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Old 01-11-2011, 12:11 AM
TheDismalScientist TheDismalScientist is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 1
Default Best MP3 Player Nominee: The Microsoft Kin

I recently bought the Microsoft Kin TwoM, and it's definitely worth a look. I'd say it's the best feature phone on the market.

Some backstory: Microsoft introduced the phone several months ago with the ability to automatically sync your media to Microsoft software, along with a powerful camera, a slick interface and 8GB of memory. The phone failed miserably, because it was a pseudo-smartphone with premium pricing, due to a mandatory data plan. Microsoft retracted it.

Come December, Microsoft & Verizon reintroduces it. The phone is shorn of its special social media functions, of which I honestly know nothing. But it's a great phone; Verizon and the other carriers are intent on making feature phones terrible, to nudge you into getting a smart phone with a data plan that costs thousands of dollars extra per year. It sounds incredible, but the feature phones are identical to ones from two years ago - see the Alias 2 and the Zeal for instance. Meanwhile smartphones are rapidly improving.

The Kin TWOm offers 8 GB of memory with (I presume) integrated Zune software. The phone connects via a standard USB cord that came in the box. It required getting the Zune software for PC, but otherwise works great. I'm no audiophile, but the sound quality is at least in the same league as my Sansa Clip. I'll leave the aural analysis to others. It also has an FM radio.

If you can handle the weight and size, it's great for working out; turn off the screen by pressing a button on the phone's side, and it's effectively on hold. And yet, you can still change the volume with buttons on the side, which is an improvement over the Clip. I used my SoundMagic earphones with it to great effect.

Best of all, gone is the phone's glaring flaw: there's no required data plan. The phone's 8 megapixel camera resolution is matched only by a few smartphones, and beaten by none. It can access internet and email via Wi-Fi where available.

Best of all, the interface is appealing and slick. I briefly used a friend's Droid X some time ago, and found it overloaded and dull in comparison. Texting is smooth, courtesy of a QWERTY keyboard, and it's akin to instant messaging. The screen at 3.4" is a bit small for browsing the internet, but it is vivid and suitably reactive. Zooming and scrolling web pages is easy. The Kin has an accelerometer, so the screen adjusts as appropriate.

The phone is a bit slow in navigating menus; the interface, despite its glamor and gloss, has a number of minor flaws - texts from strange numbers cannot be saved to a contact, but entered anew instead. Contact names are displayed in all-caps, and the first letters of sentences in text messages are not automatically capitalized. It lacks predictive text, as well as a speaker phone option and removable memory port.

The phone lacks an arrow key to move the cursor to and fro, so you're left with using an unwieldy finger or hitting delete to go back. The sliding keyboard feels a bit cheap and flimsy; you're apt to drop it if you try to open it with one hand. And phone numbers from previous phones are either transferable only at select locations, or not at all. (I was told at one store that others might have the means to transfer it, and I've read conflicting reports elsewhere.)

In short, if you don't want to pay for a data plan, this is probably the best phone around. If you don't need constant connectivity, it's a great choice.

Score: 8.5/10
Score, relative to other feature phones: 10/10
Price: $50 with an upgrade, $220 without.
Carrier: Verizon Wireless
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