It’s not Verizon that’s doing the cutting; it’s Best Buy. Best Buy is making the Kin 1 available for free and the Kin 2 for $50. (No ridiculous mail-in rebates required.) Verizon is still selling the phones for $50 and $100, respectively. Yes, the data plan for Microsoft’s Windows Mobile phones aimed at the teen/20-something market is still pricey, but at least the phones aren’t if you get them at Best Buy.
“The price cuts could help: they make the Kin 1 a free phone, and while it’s not as functional as a high-end smartphone, it’s better than a lot of the basic phones that most carriers give away for free,” said Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff. “The data plan still seems a bit steep, but if it’s purchased in the context of a family plan, it’s not so bad.”
Microsoft’s Kin series of phones has had a rough infancy. Its initial reviews were anything but praiseworthy, and the only feature that everyone could agree was nice was the Studio cloud-based content backup service, which isn’t part of the phone at all. While Microsoft swears that many of the complaints people had, such as the ability to download third party applications, will be rectified in future updates, much of the review ire came from the steep price points. Since Kin was having trouble putting itself in either smartphone or feature phone categories comfortably, it was dubbed a social phone, but was given the pricing treatment of a smartphone. Verizon wanted the full thirty dollars a month data plan, and the Kin 1 and 2 were being sold for $49.99 and $99.99 after a two-year commitment to Verizon. For many, this was an outrageous price for a phone that had virtually no flexibility and didn’t have the specs or functionality of phones in the same price range.
While Microsoft has been trying to downplay the differences between the Kins and other Windows Phones, the different operating systems they run and the fact that no apps are available for the Kins has led many to scratch their heads about Microsoft’s wisdom in further diluting the Windows Phone brand at the very time the company is attempting to consolidate its mobile marketing message and strategy. Microsoft Regional Director Andrew Brust, in an open letter to CEO Steve Ballmer about Microsoft’s consumer strategy, suggested Microsoft “kill the Kin quietly.”
“I think Microsoft is committed to seeing the Kin through and giving it the best possible chance to succeed at market, but I really think that Windows Phone 7 is the core of the company’s smartphone strategy, and I’d expect most of the company’s energy to go into promoting that platform once it comes out,” said Rosoff.