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printed July 28, 2014
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Review: Microsoft Kin One and Two

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Disclaimer: Microsoft and Verizon only gave us half a day with the phones before it was time to publish, which isn't enough time for a proper review. That said, we've done our best to cover the basics and key areas, in spite of the extremely short time we've had with the devices. We'll add to and expand this review over the coming days as we spend more time with Kin One and Kin Two. Therefore please consider this first draft to be an extended "first impressions", not a full review just yet.

Kin One

The Kin One is a small, hockey-puck shaped device that is smooth and round. It is very small and features a capacitive display and slide-out QWERTY keyboard. It is very comfortable to hold. Open and closed, it has a great feel in the hand. The plastics don't feel like they are super high-quality materials, though. This was true of the prototypes we saw several weeks ago. We were hoping for an improvement, but there's none. Don't expect highly polished hardware; it feels like the $50 phone that it is.

 

Kin One

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The slider opens easily, and the keyboard, though tight, feels pretty good. The buttons have a round shape and have good travel and feedback. There's a solid click with each button. I am glad that the keyboard has four rows, which means buttons such as the phone, shift, space, emoticon and search keys have their own space. It does not, however, have a dedicated number row.

The camera button on the side of the phone is nice and large, making it very easy to find and use. The volume rocker is tucked into the top corner of the device, making it both hard to find and hard to use. Thankfully the device comes with a 3.5mm headset jack, which means it can be used with most any pair of stereo headphones.

On the front of the device, there's only one button. Press it once to go back a screen, and press-and-hold to go all the way back to the main screen. This is pretty much the only function of this button. I was rather hoping it would offer some nifty swiping feature, but it doesn't.

Some may find the diminutive size of the Kin One appealing, but I can say it's not for me.

KIN Two

The Kin Two is a much bigger, more well rounded device than the Kin One. It has a much larger screen than the Kin One, and an equally large keyboard. The slide mechanism works well, and the device pops open easily. The build quality of the slide feels strong. I didn't care for the rough sound the Kin Two made sliding open. It feels like there's sand caught in there somewhere, and makes a grinding sound. This sound doesn't get in the way of usability, though.

 

Kin Two

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The keyboard very much reminds me of the first Danger HipTop devices from years ago. The buttons are small, round, but have a comfortable shape to them. Typing with the keyboard is a breeze. I especially liked the travel and feedback of the buttons, which was excellent. It has the same key layout as its smaller brother, including the phone and search keys on the bottom row of the keyboard.

The buttons on the exterior of the device are OK, though we found the same less-than-awesome build quality that we found on the Kin One. The volume rocker is on the side of the Kin Two, which means it's easy to find and use. The camera button, on the right side of the phone, was nearly impossible to use. The front face of the Kin Two is flat, and the side is curved towards the back. The button is placed so far along this curve that it almost feels as though it is on the back surface. You have to hook your finger at a very uncomfortable angle to reach it and use it. Thank goodness there is a software button on the screen that you can use instead.

On the front of the device, there's only one button, which works the same as on the Kin One.

Both phones feel much cheaper than I'd like, and I am also disappointed in overall build quality. The battery covers are both extremely frustrating to remove. In fact, I almost broke the Kin Two in half prying off the battery cover. I expect more from Sharp.

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