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Tech Heavyweights Weigh in on Microsoft Kin

As is always the case with every big Apple product release--heck, every Apple product release, big or small--the mainstream press' big three tech reviewers--Ed Baig of USA Today, Walter Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal, and David Pogue of The New York Times--this week offered their thoughts on the big Microsoft product release of the KIN. Here's what they had to say.

Let's start off with Ed Baig:

Microsoft has unleashed a pair of promising youth-oriented handsets that go completely against type. The Kin One and Kin Two phones are neither staid nor corporate. They have built-in Zune music players. And they elegantly back up nearly everything you do on them online.

In the end, the Kins leave you wanting more, but Microsoft is well on the right path.

OK, not bad. I'd say he gives it a passing grade. Not the accolades reserved for Apple, but decent.

How about the Mossman? Walter, of course, is old enough to have given tech advice to Harry S. Truman, so he had his young familiar, Katie (excuse me, she's all grown up now, so it's Katherine) Boehert review the device. That actually makes sense.

Finally, after years of churning out corporate-centric smartphones, Microsoft has designed a homegrown, cool and truly consumer-focused mobile device.

For the past five days, I've kept the Kin One with me at all times, using it for social networking, texting, emailing, phone calls, Web browsing and capturing photos and videos.

Nice Mossberg touch there: Send a nice subtle bit about how long you've had the device when no one else could get one. Katherine, you really are growing up to fill Walter's shoes.

The Kin One has several fun features. It makes all sorts of funky sounds when different buttons are pressed, and it displays content in clever ways, like text messages that pop onto the screen in dialogue bubbles.

(OK, maybe not.)

The real wow factor of the Kin starts when you get back to your computer. By logging into with the same username and password used to set up the Kin, you'll reach Kin Studio, an online repository for activities performed with the device, laid out in timeline style. This includes photos and videos, which are automatically synced to the Studio about five minutes after they've been captured—with no extra steps on the user's part. It shows phone calls, text messages, and contacts. All of this content is viewable by month, week, or day.

The first time I opened Kin Studio felt like magic.

Though Microsoft's Kin One has some polishing to do on its camera and on its social-networking tools, it's a uniquely attractive device that's a pleasure to use. I only wish all mobile devices had worry-free backup websites like the Kin Studio.

Wow. Katherine loves the Kin. I wish I could have been there when Walter edited that review. It must have made him nuts.

And now we come to David Pogue, the bastion of Apple loving self-righteousness. As a long-time song and dance man, Pogue will surely have some interesting things to say about (and dance around) the Kin. Here it is.

As the barrage of advertising should make quite clear, the new Sony Dash is here.

Um. What? Sony Dash? WTF is that? There's advertising somewhere for this thing?? I've never seen any ... what? OK, my mistake. I just looked in the wrong place. Here's Pogue's take on the KIN:

/cricket chirps

Interesting. And, as it turns out, not the first time Pogue has simply declined to review a Microsoft product. Actually, I should clarify that: I don't know for a fact that Pogue declined any offer to review the Kin, and maybe it's still coming. (Maybe he is reviewing it late on purpose to send a message.) I do, however, know of times in the past when he did just that for other Microsoft products.

Makes you wonder. Maybe it doesn't.

The real problem: Not the mainstream media, but the pricing

On a more serious note, the Kin reviews I've seen are all generally positive, but many have harped on the pricing of the device's monthly plan, which is just as expensive as that of a "real" smart phone like the iPhone. I've complained about the extravagant pricing of the iPhone (and have been pretty much alone in that regard) and of any smart phones. After taxes and fees, you're looking at $80 a month to start if you have a basic text message plan too. And my initial, knee-jerk, reaction to the Kin pricing is that it should be cheaper.

But here's the thing. From Verizon's perspective, phone plans are phone plans and data plans are data plans. You're either using them or you aren't, and if you are--again, from their perspective--you should pay for it. Verizon doesn't make money on the devices, their business is the service, and the devices they sell are simply an enticement to get you to pay them every month for service. It's unclear how a Kin would use any less data than an iPhone. I mean, let's face it, most iPhone users apparently have their heads buried in apps. And that business plan benefits Apple, not the wireless carriers. The Kin is about online services integration almost exclusively. It's pretty much a cloud device. So charging full price for a data plan, in retrospect, may actually make sense. From Verizon's perspective, mind you.

All that said, it's too expensive. It just is. But then the iPhone, DROID, and every other smart phone data plan is too expensive as well. I'd love to see that fixed, because the long-term expense of these plans is just crazy.

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