Video: Verizon KIN Two Unboxing

The KIN is one of the most polarizing releases by Microsoft in recent years. From a platform perspective, the KIN will effectively replace the Sidekick from Danger, a company that Microsoft had acquired, and will bridge the gap between the features of the Sidekick and those of the advanced Windows Phone platform. In filling this role, I think that Microsoft is successful in my first impressions of the device when the KIN family was launched a few weeks ago. Now, Verizon Wireless has made it official, with KIN pricing and plan information.

The KIN One, the smaller of the two KIN phones, will go for $50 after a $100 mail in rebate and two-year service agreement. The One has the same features as the Two, its sibling, but with specs are midly toned down–a 5-megapixel camera instead of an 8-megapixel one that can also record 720p HD videos, a QVGA versus an HVGA display, and 4 GB of storage instead of 8 GB. At the $50 price range, the KIN will also compete in the same low-cost smartphone category as the webOS-based Palm Pixi Plus, also on Verizon Wireless.

The second model is the KIN Two, which carries more advanced specs, and will cost $100 after a $100 mail in rebate and two-year service agreement. The KIN Two is built for two-handed operations whereas the shorter, stouter one–which resembles the Palm Pre Plus–is more of a quick, on the go one-handed device. The device is powered by a Tegra processor from NVIDIA and can run the Zune music app. Content can be streamed or synchronized to the device via a desktop client–Mac users will only get a stripped down Zune client to sideload DRM-free songs whereas PC users will have access to the Zune desktop software. The KIN Two’s high-end camera specs make it comparable to the Android HTC Droid Incredible on Verizon Wireless, but at half the price.

Both devices will be made available online from Verizon Wireless in the USA on May 6th with retail store availability coming on May 13th. Because the devices will require a constant internet connection to backup, share content, and synchronize with its private web portal (users will need to sign up with a username and password), Verizon Wireless will be offering its $30 smartphone data package for the KIN devices.

We’ll have more on the UI and the interactions with KIN, but there are design elements that do resemble Windows Phone 7, although fairly stripped down. KIN offers no apps for download and any updates can be provided over-the-air from Microsoft. The KIN has no IM clients, thought the SMS client records call logs and text messages like an IM client with its threaded feature. KIN is mostly about documenting your life and sharing it with others either by status updates, videos and photos, or by finding interesting links and sharing it with friends. The sharing paradigm introduced by Microsoft seems like a nice workaround for cut, copy, and paste.

For international audiences, both devices will later launch on Vodafone.

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Chuong Nguyen