The pair of Windows-powered QWERTY phones replaces the Hiptop series for Twittering tweens and Facebook fiends, and will run on Vodafone’s 3G network.
Microsoft has unveilled its newest Windows-powered smartphones – except that they don’t run Windows Phone 7 and perhaps they’re not quite
as ‘smart’ as you might expect. But social networking, funky styling and yoof appeal? They’ve got that up the yazoo.
Dubbed ‘Kin’, they’re the first fruit of Microsoft’s Project Pink – an effort to update the popular Hiptop platform which Microsoft acquired in 2008.
Like the Hiptop line (known in the US under the ‘Sidekick’ sobriquet), the Kin One and Kin Two are built around social networking and cloud computing.
The former comes in the shape of support for Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live, MySpace and other social networking services. These are presented as a stream of live updates to the phone’s Kin Loop UI, which has more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Live Tiles’ look of Windows Phone 7.
The cloud kicks in as the storage centre for each user’s content and settings, similar to the original Hiptop, but also accessible through a slick browser-based package called Kin Studio (shown below) for organising photos, video, text messages and data in what Microsoft calls a timeline-based “personalised digital journal”.
Both of the Kin handsets also include a Web browser based on the Windows Mobile version of Internet Explorer; an email client, which unfortunately renders messages as plain text rather than HTML; and an RSS feed reader.
The devices also double as MP3 players and in fact are the closest thing yet to a ‘Zune phone’, with a music player based on the Zune software (shown above) and support in the US for the online Zune Marketplace. Other creature comforts include an FM radio, GPS receiver and Wi-Fi.
The puck-shaped Kin One (above), previously outed as the Turtle, sports a 2.6 inch 320 x 240 touchscreen, 4GB of storage and a 5 megapixel camera.
The Kin Two (below) is a wider slider with a 3.4 inch 480 x 320 touchscreen, 8GB of flash memory and an 8 megapixel camera. Both handsets are built by Sharp, which manufactured most of the original Hiptop line.
As for the OS, Microsoft has ditched the Hiptop’s Java-based operating system in favour of a mobile OS built around the same Windows CE core as the forthcoming Windows Phone 7 but without the fancier features or the ability to run third-party apps, or what could be tagged Windows Phone 7 Basic.
Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, described the un-named OS as “Windows Phone 7, customised it for a social networking audience.” Project lead Roz Ho calls Kin a “new member of the Windows Phone family.”.
The Kin One and Kin Two will be available on US carrier Verizon Wireless from May, although plans and pricing are yet to be announced.
More relevant to the Aussie audience is that the Kin phones will also be released in the UK and parts of Europe later this year through an exclusive deal with Vodafone.
Telstra was previously the sole Australian partner for the Hiptop service, but it stopped selling the devices in September last year and now only maintains the service for existing customers.
We’ve pinged Vodafone Australia to ask if they’re bringing the Kin down under and will let you know what they say…