Interface:

Sure the hardware may not be the most eye-catching or innovative out there, but KIN's true power is found in the software running on the phones. With the clear indication of “Windows Phone” stamped on the back of the two devices, KIN has an interesting user interface that takes some of its design cues that are noticeably found in Windows Phone 7. Naturally, KIN is geared to play host to the needs of individuals who rely heavily on social networking web sites – and it does in fact offer an experience that is robust with its integration. Powered by the Tegra APX2600 processor on both the KIN ONE and KIN TWO, the navigation experience is still sometimes littered with subtle hints of lag – but nothing to the point making it unbearable. Throughout the interface, there is a specific color theme in use in almost every application you use – fortunately there are four options to choose from in the settings menu, but it requires a restart on the phone to apply it.




There are three panels to switch between on the homescreen – these are the apps, “Loop”, and favorites panels. Everything on the interface is laid out in panels that are starkly separated by prominent borders – which strangely enough makes it look like you're reading a comic book more than anything. The Apps panel offers you all the simple core apps on the phone which are nothing short of typical on most phones, but is noticeably lacking even some of the native ones seen on feature phones – such as a calculator, timer, or tip calculator. On the other hand, you can find apps that get you into the browser, email, messages, camera, music, feed reader, contacts and alarm.


The “Loop” panel is where the phone miraculously aggregates content from your chosen favorites which include Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, and RSS updates. The basis of the “Loop” is to keep you connected with those individuals you actually care about; as opposed to those random friends on Facebook that you rarely talk to. Although you'll be able to change your Facebook status or tweet something on Twitter by simply typing it in the box at the top of the “Loop” panel, there is no way to reply to a friend's tweet. On the other hand, you can reply to a Facebook comment and view all the associated comments to the posting – which clearly shows that Facebook is deeply more integrated out of all the social networking sites KIN supports. Sadly though, KIN automatically chooses what items will be displayed on the “Loop” panel without the ability to specifically choose which friends' posts will be displayed unless manually checking under the RSS Feeds app.

Finally we are left with the Favorites panel that enables you to choose out of the hundred or thousands of friends you may have and allows KIN to seamlessly pull information from their associated social networking accounts onto the phone. Selecting a person on one of the tiles brings up their information that is locally stored on the device while swiping to the right will display their separate social networking accounts – which essentially beats having to open up the browser to check out their profile. We find it simple and all encompassing that manages to wrap up the social networking experience simply by offering the convenience factor.



Phone Contacts:

Now this can be the tricky part with the KIN UI as it pulls your contacts from you social networking accounts. Unlike Synergy on webOS that intelligently combines contacts stored on different accounts into the same person, you'll have to manually link contacts to make sure there aren't duplicates of the same person in your contacts. With so much emphasis on the seamless experience, it does paint a sore eye when the KIN is unable to do this by itself. Thankfully you can view contacts from each of the social networking accounts you may have on the phone – swiping to the right will display Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Windows Live. Additionally, you can manually input a contact on the phone which allows for the usual set of information to be included – such as address, emails, birthdays, and notes.




Organizer:

Almost an unimaginable thing to see on a phone nowadays, KIN doesn't offer even a native calendar app – the only thing remotely close to it is the date and time being displayed on the phone. Granted it does offer support for Microsoft Exchange, we noticed a bug conflicting with the phone as it synced contacts stored in Exchange – it seems as though the phone doesn't like mixing your social networking accounts with Exchange as we noticed that content from our favorites started to not sync properly on the “Loop” panel. Lastly, the only other remote app associated with the functionality of an organizer is the alarm which simply is your standard thing found on just about any phone. With no app store in tow, it'll be difficult to see how Microsoft plans on keeping things fresh on KIN.



Messaging:

Now one of the highlights of KIN is the ability to share stuff with people – and it is best highlighted when it comes to messaging. Although the core text messaging app is just about simple at its core, you won't have any problems whipping out a text message and include content like pictures or videos with it. The Kin Spot, which is a green colored orb that is generally located towards the bottom of the screen, allows you to quickly share content to multiple contacts. For example, you can start dragging the grids of specific friends from the Favorites Panel into the KIN Spot. After you complete choosing all of the people you want to include in a mass text message, you can click the KIN spot which shows you all of the people who are going to receive the message. Another example is the ability to share a web page, Facebook posting, and tweet to anyone you throw into the KIN Spot. It's a neat concept that quickly gives you the ability to share content to multiple people without all of the hassle.


Email through the popular providers is a simple process to set up on the phone as it generally requires the email address and password to automatically set up. One thing that really caught our attention was KIN's inability to choose which email account we had set up on the phone to reply to a message. For example, after receiving an email in our Hotmail account, you couldn't reply back using another email account like Yahoo.



Connectivity & Internet:

If you're hooked on any of the social networking web sites featured on KIN, then you'll be glad to find yourself rarely relying on the web browser. Even though it's constantly in tune with the Verizon Wireless network, pages load up painfully slowly with each picture popping up one by one from top to bottom. Naturally this doesn't compare to the swift experience found on some of the premier web browsers out there, but insult is added by not including the ability to open pages in new windows – so hitting the back button will make you cringe in disappointment. Although you can zoom in/out with pinching gestures, the browser is also slow to render images and text to the specific zoom level. One bright spot was the smooth scrolling experienced once pages were fully loaded – we wouldn't recommend to navigate a site while it's still downloading. Finally adding the nails to the coffin for the experience is the glaring inability to play YouTube videos on the phone – something that even some basic phones can handle. All in all, KIN's focus on social networking is wonderful to say the least and does a great job in having you to rarely launch the web browser, but it's riddled with a poor showing on just everything else.



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