Microsoft, Verizon beat back Kin pricing criticism

Microsoft and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) are defending the pricing plans for Microsoft's new Kin phones, arguing that even though they are not technically smartphones, charging customers for a full data plan is justified.

Microsoft’s Kin One, left, and Kin Two are available at Verizon Wireless.The companies argue that the phones, which are focused on social networking and have their own unique software, sit above high-end feature phones but below smartphones. Verizon subscribers who want to get the devices have to pay $30 a month for data.

The devices do not run on a smartphone operating system and users cannot download applications to the phones the way they can on BlackBerry devices or Android phones, though Microsoft promises that will change as the Kin platform gets merged with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 smartphone platform. The main justification for the data plan is Kin's cloud-based storage system, called Kin Studio. Photos and videos from the gadgets are automatically geotagged and uploaded to a cloud-based service that users can access on the Web via a visual timeline. The Studio automatically backs up texts, call history, photos, videos and contacts.

"We're introducing a new category that's not exactly a smartphone and certainly more than a high-end feature phone--a social or cloud phone--with a rich browsing experience and rich multimedia social networking where everything I do on the phone is automatically backed up in the Kin Studio," Greg Sullivan, senior product manager with Microsoft's mobile communications unit, told Computerworld.

Verizon acknowledged the required data plan might be steep, but also defended the cost and pointed to the value of the devices' cloud-based service. 

In January, Verizon began offering new unlimited calling plans, a move that coincided with the introduction of a required $9.99 monthly data charge for 3G multimedia devices--basically advanced feature phones with HTML browsing. Since the Kin phones sit above that tier, Verizon is charging Kin subscribers the full $30 data plan that it assesses on its smartphone customers. The Kin One sells for $49.99 and the higher-powered Kin Two retails for $99.99--both with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.

For more:
- see this Computerworld article

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