slightly. It might sound like we're being picky, but it makes a difference.
On the other hand, the spacing of the keys is pretty darn good, making tapping out a text or email easy enough. Microsoft is saying that this phone is designed for the 15-30 year-old market, and for the bottom end of that scale the keyboard will probably be fine.
Considering the dinky size, there's a lot on the chassis of the Kin One, with a volume control, camera key and 5MP camera on the back with LED flash.
The front, when slid shut, has only the screen and a simple 'back' button that's large and easy to press for simple navigation around the phone.
But Microsoft isn't interested in the hardware, it's all about what's inside the phone that counts, and to that end it's a very interesting concoction indeed.
The main thing about the Kin One (and its brother, the Kin Two) is 'The Loop', which is the portal to all your social networks.
Built on the same core as the Windows Phone 7 OS, you can see some similarities here - the way things are tiled and motion is slick is highly indicative of the recently announced OS.
You can synchronise things like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and Windows Live, and share elements like photos and websites between them, using the The Spot.
The Spot is a little circle at the bottom of the screen that you drag and drop things onto, and then once you've decided where you want them to go (be it emailed to a friend or uploaded to Facebook or something) The Spot takes care of it all.
However, uploading photos to Twitter isn't possible at this time, with Microsoft inexplicably saying it's 'not a core function', which we thoroughly disagree with.
Photos and videos are also uploaded to the Kin Studio too - a cloud-based interface that shows you a timeline of everything you've nabbed with your phone.
Microsoft Kin One: Contacts and other features
Your contacts are all synchronised to the phone, but the cool thing is that your favourite people are given their separate screen making it easy to keep in contact with those you actually care about, not the people that you follow on Twitter or are Facebook 'friends' with.
The contacts list is a right jumble of information, with Facebook, Twitter and MySpace all synchronised up - we like the fact that the Kin One makes suggestions about the people you should be linking with and their online profiles automatically.
We need a lot more time to play with this feature though, as the tiled view makes it very hard to see what's going on from the outset.
The rest of the phone is fairly light on features, accessed by swiping to the left from The Loop.
We're pretty annoyed there's no application portal on the phone - meaning updates and cool new things are going to be very hard to come by if Microsoft doesn't think we should have them.
The web browser is built on the mobile version of Internet Explorer (although we're not sure which) and while it looks pretty snazzy with elements like drop down bookmarks accessed from swiping down from the top, it's a little slow to load up and use.
We like the fact that Exchange email is included as standard, making it much more like the Windows Phone 7 range we're familiar with.
The other main talking point is the addition of the Zune platform inside the phone for the media side of things - making it much more like the 'fabled Zune phone' than the WP7 lineup.
The interface is slick, which we'd come to expect from the Zune platform, and the amount of meta-data that comes with each track is pretty good too - with album art and track listing all ready and waiting.
Zune Pass is included on the press versions, but we're not sure that this Spotify-a-like will come to the UK given there's no Zune infrastructure over here already.
Overall, we're still very unsure about the Kin One, and the Kin range in general. There's a lot of high end hardware in this phone - capacitive touchscreen with pinch and zoom functionality, a 5MP camera with flash, 4GB of internal storage (although sadly no memory card slot).
This tells us that the price for this device could be a little high, and therefore price it out of the reach of most the target demographic.
Essentially, we think the success of the Kin One depends a lot on how much it sells for - if it's less than £200 then it's got a very real shot of being a massive phone.