Kin phones have new OS but no Studio

Second-generation, stripped-down Kin phones from Microsoft pop up again from Verizon

After an unsuccessful first outing, Microsoft's second-effort Kin phones are available from Verizon, this time with a different operating system, slightly different pricing options and without their most popular feature.

After launching the Kin phones on Verizon's network in April, Microsoft announced just two months later that it would stop developing the platform to focus on Windows Phone 7 instead. The Kin phones were designed to attract young consumers and have their roots in software from Danger, the company that made the Sidekick phones and was acquired by Microsoft.

The phones reportedly did not sell well and Verizon dropped the price of the phones shortly after launch.

Now Verizon has listed the phones online again, this time available without the need to buy any data plan. Their names have been altered to Kinm One and Kinm Two to reflect that these are "modified" from the originals.

The phones have a different operating system from the original Kin phones, a Verizon spokeswoman said. It's a closed OS also built by Microsoft but is not the Windows Phone software, she said. The phones will have a browser and e-mail but won't have software that came with the original Kins to support Kin Spot, Loop or Studio.

Kin Studio was one feature that was widely praised. It lets users log onto their accounts on a computer and see a timeline of activity on the phone, including photos, videos and text messages. The feature backs up all content on the phone.

The Kin One is now listed for $US20 with a two-year contract, instead of the earlier discounted $30, and the Kin Two is selling for $50, the same as previously.

Users can now choose to have no data plan or a variety of data plans, including a $15 monthly plan that comes with 150 MB of data. Previously Kin users had to pay for a $30 monthly data plan, a requirement that some people grumbled about since the phones lack some basic smartphone features.

Verizon sales representatives are offering conflicting details about the phones and Verizon's website doesn't appear ready to take orders. Two out of four sales people said that Kin Studio is available. A press spokeswoman said that's not so.

Also, after one selects the phone and service plans online, the website says that the phones aren't available. A phone sales representative said that he could fulfill an order for the phones, though.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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