If you've seen the commercials, you know the Kin line of phones is all about social networking. The Kin One, along with the Two, lets you to view Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networking accounts in one screen, with updates from you and your friends visible in a list format. There's also a screen for favorites and a screen that holds all the traditional information on a phone, such as messages, pictures, contacts, music, email and Internet.
The One has a unique shape, just about as wide as it is long, and has an interesting color scheme -- black, white and silver with lime green detailing on the keyboard. It's not for everyone, especially if you want a big screen for watching movies and clips, or if you only need chatting and texting. But it does hold appeal for the social butterfly on the go that's looking for something smaller than a BlackBerry or easier to type with than a touch screen.
The Kin One doesn't look like many other phones on the market. First off, it has an almost square screen. It's a slider but leaves sizable slivers of the bottom piece of the phone exposed when it's closed. It's so small it's the size of an adult's palm. And while mostly black, it quickly goes from incognito to flashy as soon as the keyboard is exposed with its white and lime green numbers and letters.
The keyboard has bubble-shaped keys that are large enough and far enough apart to make typing easy. Getting a hang of selecting numbers takes a bit of time, since they're printed on the top row of letters instead of over a block of 10 letters clumped on the left side of the keyboard, as is the case with most phones that don't have separate keys for numbers and letters.
The screen has a back button below it on the phone's face an earpiece above it. The main display shows social networking updates, while a panel to the right show favorites and a panel on the left connects you to contacts, search, messages, phone options, email, a Web browser, music and other media, the phone's camera, settings, alarm, and news feed. The lens and flash for the phone's 5-megapixel camera are located on the back of the phone, the battery latch is at the bottom, a USB port is on the left, and a headset jack is on the top of the phone. Volume keys line the left and the power and camera buttons line the right.
If you buy this phone, you probably want something different. Measuring an oddly-shaped 3.3-by-2.5-by-0.8 inches, this isn't a phone with the typical measurements. For some, a bigger screen may be preferable, but the keypad's size isn't likely to receive complaints. Still, the One isn't much wider than many smartphones, it's just shorter. If you prefer the status quo, you'll find it a leap to pick up this phone. But if you don't mind, or even welcome, a compact design, the One is worth checking out.
Out of the box the Kin One comes with a battery, a USB power adapter, a micro-USB cable, a stereo headset, a quick start guide, a warranty guide and a product safety guide.
The One is no slouch in the camera quality report. Its 5-megapixel camera catches up with the new standard in smartphone cameras. The LED flash, though bright enough to make a person taking a self-portrait see spots, doesn't do much to brighten images, which appear dark already on the screen. Capture settings include the option to have large, medium or small resolution size, adjust the flash, take a picture in auto, night or burst mode, or adjust for home, office, sunny, cloudy or normal conditions.
Even though the images aren't the brightest, they are sharp. The right conditions and a steady hand can result in some solid pictures. After they're taken, photos can be shared, made a contact photo, deleted, or set as wallpaper. An image and a description of the image can be sent to a person via multimedia message or email or uploaded onto one of the social networking accounts synced with the phone. Post-capture editing is not an option.
The camcorder takes promising video and is as sharp as pictures taken with the phone. Videos can also be as dim as photos taken with the phone, though. There's no audio with video capture, and the only option post-recording is to delete or save the video. You can choose email quality or high quality resolution and auto or night mode before recording.
Video and picture quality is sharp and true-to-life given the right conditions. But images can be dark and not so colorful in the wrong conditions. Pre-shot editing is slim but at least there are some options provided, but some post-shot cropping and rotation options would be a nice addition.
The One is all about social networking via the Kin Loop system. The main screen is dedicated to all the news, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace updates and uploads you can spend hours poring over, available in real-time feed. Unlike the Palm Pre Plus and Pixi Plus and the Motorola Devour, the Kin One doesn't just give you a single update on the main screen at a time -- it has a "more" option at the bottom of a long list of updates, so you'll never miss a thing.
