Microsoft announced a new phone this morning called the Kin. It's all about being social: putting the stream of updates from your friends on Facebook and Twitter at the center of the experience, dragging photos to share them on the web, etc. It's a Zune phone, it will be on Verizon exclusively and no pricing information is available yet.

At first glance this looks like a lightweight device aimed at people who don't want to pay for an iPhone and for whom apps are less important than a strong focus on social networking. That might have made sense a year ago when Microsoft bought Danger, the makers of the Sidekick and the system the Kin seems to be built on, but does it still make sense today? I don't think so.

Social networking is no longer the destination, it's now the context. It's the identity that people use to log-in to apps and share the results back to their friends. Mobile phones are about powerful, intriguing apps, these days. Analyst firm Piper Jaffray reported this morning, for example, that teen intent to purhase the iPhone has doubled over the last year to 31% - and that despite the cost. It's because of the apps. The user experience plus huge store full of apps plus marketing make the Apple world very hard to beat on mobile.

Where are the apps for the Kin? There doesn't appear to be any, other than the built-in features like automatic online backup of photos and the creation of a photo timeline.

It's important to give people access to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace - but is that really enough anymore? I'd argue that it's not. The Apple app store has so caught the imagination of so many people, that's where the action and excitement are on mobile. Perhaps that's just among the slightly more geeky though, perhaps a low-cost Facebook phone will win the hearts of millions.

Six months ago the Palm Pixi was mentioned as a low-cost app-savvy mobile phone that could increase youth use of smartphones, but it doesn't appear that that's happened. Probably in large part because the Palm app store is paltry. Many young people buy feature phones and supplement them with iPod Touches - for the apps. That still sounds like the smartest move for the young people being targeted by the Kin. That way you get the apps you want without a monthly data plan.

Maybe the Kin will have a strong mobile browser and support the growth of a non-native, web based app ecosystem. That's not the way it's being framed, though. Maybe I just don't get the appeal: the promo copy honestly says that among the things the Kin will hold is "your drama." That sounds frightening to me.

What do you think, do you think a social phone is sufficiently compelling for users?