Microsoft Unveils 'Social' Kin Phones

Microsoft announced two new phones Monday, the Kin 1 and 2, aimed at the sub-25-year-old demographic that spends much of their time on Facebook, swapping text messages, and sharing images snapped on their phones. The Kin handsets pick up right where the Sidekick left off with full QWERTY keyboards and a variety of social networking and media features. Both will be available from Verizon starting in May. Pricing has not been announced.

The Kin 1 and 2 run a special version of the Windows Phone OS--not Windows Phone 7 or even version 6.5--so many of the core Windows Phone features aren't available in the Kin OS.

Designed for young, socially-connected audiences, the Kin OS makes sharing and uploading content and keeping in touch with friends simple via an intuitive, visually-pleasing interface. You can share videos, photos, links and other content by simply dragging-and-dropping your content to a designated sharing area called the "Kin Spot," then selecting who you want to send it to, or where you want to upload it.

Similar to Motorola's MotoBlur interface for Android, Kin is a cloud-based OS. When you capture photos or videos on your Kin phone, they're automatically uploaded to the Kin server. You can log into your Kin account on your PC to view and share your media.

The Kin phones also have the Zune HD player for media playback, a refreshing change from the dull-as-dirt Windows Media player found on older Windows phones. The Zune HD player will be compatible with both PC and Macs.

More advanced users, however, might be turned off by some of the limitations within the operating system. There's no photo or video editing software built in to the OS, and no universal inbox and no calendar support. Another strange omission: No support for photo or video uploads to Twitter. The browser doesn't support Flash Lite or Silverlight, either.

And while the phones have a fair amount of built-in memory, there's no expandable memory support.

Made by Sharp for Microsoft, the Kin 1 and 2 are designed with heavy messaging in mind. The Kin 1 is a squat, square phone and is reminiscent of the Cricket TXTM8 with a vertical slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It has a smaller display, a 5-megapixel camera with a flash and 4 GB of built-in memory.

The Kin 2 has a larger display and a horizontal slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It has an 8-megapixel camera with flash as well as 8GB of built-in memory.

Check back for a hands-on, video and slideshow of the Kin 1 and 2 as well as more details about pricing and specs.

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