The Kin Spot is a handy feature that makes sharing more than a quick update with friends simple. You can drag the names of contacts they wish to share information with into the spot, a dot on the bottom of the screen, and also drag to the spot whatever photos, videos, Web sites, search results or news feed items they wish to share. The information will collapse into the dot until you taps the spot to open it. Then the item will appear, ready for uploading to whichever social networking site you desire or go out via email or multimedia message. It's a simple way to share without visiting the actual social networking site and makes the process easy to see without squinting through a Web page.
Kin Studio, like the Microsoft's "My Phone" service for Windows Mobile, backs up messages, contacts, photos, favorites, songs, and other items stored on the phone in an account located at Kin.com. Once the account is set up at Kin.com, all information on the phone is automatically backed-up in the account. As anyone who's ever lost a phone can attest, this is definitely a bonus.
It has a 5-megapixel camera, Zune-based music, videos and radio features, Internet access, and alarm clock, and text, multimedia and email message options. It doesn't, however, have the features many phone owners take for granted, like a tip calculator, regular calculator or calendar options. The Kin One is great for staying in touch. Just don't count on it for much else.
The One has a 2.6-inch screen. That's an acceptable size for a smartphone that also includes a keypad, but it's not ideal if you're used to touch screens that can measure more in the 3-inch or higher range. Its screen isn't ideal if you're looking to watch any kind of video on your phone, but it's usually large enough for reading messages or surfing the Web.
Unfortunately, the One has small-ish print, and those with imperfect eyes may have to strain to read some of the social networking messages on the main screen or URL addresses in the browser. Luckily, many links and articles have larger print. And although Web sites can come in looking tiny, moving two fingers from the center of the screen to opposite corners of the screen allows you to zoom into the page.
The keyboard takes care of typing, but there are some touch screen motions available on the screen, such as shifting from one panel to the next, making selections, and the zoom feature mentioned above. The screen doesn't smudge all that easily and is reflective when turned off.
The One doesn't have the biggest screen on the market, but it's not an unreasonable size for the phone's main uses, which are checking messages and social networking sites and not watching videos. Still, the font can come in small at times and put a strain on eyes.
There are only three volume options on the phone, but they have a pretty good range, from whisper-quiet to loud. There is no sound on videos recorded on the phone, but videos played on the phone, as well as music, sound just fine. Call quality is satisfactory. The phone comes with a headset, so music can be played aloud or in the privacy of your own ears. Headset quality is fine, but without cushy covers on the ear pieces, it doesn't make for a comfortable listening experience for too long.
Social media, email and text messaging are the three ways to stay in touch without making a call from the Kin One. There are no instant messaging options, which is a bit of an odd choice for a smartphone. The most obvious and prevalent messaging option is social networking. Twitter, MySpace and Facebook accounts all integrate into the phone, so updates from friends appear instantly.
The phone owner's status appears at the top of the main screen and can be updated simply by pressing on the current status and typing a new update. Any time you want to share a video or picture, you can do so by dragging the item into the Kin Spot, which is a dot located at the bottom of the phone's screen. Web sites, news feeds and search results can also be shared this way.
While the list of updates can get long, so would any history on the actual Web page for a social networking site. News feeds from other sites can also appear in the social networking update stream. Text and multimedia messages are stored in a section on the panel to the left of the main screen. Emails are stored in a section directly below this. Keeping the two separate may seem a detriment to some or an advantage to others, depending on what people are used to. Both systems are easy to use, but when typing a new message, the letters appear in a small font. Email options include Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, AOL Mail, Yahoo Mail and Microsoft Exchange, all of which can work simultaneously. There's also an option to add a different brand of POP3 and IMAP4 account.
The email and text features on the Kin One are similar to those offered on any phone. The phone under-delivers on instant messaging, but it over-delivers on social networking. Given that's the main pull of the phone, that's no surprise, but nothing to sneeze at.
