Only about a month after introducing its Kin social media phones, Verizon Wireless has drastically cut the prices on the Microsoft devices aimed at young mobile users. The Kin One now sells for $29.99, down from $49.99, with a $100 discount and a two-year contract. The price of the Kin Two, which has a larger screen and offers HD video, was cut in half to $49.99.
Given that Microsoft and Verizon are going after the social media-centric youth market with the Kin, dropping the price range could be a way to make the phones more attractive to target buyers. But it would've been better if they'd priced the phones lower to start with so the cuts now didn't look like a desperation move.
A Verizon Wireless spokesperson told BusinessWeek the Kin price cuts are part of a broader set of price reductions, noting the carrier was "comfortable" with consumer response to the phones so far.
Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at Current Analysis, today described consumer reaction to the Kin phones as "tepid." Despite the price cuts, the $29.99 data plan on top of the $39.99 calling plan is still a barrier for the cash-strapped teen demographic, he said. The monthly data charge amounts to adding $720 over the two-year life of the plan. "As long as Verizon is requiring a full smartphone data plan, why not get a full smartphone?" he asked. The Kin, for instance, doesn't support apps because of its focus on social networking.
Verizon also isn't offering any pay-as-you-go plan with the Kin phones that might compete with prepaid devices from the likes of Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile USA. Greengart told Moblog last month that kids seemed to like the Kin, based on an informal focus group he did with a group of teenagers.
Indeed, Kin's Facebook fan page has drawn more than 214,000 "Likes," in part as a result of a video ad campaign that follows a young woman named Rosa around the country as she tries to meet in person some of the people she's friended on Facebook. Wall posts on Kin's Facebook page appeared to be mostly positive, though there were some complaints about the lack of certain features, like GPS and apps.
But can Microsoft's social media campaign behind the Kin be considered a success if sales for the phones prove disappointing over a longer period?