Kin Phones Making a Comeback Without Data Plans?

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This is weird, but let’s just go with it. Mobile site apparently received a leaked Verizon roadmap showing Microsoft’s ill-fated Kin phones returning from the dead in Q4 of this year.

Engadget claims to have been “able to independently confirm” the news, but reports that the Kin phones will be dumbed down to the point that they won’t require a data contract to operate.

I’ve argued in the past that one of the major failing points of the whole Kin project was that the phones required a minimum of $70 per month in service fees to operate, yet were targeted at tweens and didn’t provide nearly as much functionality as full-fledged smartphones.

(More: Windows Phone 7 Predictions (Spoiler: It Won’t Fail))

If the rumors of a Kin resurrection are true, it looks like Verizon will be positioning the devices as feature phones instead of smartphones. That’s a good idea in theory, but it really axes one of the cooler features: The Loop.

Per Peter’s hands-on with the Kin phones from earlier this year:

“The Loop is your homepage and pulls in streams of updates from RSS feeds, your favorites (aka favorite contacts) and a sprinkling of other’s news feeds. What’s incredibly unique about Kin is the ‘Spot,’ which resides at the bottom of the Loop and is where you can share things with any or all your contacts.”

It’s kind of hard to see what your friends are up to in such a fashion with no data service. To Verizon’s credit, the company has recently rolled out a $15-per-month data plan to supplement the $30-per-month plan that was the only plan offered back when the Kin phones initially went on sale. But you can’t really offer major features like The Loop and Spot sharing on a feature phone without requiring some sort of data plan alongside the voice plan.

(More: Verizon’s Tiered Data Plans Going Live October 28?)

Verizon told Engadget that “data-centric features like the Loop ‘are out,'” but that the $15-per-month, all-you-can-eat Zune Pass music service offered by Microsoft will work with the phones over a Wi-Fi connection. So it appears that the emphasis will be on text-messaging, mostly, with some web-connected features like Zune Pass and (hopefully) the web browser remaining intact for use over Wi-Fi or perhaps an optional data plan.

More on Techland:

Microsoft Kin Is No More

Microsoft’s Project Pink Unveiled As Kin, Coming To Verizon This May

Samsung Focus With Windows Phone 7 Review: Make Room For Microsoft