The Kin One's main source of entertainment is watching picture and message updates roll in from social networking sources. But there are other ways to pass the time. The phone offers Zune software, which allows you to access music, videos, podcasts and FM radio. All Zune activities can be accessed on the phone or on a personal computer, but since iTunes appears to rule the market on music and video downloads on computers, it's doubtful many will take the Zune experience away from the phone.
Music downloaded from the Zune system can be organized by artist, album or playlist. Anyone that would rather put songs they already have onto the phone can upload music from a computer via the micro USB cable that comes with the phone. Be sure to download plenty of music and videos before the two week free pass to Zune expires. After that, you'll have to pay for a subscription to Zune. Given most phones don't charge to offer a download service, this is an odd choice for the One.
A major deficit on the phone is a lack of games and apps. The phone's method for downloading songs and videos isn't ideal either, since it requires a subscription, but it could save you money in the long run if you're used to paying per song on a phone with a non-subscription download system. If you're looking for lots of apps for business or pleasure, you're better off with a Droid or an iPhone. But parents that want a flat fee for their teen's cell phone entertainment, the One may be a better fit.
An HTML browser offers access to the Web. That means sites load looking the same way they look on a computer. You can access the Web on Verizon's 3G network or opt for a Wi-Fi connection, so getting stuck without a signal is going to be a rarity in most areas. Sites load quickly on the handset and social networking messages update regularly on the main screen. Emails also arrive in real-time. The One has an easy-to-use browser, fast connection and more than one way to get on the Web.
The Kin Studio feature allows you to have all of the material saved on their phone, including photos, videos, contacts and more, saved in a back-up account at Kin.com. It also has 256-megabytes of RAM and 4-gigabytes of internal storage.
The One has plenty of room for add-ons, but not many outlets beyond the Zune system for adding to the phone. The large storage room available is more likely to be taken up by social networking updates than dozens of applications, which seems almost a waste of a good thing.
The Kin One supports Bluetooth options, including dual stereo sound, hands-free and headset profiles. The phone can access the Internet through Verizon's 3G network or via Wi-Fi. A micro-USB cable connects the phone to a computer, too, meaning a person can upload music files. The handset has numerous ways to connect to other devices. But it doesn't have the ability to sync calendar and task items, since the phone doesn't have a section for either of those options.
The Kin One does what it sets out to do -- make social networking simple and easily available. Every tweet, every Facebook status update, and every MySpace post instantly appears in an easy-to-manage thread on the phone's main menu screen thanks to Kin Loop. Not only does the phone keep messages from others coming, it also makes it simple for you to update you own status, and the Kin Spot makes sharing multimedia and information easy to manage. The Kin Studio feature also comes in handy, making sure a lost or broken phone doesn't have to mean losing tons of files. The phone also helps you stay connected with a speedy Internet connection, full HTML Web site views, and text and multimedia messaging, plus the phone can handle numerous email accounts at once.
There are some loose ends the phone could stand to tie up. The 5-megapixel camera takes decent pictures in perfect lighting conditions, but even the flash can't save it from taking dark, less-than-vibrant pictures most of the time. Having few editing options also doesn't help.
The phone has hardly any entertainment options, and those available are pretty basic. There's plenty of storage available, but not much to use it for, besides handling the endless thread of social networking updates. Sound is decent but nothing stellar. The handset's design makes it compact but oddly shaped for a phone, and the screen is large enough to pass, especially since the Kin One has a full keypad, but it's on the smaller end for smartphone screens.
The Kin One is great for teens that want to download songs and videos for a flat fee so they don't have to worry about getting a lecture from their parents about a costly phone bill. It's kind of like a more advanced version of the phone's designed for kids that can only call a handful of numbers necessary for the child to stay connected with parents, baby-sitters and grandparents.
The difference is this phone is designed for teen needs, which means social networking is a must but having tons of applications may not be as important. Navigation tools, for example, aren't that important for someone that doesn't yet have a driver's license.
The Kin One always keeps friends connected without staying chained to their laptops. But if you're looking for lots of entertainment or business-related extras, including a calendar, task menu and apps ranging from a stock ticker to a tip calculator, you're better off searching for a more adult phone. ♦
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