If Microsoft's Kin phones are supposed be for a younger audience, then we're busting out the antiquated lingo to judge what's cool and lame about the not-quite-smartphone. The main feature of these social phones is the way they stream updates and messages from friends, but there's more to watch for beyond that central concept. Here are some key points to help decide whether you're truly stoked for the Kin. Dude:
Cool: The Cameras
At 5 megapixels in the Kin One and 8 megapixels in the Kin Two, the phones' cameras can go toe-to-toe with any smartphone. And they've both got flash, so you won't have any trouble snapping photos at the bar -- or school dance, if the target demographic indeed skews lower.
Lame: No Web Video
Apparently, Microsoft's vision of social networking doesn't involve YouTube, as Gizmodo reports that the phones can't play Web video. You can, at least, share photos and video on MySpace, Facebook and Windows Live.
Cool: Little Flourishes
A phone like this has to be fun to use, so it's good that Kin's operating system is filled with boxes that slide, fade and zoom, and the operation stays fairly smooth throughout.
Lame: Little Omissions
As my colleague Ginny Mies noted in her Kin coverage, the phones have no calendar, no ability to upload photos and video to Twitter and no universal e-mail inbox. None of these things sound like dealbreakers on their own, but they add up to a less attractive package.
Cool: The Search Button
When Windows Phone 7 arrives later this year, devices will be required to have three buttons, and one of them is "Search." I'm glad to see this feature on Kin phones, where pressing the search button lets users find contacts, Web links and nearby points of interest.
Lame: What We Don't Know
Namely, price and release date, but more specifically, what sort of data plan will be required with the device. A full $30 per month smartphone plan seems unlikely, but there's got to be a price for all the photos and video Verizon will shuttle to Microsoft's servers.
Cool and Lame: Kin Server
Loading all your photos and videos onto a server is great because you don't have to worry about storage space. Unless that server fails and everything you stored in the cloud disappears.Don't laugh, it happened with Microsoft and the T-Mobile Sidekick last year. I doubt Microsoft would let the same thing happen again, but I hope there's a way to back up important stuff just in case.