The Competition: KIN fails to impress
We're not going to lie: Microsoft's new KIN phones gave us a twinge of worry. The basic idea is they're socially connected phones, with innovative new user interfaces designed for sharing, focused on the teen set, landing on Verizon, with great cloud backup and integration, all wrapped up in a very cute vertical slider with a QWERTY keyboard underneath. Add in the fact that Microsoft (and their piles of cash) is behind them and the Kin One and Kin Two looked like they had the potential to be Pre and Pixi killers.
So much for all that.
The reviews are in and the consensus seems to be that the devices are a little slow, a little confusing, and a lot overpriced. Slow and slightly confusing we can forgive - webOS wasn't exactly a speed demon at launch and the UI does take some learning. Since Kin is aimed at teens, who are likely more adept at adapting to new OS paradigms, the UI wasn't a concern either. The deal killer is the price, though: $99 for the Kin Two and $49 for the Kin One. That's more expensive than the Pre Plus and Pixi Plus on Verizon right now. What's worse - these phones require full data plans from Verizon, not the cheaper, teen-and-family-friendly solution I was genuinely expecting. In other words: the Kin kills featurephones but doesn't compete well against smartphones ...yet the Kin is priced like a smartphone.
The Kin offers Zune integration (but you have to pay for Zune Pass too). One thing it doesn't offer: games. Don't kids like games? Anyhow, here are some choice quotes from last night's reviews - and by 'choice' we mean 'we are ruthlessly quoting the nasty bits.'
- Engadget: Kin is one side of the family that needs to be disowned... quickly.
- Phonescoop: Quite frankly, I haven't been this disappointed in a phone in a long time. The list of complaints and missteps far outweighs the positives this time around.
- Gizmodo: As a dumbphone killer, the Kin is an easy pitch. As a smartphone competitor, it's hopeless.
- BGR: The concept is fine, but the execution is more a mashup of glitter, key lime pie, and a crappy stained glass window artist all thrown together under Sharp’s assembly lines.
- PCMag: With the right service plan, the Kin phones could still have cleaned up. Send a bunch of teenagers into a Verizon store and give them a choice between a Kin Two, an enV3, and an Alias 2, and I'm confident that they'd pick the Kin.
It's not all bad, though:
- AllThingsD: The first time I opened Kin Studio felt like magic. An entire website was created to hold my Kin’s content, yet I had done absolutely nothing extra to put it there.
- Michael Gartenberg on SlashGear: Is there a market for KIN? Absolutely. The key challenge will be how well Microsoft and Verizon can tell the KIN story to the target market. Neither the analysts, pundits or journalists will make or break this platform, the real and only question is how well the message resonates with target audience.
We end with Gartenberg on purpose because his point is salient: The tech world has gotten it wrong with first impressions before and the real audience - teens - has yet to weigh in. Do you think the Kin will cut into webOS?