Bad Reviews & High Prices: Microsoft and Verizon Inadvertently Conspire to Knockout the Kin

by Matt Klassen on May 6, 2010

Although news of the official unveiling of the new Kin series of phones from Microsoft came and went with relatively little fanfare, with the phone set for release today on Verizon’s online store, and next week to actual stores across the nation, this innovative feature-phone had the, in the words of Mobile Crunch blogger Matt Burns, “great potential of offering teenage girls, Facebook-addicted moms, and technology-challenged folk a smarter cell phone.”

You’ll notice that the Kin series of feature phones had great potential, for everything that could have been with this phone has already been flushed down the toilet as a result of a crippling one-two punch in the form of poor reviews and over-pricing, which begs the question, did both Microsoft and Verizon want the Kin series to fail?

While it’s certainly unlikely that either company meant to sabotage this innovative project, their actions certainly tell another story. For Microsoft, the potential was there to produce a high end feature phone that would clearly have appealed to an almost untapped niche in the mobile market, chatty girls and the technologically illiterate, as their efforts towards their unofficial secretive viral marketing campaign saw the Kin series become the talk of the tech world months before it was unveiled.

But with reviews pouring in stating that the phone’s OS is unintuitive, overly busy, and unhelpful, it makes you wonder if Microsoft should have put less effort into marketing the phone, and more effort into actually producing something people would want to buy.

Nevertheless, if there’s anything the history of mobile tech has taught us, it’s that phones can recover from poor initial reviews to gain a modicum of success in the market, but that’s only if they’re affordable for the average consumer, but that’s where Verizon comes in.

The untimely demise of the Kin feature-phone series will most likely come at the greedy and incompetent hands of the wireless giant, as Verizon has clearly failed to recognize the potential of this phone for the average user, and has subsequently priced the Kin right out of its prospective market.

While the Kin1 and Kin2 are available for $49.99 and $99.99 respectively, that is after the standard $100 mail-in rebate, what really makes these phones unattractive is the $30 dollar data package that Verizon will make all Kin users sign up for, the same data package that owners of hardcore data intensive devices like the Droid or Blackberry sign up for.

Clearly Verizon missed the memo regarding the purpose and vision for the Kin series, which, simply enough, was to offer a feature-phone that brought advanced social networking capabilities to the generation of people that wanted it the most, namely teens and tweens. But I would wager that there will be few kids that can convince their parents to not only pony up the steep purchase price, but to continue to pay $30 a month on a two-year plan for a phone that they’ll probably be sick of in a few months.

The truly unfortunate thing is that the Kin phones did have some amazing potential to fill a sizeable void in the mobile market, as its innovative OS and easy-to-use features made it a smartphone-light, a clever and innovative bridge over the yawning chasm between full-fledged smartphones and the dumb-phones of yesteryear. Oh Verizon, when will you learn?

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