Microsoft Kin One and Kin Two first hands-on!

We've just spent some time handling Microsoft's just-announced Kin One and Kin Two, and we're not sure what to think; the keyboards have surprisingly good feel, particularly the One (think Palm Pre levels of usability on the One, for example -- we wouldn't be surprised if it was their benchmark) and the phones generally feel pretty solid. In fact, we'd go so far to say that this is a marked improvement in hardware quality for Sharp than any of its Sidekicks ever offered. Problem is, we just can't get over the fact that the software is extremely limited in its scope -- yes, we understand that it's by design, but does this so-called "upload generation" of socially-connected teens and twentysomethings really want a phone that they can't download games to? That's the million-dollar question that Verizon will be answering over the next few months, it seems.

We know that the One is positioned as the slightly lower-end device on account of its 5 megapixel cam (the Two has 8) and half the internal storage, but we actually came away liking it more -- it's the only one of the two that looks truly unique, because the Two just looks like any old landscape slider smartphone (not to say that's necessarily a bad thing). The front of both devices is graced with a single metallic button to offset an otherwise clean glossy black bezel -- this button functions as Back, not Home, so if you're multiple levels deep into the UI you'll only be taken back one. You can still hold the button down to get back to the home screen, fortunately, and both the One and Two have dedicated camera buttons -- Microsoft's making no secret of the fact that image and video capture are a huge push for these devices.

Follow the break for more thoughts, shots, and video!

The basic meat-and-potatoes parts of the user interface -- the Loop, the Spot, and so on -- work pretty smoothly, without any hiccups. The browser stuttered in places, but it wasn't unusably bad; hopefully this is something that'll improve over time, since the Kins support over-the-air updates. Maybe our favorite part of the device, though, was Zune Pass, which streams over WiFi or 3G. Yes, you heard us right: you can search for and stream basically anything out of the Zune Pass collection over Verizon's EV-DO, then play it in the background while you go about your merry way. It worked really well, and the Zune UI seems to translate pretty well onto a display as small as the One's tiny QVGA unit.