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Review: Kin Two

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There are omissions on the Kin Two I can excuse. No calendar, no instant messaging, no navigation; I can live without if the target audience really doesn't use these features, as Microsoft's extensive focus research has shown. But the lack of these features is hardly the biggest problem I have with the Kin Two. At every level the phone is an utter disappointment. I can't think of a single feature this phone gets completely right, let alone a spot where it excels. Perhaps the Zune player is a standout, but after months of clamoring for a "Zune phone," I'm inclined to recommend giving up the dream and simply buying a Zune, if you're into subscription music.

Where the phone should excel, it falls flat on its face. Social networking is a bust. It's either a messy, confused jumble on the front page, the Kin Loop, or it's underwhelming and lacking features throughout the device. You can't reply to Tweets without opening the sluggish Web browser. You can't view your friends' photo albums on Facebook without doing the same. There isn't a smartphone around on which I'd accept these shortcomings, and since Verizon Wireless insists on charging smartphone prices for the device and for the required data plan, the differences between the Kin Two and a real, competent smartphone are even more glaring.

But worst of all, the Kin Two can't even nail the basics. Making calls is difficult, and calls sound terrible. Reception and battery life are a mixed bag, mostly full of coal. The Web browser and the email and messaging apps are sub-par, on the level of a basic feature phone and nowhere near smartphone quality. The interface, which is supposed to be adaptable, stylish and clean, is none of these. It's a dreary mess, and instead of a hip, modern look, the Kin Two feels archaic and lacking in substance.

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I'll make this simple. Buy something else. Buy a Palm Pixi Plus, or even a BlackBerry Curve if you're willing to pay for a smartphone data plan. Buy an LG enV Touch if you want to avoid the expensive addition. Looking through Verizon Wireless' lineup, as long as you avoid the older Windows Mobile phones, there's hardly a smartphone I wouldn't recommend over the Kin Two. It's not a good phone, it's not even a good start for this burgeoning platform.

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