KIN You Hear Me Now? Microsoft Announces New Social Phones

Microsoft on Monday announced a new Windows Phone-based phone platform that sits somewhere between "feature phones" and smart phones and offers always-connected teenage hipsters a way to keep in touch with friends and family. The new phones, dubbed KIN, and formerly codenamed Pink, will arrive via Verizon Wireless in the United States in May.

"Working closely with our partners, we saw an opportunity to design a mobile experience just for this social generation—a phone that makes it easy to share your life moment to moment," said Microsoft President Robbie Bach. "We built KIN for people who live to be connected, share, express, and relate to their friends and family. This social generation wants and needs more from their phone. KIN is the one place to get the stuff you care about to the people you care about most."

Contrary to rumors, KIN is not based on Danger Sidekick, but is instead based on the Windows Phone platform that Microsoft will ship broadly this fall. It offers a kinetic user interface, connects seamlessly to multiple social networks and email accounts at the same time, and allows its users to provide updates to others while they stay on top of their friends' activities.

There are two models, both of which feature slide-out hardware keyboards and touch screens. The KIN ONE (formerly codenamed Turtle) is a tiny, squat device that can be operated with one hand. The KIN TWO (formerly codenamed Pure) is a so-called candy bar model with a rotating screen necessitated by the side-mounted keyboard. The KIN TWO also includes more onboard storage and an HD-quality 8 megapixel camera. (The KIN ONE has a not unimpressive 5 megapixel camera.)

Both KIN models integrate with Microsoft's Zune PC software for media management and can utilize the Zune Pass subscription, allowing them to access millions of songs over the air. Both devices also integrate with the new KIN Studio, an online service that provides users with unlimited storage for photos and videos. Better still, any photo or video content created with the phone is automatically dribbled up to KIN Studio. Microsoft believes that no KIN user will ever run out of device-based storage as a result.

Almost as interesting as what's included is what's being left out. There won't be any games, apps extensibility or an app store, though Microsoft says it will upgrade the devices over time, wirelessly, and could add new functionality. There is no instant messaging functionality, no memory slot, and no calendar. And while Microsoft won't port the Zune PC software to the Mac, it will support Mac users with a KIN Sync solution.

Verizon Wireless will announce pricing in the weeks ahead and the KIN devices are expected to launch simultaneously in the United States next month. Vodaphone will launch KIN in Europe sometime in Q3 2010.

TAGS: Windows 8
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