The Kin TWO and its sister product, the Kin ONE were unveiled at an event in San Francisco in April 2010. They were the result of a Microsoft project code-named Pink and were designed around a Web-based service specifically optimised for social communication.
Both devices featured full qwerty keyboards and ran a proprietary software platform. All content on the handset was automatically synchronised to Kin Studio, a website that ordered contacts, messages, calls, video and images in a chronological sequence.
The announcement of the Kin phones and service followed months of speculation. The products were the result of more than two years' development in the wake of Microsoft's acquisition of Danger in February 2008. The total cost of the venture was estimated to be around $1 billion, of which Danger cost $500 million.
The Kin phones were made by Sharp and were the first mobile phones to use Nvidia's Tegra APX 2600 chipset. The use of Sharp to manufacture the Kin ONE and Kin TWO was unsurprising, as it has previously produced Danger's Hiptop/Sidekick devices.
The Kin TWO had an eight-megapixel camera and was able to capture 720p video.
Although Microsoft had described Kin as a member of the Windows Phone family, the Kin devices used a proprietary platform based on Windows CE, featured a custom browser and lacked a third-party application environment for developers. This meant there was no compatibility with Microsoft's Marketplace for Mobile and, crucially for users, no application store.
At the launch event, Microsoft described Kin as "deeply social" and optimised for social communication when compared with Windows Phone 7, which was designed to offer "the best multipurpose experience for a broad audience".
By offering such distinct products Microsoft stated it was trying to target two different segments. Windows Phone 7 focussed on "simplifying" and Kin on "amplifying" people's lives. However, the use of Windows Phone to describe the two sets of products with fundamental differences in philosophy, audience, hardware, software and services confused the market. This was evident at the launch, with some media incorrectly assuming the Kin devices ran Windows Phone 7.
The Kin’s user interface aggregated all communications directly onto the home screen. This was called the Kin Loop and it provided updates from Facebook, Twitter or MySpace as well as information on texts, e-mails and missed calls. It was designed to be a live feed of all interactions regardless of type. However, to overcome the danger that interactions with close friends became lost among the noise from multiple contacts, users could highlight favourites, and these updates were given priority in the Loop.
At the heart of the user interface was Kin Spot. Uses could drag relevant contacts and videos, images, texts, websites, locations and so on to the Spot, where the user then chose how to share them. This meant the user interface followed a flat hierarchy, in which users dictated how and what to communicate rather than the interface dictating whether this should be determined by message type, contact and so on.
The phones were underpinned by a cloud-based service, Kin Studio. This was described by Microsoft as "my phone online in any browser".
The Studio website captured and presented every action undertaken on a Kin phone. Information such as calls, text messages, e-mails, status updates, photos and videos were automatically uploaded to the site and presented in a chronological sequence. Kin devices were set to poll every 15 minutes or when a user manually refreshed. This also meant that content was pushed from the Studio site rather than the handset to social networks, thus limiting cellular data traffic which was considered an advantage to users and mobile network operators.
The Kin One and Kin Two went on sale via Verizon on 14 May 2010 but it immediately became clear that sales were not living up to expectations.
Sales in the first six weeks fell substantially short of Microsoft's expectations. On 29 June 2010 a price cut was implemented discounting the Kin One from $50 to $30, and the Kin Two by 50 percent, from $100 to $50. Just two days later Microsoft took the decision to abandon the product line entirely. Verizon returned it's excess units to Microsoft. Earlier plans to offer the devices through Vodafone in Europe were also abandoned.
A major factor in Kin's failure was the service pricing set by Verizon Wireless. Both devices came with a two-year plan with a minimum monthly voice tariff of $40 and a data tariff costing $30 a month. This meant that despite Microsoft's intention to position Kin below Window Phone 7 and other high-end devices, the Kin One and Two were competing with devices such as the iPhone in terms of their monthly service cost.
Later in the year the Kin products reappeared with Verizon as the Kin ONEm and Kin TWOm. These renamed devices were the same products but with defeatured software that turned them into basic featurephones and removed all the Kin features including Loop, Spot and the online Kin Studio.
The final nail in the coffin for the Kin devices was when the kin.com website was shut down in January 2011.