Review: Kin Two
The display on the Kin Two is a 3.4-inch, HVGA touchscreen. Though it could have been a bit larger, it seemed to fit nicely on the phone's face, in good proportion to the rest of the phone's front. The screen looked pretty good, though a higher resolution would have helped, since the interface relies so heavily on photos and small text boxes. As it stood, text looked a bit jagged in the phone's interface, and the ubiquitous Facebook and MySpace photos - already poor photography - were not much helped by the display. Outdoors, the screen could have been easier to read. Some of this problem is the fault of the screen technology, and some is the fault of the interface, which uses white or colored text on a black background, tiny icons and miniscule fonts. That's not a good combination for a sunny day.
The Kin Two sounded terrible. Calls were rife with static and moments where the sound cut out completely. During my test period I had to call Microsoft support to activate my copy of Windows 7, a task which required many, many spoken commands and long number strings. Thanks to the Kin Two, this might have been the most frustrating call of my life. Microsoft's phone system couldn't understand even my most basic commands ("continue," "repeat"), let alone the multi-digit activation codes. On my end, as the system read back numbers for me to enter, I lost numerous digits when the sound cut out or static overpowered the speaker. Under the strongest signal things sounded a bit better, but the Kin Two never approached a sound quality I would call good.
The speakerphone suffered the same problems. The speaker managed adequate volume for my closed office space, but was mostly useless in my car with the engine noise and wind outside blowing past. The ringtone selection was lousy, a mostly uninspired mix of frenetic jingles, but at least these rang out loud and clear.
Microsoft hides the signal indicator on the Kin Two, so you have to tap the clock in the lower right corner to get the details that would normally be in a notification bar up top on any other phone. The company says that it hides the signal bars because the intended audience doesn't care about signal strength, only whether the phone is connected or not. I wonder if Microsoft is trying to hide the lousy reception I saw on the Kin Two. Where other Verizon Wireless phones got within a bar of full strength, the Kin Two regularly reported two to three bars of signal, and this caused problems during calls, as I said.
The Kin Two was never able to connect to my Wi-Fi network. No matter how many times I tried, the phone always reported an incorrect password. This kept me from being able to synchronize my Zune library wirelessly. but otherwise the Verizon Wireless EV-DO network could fill in as a slower substitute for Web browsing and all my data needs.
Battery life on the Kin Two varies greatly depending on how you use the phone. In a straight talking test, I got just over 5.5 hours of talk time out of the phone. On my first day using the phone, however, I tried maxing out its potential, taking tons of pictures and video at smaller and HD resolutions, listening to music and browsing the Web over Verizon's data network. I started my busy day just after breakfast, and by lunch time the phone was completely dead. On the other hand, with more casual use making calls and listening to music, avoiding photos, which automatically upload to the online Kin studio, and most data usage, I got a couple days use out of the phone before it lost all steam. Clearly those always-active sync services take a toll on the Kin. That's too bad, because Microsoft is obviously pushing this phone for gathering and sharing, not calling and listening.