A few weeks ago, Microsoft made some big headlines when they announced their latest phone, the KIN - specifically designed for teenagers. People all over the Internet had comments on it, positive and negative - but here’s a take from the target audience – an actual teenager.
First off - teenagers do not use phones the way adults do - while we both communicate, our goal is to communicate socially. We talk constantly, are always hanging out with friends, Facebook and tweet every aspect of our lives. A mobile device for teenagers needs to be based on that. Ultimately I’ve seen that there are only 4, at best, features of a phone that teens ever use - texting, calling, pictures/video, and occasionally music. That’s it. Understanding that is critical for getting what KIN is doing for teenagers.
The entire phone is built around what teenagers use phones for - communication. The Loop, live feeding to your phone everything everyone you know is saying, doing – and allowing you to share it with anyone with the Spot - are both huge. Not only that though, but also allowing the transfer from the phone to a computer, through Studio. Having everything stored up in the cloud, backing it up, letting you store it, save it, and share it even further is a brilliant extension of how teenagers use phones, and works great - syncing within minutes. Even the camera is built around this idea - not just taking pictures, but giving you way to get all those pictures off your phone – straight to Studio, to Facebook, to Myspace - to all your friends, everywhere.
The concept of KIN is perfect for teens. As to how it actually holds up: I was able to get some time with both devices today. I can say that the hardware is excellent - the full keyboard is great for texting, even on the smaller KIN One. Speed was excellent – despite the effects of the interface, lag or loading times were never an issue. The camera, especially the KIN 2’s 8.0 megapixel one, are great, with some really nice hires images. Zune playback and syncing are almost identical to the Zune HD - which is a very good thing, while the use of a real headphone port makes this an actually useable feature. Using a Zune Pass makes this even nicer - since it gives you the musical equivalent of Studio - online storage for all the music you could ever listen to. Texting is particularly well done, treating texts as conversations - allowing you to manage and even add in or remove people from the discussion. The email app and browser are average - useful for the occasional lookup - which is all that teens will ever need it for. The integration of contacts is incredible - literally, just log into Facebook, and the KIN does the rest – setting up all your friends. And Studio backs it all up - so if you get a new phone, it’s as simple as just logging in again - and everything syncs back.
As for the KIN-features - Loop, Spot, and Studio. Loop is great - making the home screen of your phone your complete social network and news feed. Spot, the ever-present dot on the bottom of your screen, allows you to share everything to anyone - through MMS, Email, or Facebook/Twitter/Myspace. Studio is particularly impressive – a complete online companion for all the features of your phone - complete with a Loop and Spot of it’s own. Contacts, Pictures, Videos, Favorites, are all kept in perfect sync, and it just works. No setup, no complex linking or transferring. Just log in, and its there.
As for pricing - the $49 and $99 price points for the KIN 1 and the higher end KIN 2 are perfect to reach the teenage market. Furthermore, the phones don’t need special plans - you can just get one as you can any Verizon phone. The big point though, is data: $30 a month, in addition to regular costs. On the one hand, it’s a little high for teens, but considering that it includes unlimited data per month, as well as unlimited storage on Studio makes it much easier to accept. A flat fee that teens won’t have to worry about paying extra for going over a limit, and unlimited space on Studio to store everything is exactly what needed to be offered to make this appealing enough for teens at the price.
In essence, KIN takes the phone - which, for teenagers, was limited mainly to personal communication - and extends it to social as well - giving us equal access to an equally if not more important part of our lives. And it does it in a way of simplicity and ease of use. It may not offer everything that can possibly be stuffed into a phone, but sometimes, the thing that doesn’t do everything may just do exactly what the user - in this case, teenagers - want. Yes, there are phones out there that offer more, but the features they offer aren’t really used by teenagers on phones. The four - call, text, pictures, and music - that do matter, aren’t cut out of KIN, but expanded by it. KIN doesn’t limit to what a phone can be used for, but extends what the phones of teens do for us.
Kin hands-on video from launch day: