Nextbit Robin - the cloud phone

There are thousands of mobile phones from known and unknown brands. After using 4 generations of Nexus phones, Google phones are the best. Soon Nexus would change to Pixel as a preference. During 2014 took a big risk with OnePlus One (OPO). It turned out to be a lucky blind date (no pun intended). It has survived 2.5 years without the cases. It did get the dbrand skin. Since the last 6 months, this was been used by the better half and she didn't complain. It still did come of age, though . This led to a hunt for a new phone for the lady.

The instructions were to look for something which had style and didn't burn holes in the pocket. The contenders were - Moto G4 Plus, Le Eco, Redmi Note 4 and Nextbit Robin. The phone had to have a unique feature to make it stand out.

Thanks to holiday season discounts Nextbit Robin was the winner. Got it for close to 50% of the price in India. Luckily the family was in the US during that time and brought it over to India. Buying it in the US saved some pennies for sure, while there is no unboxing.

<colour choice>

Nextbit offers 2 colours, the Mint and the Midnight. The Mint colour choice was the perfect style for a woman (this is for my spouse). The combination of mint and white made it cool to look. The phone does break the conventional colour barrier.

As a technology enthusiast, the hunt for something different is never ending. Nextbit Robin is definitely a good food for thought. Let's call it Robin from now on. It started as a Kickstarter project and became quite a success then. I love Kickstarter projects, as you'd all know by now. This has its own risks, though.

The Features

The design of Robin has rectangle box look. Many devices follow the designs with slim or chamfered edges or even curvy looks. Robin definitely stands out with its boxy look. The buttons on the sides - volume keys on the left and power button to the right. The Power button also houses the fingerprint scanner. This means the dedicated fingerprint scanner or Home button are not required. The moment you hit the power button, the scanner scans the fingerprint and unlocks the Robin. There aren't many devices that use this design, except for few models of Sony Xperia.

<volume button>

The display on the Robin is 5.2". This is a 1080p IPS LCD display, protected under a Gorilla Glass 4. Another prominent thing on the front is the dual front-facing speakers. Yes, that is not the home button. Even the instructions manual specifies it. The dual speakers make Robin loud and clear. The front of the phone houses the proximity sensor. The sensor is large, enough to confuse for two front-facing cameras.

For specifications, Robin runs on a Qualcommâ„¢ Snapdragon 808 processor. It packs a 3GB RAM, 32GB memory, 100GB of cloud storage (read further for more info), NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 LE and Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac.

The 100GB of cloud storage with Robin is what sets it apart from the other phones. Robin allows backing up of the photos to its cloud. Additionally, the cloud also backup the unused applications. Now, this is interesting. Let's say you download 100 application from the Play Store and only use 60 of these on regular basis. Robin's smart storage detects and backup the unused 40 apps to the cloud. Once the backup is complete, the icon gets grey-scaled. During the situation when you need any of these apps, Robin restores the snapshot of the app on the go. Yes, it uses mobile/wifi data connectivity for the restore.

Smartstorage

There are 4 LEDs located in the back of the phone, under the cloud icon. These LEDs blink when Robin is communicating with the cloud to backup or restore the app or photos.

<back of the phone>

Robin has a unremovable 2680 mAh battery, and unusual capacity compared to the other phones. The battery lasts a full day with typical use. It uses Qualcommâ„¢ Quick Charge 2.0 for charging via the USB type C port. The USB-C is the future of power transfer and data for all devices in few years. The retail package is missing the wall charger. The package does include a flat USB-A to USB-C cable included. There is a notification light at the bottom of the phone, next to the charging port. It blinks on any notification from the apps or system.

<usb cable>

Software

Robin, ships out with Marshmallow by default. That's Android 6.0. Head over to the Nextbit Forums and there is a form to enrol for the Nougat (Android 7.1.1). Once I filled the form, it took about 4-5 days for confirmation. The beta update was available via the system OTA update. As for all the devices in the house, Robin was soon running beta too.

Over the past few weeks of running the phone on the Nougat beta, the experience has been smooth. The phone feels snappy, stable and has been consistent of the battery. It lasts an entire day with internet browsing, calls, messaging and youtube streaming. Not much of emails since my best half (I'm the better one) uses it.

<screenshot of the About Phone>

After the recent announcement from Google, looking forward to the Google Assistant. It should be arriving soon.

The Camera

During the hunting phase camera was an important criterion. Reading/ viewing initial reviews of the camera on Robin were negative. Nextbit has been aggressive on improving the camera. Their constant endeavour to achieve this via frequent updates. Talking to actual users this fact got confirmed.

While buying Robin, it was clear to not compare the camera results with that of Nexus 6P or the iPhone 6S. The camera in Robin is decent on specs, considering the price point. There is a 13 MP Rear-facing with phase detection, autofocus, dual-tone flash and a 5 MP Front-facing camera. The photos from Robin are good in the daylight. Come evenings or low-light, the photos become blur.

Robin records 1080p videos @ 30fps. With 100GB cloud backup, 4K would have been better. It does not include optical image stabilisation. Expect camera shakes while recording videos.

The CONs

Robin was a great start of bringing something different to the market in terms to the design and colours. It did its bit to make Robin stand out among the others. Robin was only the first iteration. Nextbit definitely needs to crease out the challenges. Due to its shortfalls, it never became popular in the market.

Robin does fall on the face in few areas from a user perspective. For starter, the retail packaging does not include the wall plug. Nextbit presumes the users already have a spare wall plug. The cable included was a USB-A to USB-C, which meant any wall plug would come handy.

The choice of colour combination picked up, is a stains magnet. After getting the phone, my wife did not use it for a week until the transparent case for the phone arrived. She got worried about Robin getting stained, good decision by her. During the past month, the case already has colour stains, the life of a homemaker.

No doubt about Nextbit trying their best to make the camera great, it still needs a lot of improvement. During the past month, there have been 2 updates for the camera and gallery.

After having Robin for a day, it was sad to know about the Razer's acquisition of Nextbit. Hence the future of Robin is currently uncertain. Read the news here. This is a big factor in deciding about Robin. This has gotten the Nextbit community worried about the future of Robin.

Conclusion

Robin so far has been a pleasant experience. The phone stands out among the crowd. The performance is satisfactory at the price point of $145 (50% of Indian pricing). Let's hope Nextbit will continue to focus on improving the camera and cloud storage experience post the acquisition by Razer as well.

If you still wish to buy Nextbit Robin, it's available at discounted price on Amazon USA. In India, Flipkart continues selling it at the full price.

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