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printed April 21, 2014
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Review: Microsoft Kin One and Two

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Is It Your Type? Body The Three S's Touch  

Screen

Kin One: The Kin One's display is a teensy little thing, offering a paltry 240 x 360 pixels. Everything on it seems squished. The Kin are so focused on content, that content pretty much drips over the sides of the kin One's display. I fully admit that I have been spoiled by bigger, better displays than what's available on the Kin One. The pixel density is just low enough that you're going to see some rough edges to text and graphics here and there, but colors looked great. Indoor readability is perfect; outdoors, not so much. Even a cloudy sky made it difficult to use.

Kin Two: The Kin Two's display (320 x 480 pixels) is bigger than the One's, but I can't say that it is any better. The added real estate makes a big difference, however, when it comes to the basic usability and functionality of the Kin Two. In other words, it fits more stuff, and that's a good thing.

Signal

Microsoft and Verizon have tucked the normal status bar info away and out of sight. With both phones, you have to press the clock on the home screen, which opens up a widget with the signal strength indicator, battery level, and alarm clock details. Personally, I want that stuff visible at all times. Why make this stuff so annoying to find, especially when I want to grok it simply by glancing at my screen? However, I can understand the appeal of the added screen real estate.

That said, both devices performed OK in the time that I tested them. They each held onto 3 out of 5 bars most of the time. I never saw either reach up to the full 5 bars, nor did I see them drop to 1 or, worse, to 1X. I made just a few calls, and neither device dropped the calls. Over the course of a week's time, my test units only dropped a single call, and didn't miss any.

Sound

With the volume set up all the way, I easily missed calls with the phone in the same room as me. That means the ringtones are not loud enough. Not by a long shot. Also, every single ringtone and alert noise sounds as if it came from the bowels of a Chelsea nightclub. There's almost no variety, and certainly nothing I'd actually want to use. Just beats, rhythms, and noise.

Phone calls, on the other hand, sounded great. No problems there. In the few test calls I made, I was able to hear people clearly, and they had no complaints about me, either.

Battery

The Kin One and Two are highly connected devices. They are constantly uploading data to Verizon's servers and the Kin Studio. Despite all that neetwork activity, I was consistently able to get two days of battery life out of Kin. Keeping tabs on friends via the SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter software seems to be pretty efficient. I did notice, however, that the more pictures I took, the faster the battery drained (it spends more time uploading to the network). In all, though, battery life is better than many of today's smartphones.

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