Verizon Wireless is offering Microsoft's previously defunct Kin One and Kin Two phones via its Website, confirming earlier reports.
Having retrieved the devices from the dustbin of history, Verizon plans to market them as feature phones. The Kin One (now branded the KIN ONEm) will retail for $19.99, and the Kin Two (now the KIN TWOm) for $49.99, with a two-year contract. Both phones offer access to Microsoft's Zune Pass music-subscription service and access to social networks via the Web browser.
Microsoft had originally developed the Kin One and Kin Two as phones for teenagers and young adults obsessed with social networking. Both offered their users a steady stream of updates, and allowed for the seamless uploading of photos and data to the cloud.
Within weeks of the phones' May release, however, it became clear that neither device was seizing the hearts and minds of its target audience. The Kin Facebook application registered only 8,810 "monthly active users," and rumors abounded that less than 10,000 of either Kin device had sold.
Microsoft then pulled the plug. "We are integrating our Kin team with the Windows Phone 7 team, incorporating valuable ideas and technologies from Kin into future Windows Phone releases," the company wrote in a June 30 statement.
Analysts generally laid the blame for Kin's demise on Verizon's doorstep, noting that the carrier's data plans were likely too costly for teenagers and budget-conscious parents. Others suggested that Microsoft failed to clearly articulate the phones' potential advantages over competing devices.
"Microsoft did not do an adequate job of differentiating itself from the other vendors and defining Kin's value proposition," Jack Gold, principal analyst of J. Gold Associates, wrote in a July 1 e-mail to eWEEK. "I think they now realize that Windows Phone 7 has to be a big success if they want to stay in the mobile game."
But whether because it had a passive overstock or it wants to surf a renewed interest in Microsoft mobile products sparked by the release of Windows Phone 7, Verizon has decided to revive both the stubby, circular Kin One and more rectangular Kin Two.
News of the Kin resurrection first appeared on the blog PPCGeeks, which posted a purported roadmap for Verizon's fourth-quarter 2010. Both Kin phones feature prominently in that document. Additional news sources then seized on the report, adding how the new Kin would lack data-heavy features such as Loop, which constantly refreshed the user's social-networking feeds.