Just who will love the Kins?

I'm definitely too told for the Kin, but I'm not certain that younger users will be satisfied, either.

It was clear from the start of Monday's press conference that Microsoft is after a certain user group with its new Kin phones. The event was held in a nightclub; the introductory video featured young hipsters waxing about the joys of Facebook; and the food spread featured hamburger sliders and French fries served in paper cones. And once we learned about the new handsets, the Kin One and the Kin Two, I began to feel rather out of place.

The Kin One (left) and Kin Two. James Martin/CNET

Whether you call them "lifecasters," the "upload generation," or people who just can't shut up, the handsets are aimed squarely at twentysomethings who text around the clock and spend much of their lives on social networking. I'm not disparaging either Kin at all--I'll save real assessments for the official CNET review--but I can say with all certainty that I'm just too old for them. Sure, I use Facebook and Twitter, and I text probably more than I place voice calls, but I don't want those features to define my phone.

For more on what CNET thinks of the Kin One and Two, check out Bonnie Cha's First Take .

I had the same realization three years ago when I briefly toyed with the Sidekick LX. And since the Kin phones are basically follow-ups to the Sidekick family, I don't feel bad reaching that conclusion again.

My biggest issue is the very busy user interface. I like to keep it simple in that department, which is why I initially approached MotoBlur and Sony Ericsson's Timescape (see our Xperia X10 review for more on Timescape) with as much caution. The Kin Loop feature is very big on visuals, but as I cruised through it (here's the video ) I found it to be a little too much. Faces and status updates are splashed across the touch screen in a busy tiled design, but I couldn't detect any order order to the information.

I'm glad that you can the program Loop with only your chosen contacts, but I'm also hoping that the Kin handsets will offer deep levels of customization for the feature. MotoBlur was much easier to use after I disabled the Happenings widget , so maybe the same will be true here.

Though they're not for me, I recognize that the slick designs and social-friendly features of the Kin phones will entice members of another generation. On the other hand, I wonder if that younger set will really be satisfied with a "bridge" device that straddles the gap between basic handset and full-fledged smartphone, particularly since Verizon will require some sort of data plan. Twenty-year-olds may love to text and Facebook, but they can do both on devices like the iPhone or the Nexus One while getting additional features. They may be eager to a trade up from a flip phone they used in their teens, but we're underestimating them if we think they'll stop halfway to the top.

What do you think? Will the Kin handsets be a hit?

 

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