Earlier this year the spectacular failure of the Microsoft KinOne and KinTwo came to epitomize Microsoft’s efforts in the mobile phone market. The two phones weren’t horrible devices in and of themselves, but they were saddled with a smartphone label and pricing that they clearly did not live up to. After selling fewer than 10,000 units in the first six weeks, Microsoft and Verizon summarily canceled the devices and sent all the unsold units back to the warehouse.
It now appears that the Kins might be back, at least for a little while. A leaked Verizon product roadmap for the rest of this year shows the renamed Kin OneM and TwoM coming back as “enhanced” feature phones. The feature phone designation means that they are no longer subject to the data plans that are mandatory for all Verizon smartphones.
Features like the Kin Studio that automatically backed up photos and video to the cloud are expected to be dropped now that a data plan is optional, although Zune Music is still available over WIFI. Those that want data access now have the option of Verizon’s new tiered pricing that gives 150 MB of data for $15 a month. If Verizon had offered this kind of pricing when the devices had originally launched, they might have had a chance. Unfortunately they are coming back just as a slew of low-end Android devices like the Motorola Citrus are arriving with real smartphone capability and the type of social connections built in to the Kins. This might be enough for Verizon to unload the remaining stock of phones but it probably won’t make it a lasting success.