by Al Sacco

Microsoft KIN: Five Things You Don’t Know

Apr 13, 2010
MobileSmall and Medium Business

Microsoft has revealed its KIN devices. Here are five things about the handsets the company didn't explain during the unveiling.

I won’t spend too much time addressing/analyzing/positing about Microsoft’s two new “KIN” handhelds—aptly named, KIN One and KIN Two–since the toys devices aren’t aimed at all at the enterprise sect. However, KIN is a major announcement for Microsoft, and as such, it’s worth a quick look.

Images of Microsoft's KIN One and KIN Two
Microsoft’s KIN Two and KIN One

KIN One is a tiny, vertical-slider device with a QWERTY keyboard, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4GBs of internal storage and a 5-megapixel camera. KIN Two is a higher-end version of KIN One, with a horizontal-slider form factor, larger display, 8GB of storage and an 8-megapixel digital shooter. The devices are expected to become available in the United States through Verizon in May, but pricing details are unknown at this point.

Microsoft’s KIN devices are meant to bridge the gap between traditional feature-phones (or “dumbphones”) and smartphones, like Apple’s iPhone and Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry, at least according to the company.

Which leads me to the first point you may not know about Microsoft’s KIN:

1) KIN Handhelds are Not Smartphones…

…They’re “Smart-Dumb Phones,” or feature-phones acting all grown up.

Microsoft is attempting to bring handheld computing to a whole new type of user with KIN: the 16-to-30-year-old who hasn’t yet jumped on the iPhone bandwagon or purchased any other smartphone…but who actively employs social networks. (Is there even such a thing…??)

One major difference between KIN devices and the iPhone/BlackBerry/Android/etc.: You cannot install third-party applications. Sure, you can surf the Web via KIN’s touch-based browser, and both devices sport full QWERTY keyboards for typing. But without the ability to install and employ additional software, KIN is crippled—at least from a smartphone-user perspective.

And KIN One and KIN Two don’t ship with any sort of Office applications or document editing/creation tools, nor do they offer calendar functions; features many smartphone users depend on.

2) KIN Could Get Zune Apps, Games in the Future

Though neither KIN device can currently download applications or games from Microsoft’s Zune Marketplace, both are built on the same NVIDIA Tegra silicon components as the Zune HD. So both KIN One and KIN Two are, theoretically, capable of running anything a current Zune HD user can access. Microsoft did say KIN over-the-air (OTA) updates would be pushed out following the devices’ initial launches, so it’s possible KIN could get access to Zune apps and games in the future.

3) No External Memory via MicroSD for KIN

KIN One comes with 4GB of built-in, or internal, storage for keeping photos, videos and additional media content within the device. And KIN Two comes with double its smaller “sibling’s” storage, with 8GB of internal memory.

But neither device supports microSD memory cards for added, “external” storage. That’s definitely not ideal for devices meant for heavy media consumption, but Microsoft says not to worry; Kin automatically uploads your photo and video libraries to the “cloud”—with your permission, of course–so there’s really no need to store any media on your device.

However, that means you’ll need to have wireless coverage (cellular or Wi-Fi) whenever you want to access said content. And there’s always the fact that some people just don’t want all their media stored online…

4) KIN Has Limited Notification-Update Settings

Microsoft says its KIN devices are meant for folks who practically live their lives on social networks, and the whole KIN experience is built around delivering those social networks to users in the most natural way possible. Yet KIN One and KIN Two can only check-in with the various social networking services every fifteen minutes—unless you manually initiate an update.

Sure, this “restriction” could help users save precious battery life, since KIN won’t be constantly transferring data, looking for the latest tweets and Facebook status updates. But wouldn’t someone who, you know, “lives” on social networks on occasion want speedier updates? Or at least the freedom to set automatic updates at a smaller interval than every quarter-hour?

I know I would…

5) KIN Has a Dedicated Emoticon Key

Last but most definitely not least: Both KIN devices have their very own, dedicated “emoticon” keys at the bottom right of their keyboards. If you can’t determine Microsoft’s target audience for KIN with this fact alone, you may be hopeless.

Microsoft KIN One Keyboard with Emoticon Key
Microsoft KIN One Keyboard with Emoticon Key (via ZDNet )

The emoticon key, which looks just like a semicolon/close-parenthesis “smiley,” apparently opens up a menu with a pile of additional emoticons for use in situations where words along just won’t cut it. Like this: o_0

For additional information on Microsoft’s new KIN One and KIN Two handhelds, visit