By Chuong Nguyen | May 7, 2010 11:32 AM
If Windows Mobile represented Microsoft’s corporate mobile strategy, KIN represents a consumer-centric user experience approach that signifies effortless hardware and software integration in a sleek, comfortable package for novice smartphone users. If Microsoft plays its cards right with hardware partner Sharp and carrier partners Verizon Wireless and Vodafone, KIN may be just the tip of the iceberg in luring users to the more advanced Windows Phone platform, marked by the release of Windows Phone 7 later this year.
At first glance, the KIN can be criticized for not being full featured enough, especially since it comes from a lineage of capable Windows Mobile devices. However, for its zen-like simplicity, users will find themselves on cloud nine, and that’s exactly where Microsoft wants you to be–on the cloud. The simple, zen-like user experience is found throughout the thoughtful user interface–even the KIN lettering looks like a Japanese character worthy to be framed in a tea room. Microsoft has gone through great lengths to make it easy to share, inventing a whole new paradigm for copy and paste through the KIN Spot. The KIN Loop and Favorites home screens work together, along with the KIN Spot, to share relevant news and interesting topics with friends and family whereas the simple bundled apps help users to keep information at hand.
While the UI of the KIN is great, the user interface and user experience are only part of the picture, and dare we say a small part of the picture. The bigger part of the KIN experience is the cloud, but that part is mostly transparent for the user. While the KIN One ships with 4 GB of memory and the Two ships with 8 GB of memory–both non-user-replaceable–Microsoft makes memory management a thing of the past. With the great camera memory is bound to be depleted quickly, and Microsoft has thought that out. Images, videos, contacts, messages, and call logs are backed up to the cloud–users can access all this information on the desktop through a web browser in a portal called the KIN Studio with a private logon. With KIN Studio, users essentially see what is on their phones, but on a larger screen if they prefer it that way. Also, since things get backed up, when the device runs low on storage memory, KIN can essentially just keep thumbnails of your pictures on the device. If you want to view the thumbnail in greater detail, then KIN will retrieve the full image from the cloud to preserve storage space.
By utilizing the cloud in a seamless manner, Microsoft has overcome the issue of expensive flash storage and can keep the costs of the devices low but not have to sacrifice the user experience. Additionally, by backing up information constantly, users won’t need to worry about data loss. Microsoft will also synchronize contacts from Twitter, Facebook, Live mail, and Exchange ActiveSync. Emails can come from a variety of services that include Live Hotmail, Gmail, Exchange, AOL, Yahoo!, and other POP/IMAP accounts. KIN will pull and push emails, depending on the service, to keep you connected.
If you ever decide to leave KIN–and perhaps upgrade to the more advanced Windows Phone 7 OS–KIN will retain all your images on KIN Studio for up to 60 days where you can log in and save the photos you want.
In short, if Apple’s iPhone platform caters to the “wants” market–to those who “want” the most number of apps–then the KIN experience is about “needs”–knowing what you need and prioritizing those needs. Those needs, according to KIN and Microsoft, include the ability to communicate effortlessly with your network, share interesting and relevant information with friends and family, and be always connected to your network. KIN really isn’t about being “limited” by the platform’s closed ecosystem–it’s about knowing what it can do for its target audience well, and I think Microsoft has done the research to address the needs of that market.
Of course, the KIN doesn’t find itself without faults. For power users, it lacks the robustness of the Windows Mobile/Windows Phone platform. For camera enthusiasts, the sliding mechanism and the shutter are too closely placed together, meaning that when you depress the shutter on the KIN Two, the sliding mechanism may get activated causing your hands to wobble and may result in a less than sharp image. However, if you’re a new smartphone users or even a veteran one who may not be chasing after all the “wants” out there and know what you “need” then the KIN is a very capable platform that delivers what it promises to do exceptionally well: to allow you to communicate, share, and capture memories and moments.