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Kin Two (Verizon Wireless) review: Kin Two (Verizon Wireless)

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It's a simple process and works as advertised. You just do a long press on an item until you see a smaller version of it and then drag it down to the Spot; you do the same with contacts. We don't know if it's the most efficient way to do things, but it's certainly different and innovative, setting it apart from many of today's feature phones and smartphones.

In general, the UI on the Kin One and Two can be completely overwhelming at first, much like Motoblur. There's a lot of information to digest, but there are ways you can pare down the feed. For example, you can filter the Loop screen so that only one of your social-networking sites populates the screen. Then again, perhaps for the targeted audience members, this is what they want: to be connected all the time and to have access to all their social networks with just a press of a button. Even so, there's a bit of a learning curve and accessing submenus within apps can be confusing.

There's more to the Kin One and Two than just social networking, however. Of course, with devices like these, phone calls may not be the first choice of communication. If you actually feel like making a call, you can! Voice features include a speakerphone, conference calling, a proximity sensor, text and multimedia messaging, 3G support, and stereo Bluetooth. Wi-Fi is also onboard as well as a full HTML Web browser (more on the browser in the Performance section) and Bing Web and local search.

The handsets' address book is limited only by the available memory; each contact card offers room for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, custom ringtones, and photos, birthdays, and more. If an individual has a Facebook or MySpace page (and as long as you've synced those accounts to the phone), you can open up an individual entry and then swipe to the right to view any contact info that's been pulled from those sites. It's also possible to link and unlink duplicate contact cards.

E-mail support on the Kin One and Two includes POP3/IMAP accounts as well as Exchange with push delivery, though we certainly wouldn't recommend this as a business device. The Kin doesn't offer a unified in-box, but rather something reminiscent of the Windows Phone 7 hubs that you can swipe to the right and left to view your various in-boxes.

E-mail is well-represented, but we're baffled by the lack of any IM clients as well as any kind of calendar app. There are other omissions as well, such as gaming capabilities and an app store, but we're less concerned with these features since we think there are enough distractions on the phones to keep you occupied, but the first two just seem like no-brainers. When asked about this, Microsoft said it really wanted to nail down the social aspects first, so some features had to be sidelined. However, both the Kin One and Two are built to support over-the-air updates, and the company didn't rule out adding these capabilities in the future.

Among the several unique features that the Kin Two has to offer is a media player that is anything but standard. Along with the Kin One, it's the first Windows phone to come with a fully integrated Zune HD interface, which we daresay is a considerable step up from the Windows Media Player app found on previous products.

Those who are familiar with the Zune HD will be extremely comfortable browsing media on the Kin Two. As on the standalone player, navigation is handled entirely via the touch screen and the tactile back button, and it's a very smooth process. Media is also organized in the Zune HD manner, with the main screen dedicated to five categories: music, videos, radio, Zune Pass, and settings. (Unsurprisingly, photos are separated out because of their relation to the phone's camera feature.) The top screen also features a graphically intense margin of "pins," playback history, and recently added content. This video illustrates this area better than we could ever describe it in words.

Delving into the various menus on the Kin Two's Zune player reveals a simple radio with autoscan and presets; a straightforward video player; and music organized handily into artist, album, genre, song, and playlist subcategories. The music section and playback screen feature prevalent album art, which keeps things visually appealing. The playback screen further offers shuffle, repeat, and "heart" soft keys; the latter let's you like or dislike songs for later sorting. You can listen to the songs through the integrated speakers, or with the included earbuds, which aren't terribly comfortable, but at least provide clear-sounding audio. On the whole, the player provided solid audio and smooth performance during testing, except for a minor glitch that prevented the audio from rerouting from the speakers to the headphones when they were plugged in during playback. Restarting the phone once fixed the problem.

Another distinctive feature of the Kin devices is the Web-based Kin Studio service. This is a bit like Microsoft's My Phone service for Windows Mobile, as it automatically backs up your phone's contacts, text messages, and multimedia files to a secure Web site for free. When you log on to the Kin Studio Web site and enter your Windows Live ID and password, all your information will be there, including a current version of your Loop screen, any news feeds, and call logs. There's also a Timeline feature, which is pretty awesome, as it opens up all the photos, all the people you've been in touch with, and all the messages you've received for a designated time period and places them in a timeline.

On back, you'll find the Kin Two's 8-megapixel camera and flash.

Aside from the obvious physical variations, there are a couple of other differences between the Kin One and Two. Most notably, the Kin One offers 4GB of internal memory, whereas the Kin Two offers 8GB. Also, the Two has an 8-megapixel camera--the One's is 5 megapixels--and can shoot HD video.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) in New York using Verizon service and call quality was decent. Despite some slight background hissing, we could hear our callers just fine and had no issue using an airline's voice-automated response system. Most of our friends didn't have much to say about the audio quality one way or the other, but a couple of them mentioned that we sounded a bit muffled. The Kin Two's speakerphone was louder than the Kin One's, so it was easier to have a conversation even if we were in a noisier environment, but the audio sounded hollow. We had no problems pairing the handset with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

With support for Verizon's 3G network, Web browsing was pretty swift on the Kin Two. CNET's full site loaded in 35 seconds, whereas CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 7 seconds and 10 seconds, respectively. The Kin's browser is a bit clunky to navigate: though it's easy to refresh or favorite a site, it's hard to figure out how to do anything else within the browser, and there's no support for Flash or multiple windows. However, the Kin Two's larger display definitely made the browsing experience better than it is on the Kin One.

The Kin Two has a better camera than the Kin One, but the photo quality was pretty disappointing for an 8-megapixel shooter. Images had a soft quality to them and colors were pretty washed out. In addition, our recorded HD video looked more like standard definition.

The Kin Two has a higher-resolution camera than the Kin One, but you couldn't tell looking at the picture quality.

The Kin is powered by a 600MHz Tegra APX2600, and the phone struggled a bit to keep up with our demands. It's not like we were expecting the phone to be a power device, but we noticed some delays when switching screens and launching apps. Speaking of which, there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary transition screens when opening apps. Aside from the slight delays, we didn't have any problems or crashes that required us to reset the device.

The Kin Two features a 1,390mAh lithium ion battery with a rated standby time of 9.6 days. The Kin Two fared better in our battery drain tests, providing 5.5 hours of continuous talk time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Kin Two has a digital SAR rating of 1.29 watts per kilogram and has a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M4/T3.

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