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Microsoft Kin Two

The Kin Two's conventional form factor is offset by its higher quality components, not only is its screen larger, but it has double the storage and a higher-res camera than its baby brother, the Kin One.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
3 min read

After years of playing it safe in the mobile space, Microsoft is charging forward in 2010. Its Windows Phone 7 update is a logical step for the world's biggest computer company, but today's launch of the Kin One and Kin Two are a little more left of field. These are phones with limited functionality aimed at a very specific audience, but they hold a few new tricks that could make them a great, big hit with the kids.

Kin Two – first impressions

The Kin Two bests its little brother, the Kin One, across the board specs-wise. Its larger keyboard sits under a longer screen, making it better for two-handed typing in a landscape mode. It also has 8GB of internal storage as opposed to the 4GB in the One. These differences aside, it seems like the One and Two are basically the same beast dressed in different outfits. They share the same connectivity specs and run on the same modified Windows Phone 7 platform. One difference that could sway some shoppers, is the Two's 8-megapixel camera over the One's 5-megapixel shooter (are all these Ones and Twos making you snigger too?). If you watch through the introductory videos on the official Kin site you'll hear numerous mentions of the high-quality cameras in both phones, though we wonder if this actually means we can expect better than average camera phone photos from these beauties.

Kin OS

Microsoft isn't actually referring to the platform on these handsets as Kin OS, but this name seems as good as any to describe the system which, as mentioned above, reads like a watered-down version of Windows Phone 7 (WP7). Elements of WP7 design and the Zune OS inspire this truly funky-looking platform. But it's not all good looks, the Kin OS has some really cool features up its sleeve too.

There are three highlight features to refer to when talking about this system, Kin Spot, Kin Loop and Kin Studio. Beyond its role as mobile phone, Microsoft sees the Kins as social-networking hubs. The home screen of these phones is littered with recent social-networking updates from the accounts you connect to, this is the Kin Loop. People who want to share this information can drag and drop these items to the Kin Spot, like a clipboard on a Windows PC. Multiple items can be dragged to the Kin Spot at a time, including photos, videos, map references, website URLs, and then these items can be sent to one or numerous contacts via MMS or email.

Kin Studio is desktop PC software which lets you view all of your photos, contacts and SMS messages collected by your phone on a timeline view on the PC. Data from the phone is auto-synced with a server so that you don't have to come home at the end of each day and manually sync with a USB cable.

Outlook

While the phones look nice, it's the software that has us buzzing, though after using the often-sluggish Motorola Dext and its Motoblur social-networking software, we have our reservations as well. Motoblur struggles when users have large-scale Twitter or Facebook accounts, and we're sincerely hoping this isn't also the case with the Kin. These integrated social-networking tools look fantastic, but the user experience needs to be seamless as well.

We contacted both Microsoft and international partner Vodafone for information regarding an Australian release, but neither company could confirm launch details for Australia at this time.

Follow this link for a closer look at the Microsoft Kin handsets.