Microsoft Unveils KIN ‘Social Phones’

Microsoft has announced the long-awaited fruit of its secret “project pink” handset development efforts: the Kin phone — or phones plural I should say. Built buy Sharp and to launch on Verizon in the US and Vodafone in the UK and Europe, the phones focus on a UI/user experience with drag and drop functionality and are aimed squarely at teens and twentysomethings who do lots of social networking and texting. 

Here’s the “money quote” in my view from the press release: “KIN has a fun, simple interface, which is designed to help people publish the magazine of their life . . .” We’re all now publishers of the magazine of our lives.

These are the same two phones that were leaked to the Boy Genius Report and other gadget blogs previously. One resembles the Motorola Cliq (to some degree) and the other is a new oval form factor (Kin One, pictured). In my cursory look at it, the UI not-so-vaguely resembles “MotoBlur.” There’s also something vaguely Dr. Seuss in here . . . Kin One and Kin Two.

Bing is built in of course and so is Zune. Reportedly search is federated: for the phone/contacts, local information and Web search. All photos and videos are automatically geo-tagged I understand. Otherwise they have some pretty nice specs (e.g., 5 and 8 megapixel cameras respectively) and, depending on the pricing, should be attractive handsets for their target audience. The Kin are being called “Windows Phones” so it’s not, apparently, a separate OS. 

It’s impossible to fully evaluate these handsets until they’re in your hand, but I’m sure there will be plenty of quick “first impressions hands on” posts out later today.


The Microsoft press release is now out: 

Microsoft Corp. today announced KIN, a new Windows® Phone designed specifically for people who are actively navigating their social lives. Brought to life through partnerships with Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and Sharp Corporation, KIN is designed to be the ultimate social experience that blends the phone, online services and the PC with breakthrough new experiences called the Loop, Spot and Studio. KIN will be exclusively available from Verizon Wireless in the U.S. beginning in May and from Vodafone this autumn in Germany, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom . . .

With KIN, social networking is built into the fabric of the phone. KIN has a fun, simple interface, which is designed to help people publish the magazine of their life by making the people and stuff they love the focus rather than menus and icons. The unique hardware design was developed in partnership with Sharp to create a new kind of social phone. There are two models called KIN ONE and KIN TWO. Both phones feature a touch screen and slide-out keyboard. ONE is small and compact, making it a perfect fit for a pocket and to operate with one hand. TWO has a larger screen and keyboard, in addition to more memory, a higher resolution camera, and the ability to record high-definition video. The 5 and 8 megapixel cameras in ONE and TWO, respectively, are designed for use in low light with image stabilization and a bright LumiLED flash.

There’s more coverage on Techmeme

Update: Here’s some additional information (verbatim) about KIN from Microsoft PR:

  • KIN Loop – The Loop is your favorite people and the things you love—on your home screen, in real time. You tell KIN who and what is important, and it delivers the latest updates from your favorite places (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Windows Live)
  • KIN Spot – Share almost anything – photos, texts, web pages – with almost anyone by simply dragging them to a “spot” on your phone. Since the Spot is always on your screen you don’t have to worry about opening a new application to share and upload
  • KIN Studio – The KIN Studio is your KIN phone on the web. Everything you create on your phone – messages, contacts, photos, videos – is also stored in the cloud and accessible from any web browser. The content that’s important to you is automatically backed up to your own secure website and presented in a visual timeline to make it easy to view and share with friends. And with all the storage you’ll need, there’s almost no limit on what you can keep

KIN Studio is one of the more interesting aspects of the effort here, making KIN more than simply a handset (it appears to be a more thoughtful version of the Vodafone 360 strategy). Here’s a YouTube video focusing on the KIN Studio:

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