Nextbit Robin Smartphone Hits Mobile Market With Help of Kickstarter

 
 
By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2015-09-04
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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    Nextbit Robin Smartphone Hits Mobile Market With Help of Kickstarter
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    Nextbit Robin Smartphone Hits Mobile Market With Help of Kickstarter

    The Nextbit Robin, touted as "the smarter smartphone," comes with an interesting design, and relies on the cloud for storage and managing apps.
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    Robin Goes to the Cloud for Storage, Apps
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    Robin Goes to the Cloud for Storage, Apps

    Arguably, the Robin's most important feature is its cloud integration. While the device comes with on-board storage, the Nextbit Robin automatically backs up all apps and photos to the cloud and offloads them from local storage whenever it needs to make room in on-board storage. According to Nextbit, the apps not typically accessed by the user are sent to the cloud, though they're easily retrievable from a Web connection. It's an interesting concept that hasn't been applied much by other device makers.
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    Runs the Familiar Android User Interface
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    Runs the Familiar Android User Interface

    Robin runs a standard version of Android. Although there are different processes running in the background, users will find a sleek version of Google's Android user interface with which they're already familiar. Nextbit argues that while its handset comes with advanced features, its software is still intuitive, thanks to Android.
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    Nextbit Promises to Update Android
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    Nextbit Promises to Update Android

    One of the biggest complaints Android device owners have is that they don't always get the latest OS updates. Nextbit has committed to deploying the latest Android version, regardless of when customers buy their Robins. The company says its cloud capabilities rely on advancements in Android, requiring it to keep its devices updated. That's good news for Android owners still stuck with outdated software.
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    Silent, Lighted Notifications Tell Users What's Happening
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    Silent, Lighted Notifications Tell Users What's Happening

    To be less intrusive than other handsets, Robin comes with four indicator lights on the backplate. One will tell users that their device is backing up to the cloud, while another on the bottom informs them of "important notifications." Even if Robin is on silent mode and face down on a table, the device's notifications light will illuminate to tell users they may want to check their handsets. What constitutes an important notification is ostensibly set within the software.
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    Robin Design Eschews Rounded Edges
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    Robin Design Eschews Rounded Edges

    To its credit, Nextbit has gone out of its way to design a device that doesn't look anything like its competitors. The Robin's design is rather boxy, eschewing the all-too-common rounded edges. In addition, Nextbit says it has placed buttons strategically to make them easier to access when holding the handset with a single hand. Nextbit said its design concept was for all buttons and sensors to feel "harmonious" and "symmetrical." Its concept art suggests it has achieved that goal.
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    Screen Specifications Are Solid but Not Exciting
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    Screen Specifications Are Solid but Not Exciting

    Despite offering a high-end software experience, when it comes to the Robin's display technology, it's a decidedly midrange device. The smartphone comes with a 5.2-inch In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD 1080p screen, which should do the trick for most functions. But the screen size won challenge the higher-end devices with bigger screens and quad-HD resolution. It won't attract buyers who insist on larger handset displays.
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    Hardware Specifications Are Typical for Android Handsets
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    Hardware Specifications Are Typical for Android Handsets

    Overall, Robin's specs are about what one would expect from a midrange handset. The smartphone comes with a Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of on-board storage to complement its 100GB of cloud storage. A 13-megapixel camera sits on the rear of the device, and it comes with a fingerprint sensor and near-field communication. Nextbit has opted for a middling battery size of 2,680mAh.
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    Nextbit Won't Pack It With Bloatware
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    Nextbit Won't Pack It With Bloatware

    Nextbit says that one of its biggest complaints about today's smartphone operating systems is that they come with bloatware, or extra apps that users may not want. To rectify that problem in its own device, Nextbit says it will only bundle critical applications, like a Web browser and access to an application marketplace, and nothing else. Other Android vendors are bundling far too many apps with their devices, but Nextbit promises it will not.
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    Buyers Have Mobile OS Options
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    Buyers Have Mobile OS Options

    In one of the more interesting moves yet, Nextbit says that it's not going to lock customers into using Google's Android. The company says that Robin owners can put another operating system onto the device, including Cyanogen, "or any other ROM you want." What's more, if the owner kills the device by changing the operating system, Nextbit will still consider it under warranty. That's something you don't often hear in the smartphone business.
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    An Eye on Pricing, Availability and Carriers
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    An Eye on Pricing, Availability and Carriers

    Nextbit will ship Robin with an unlocked SIM, allowing users in countries around the world to put it on the carrier of their choice. Although pledges to buy Robin started at $299, that introductory pricing is gone. As of this writing, Kickstarter backers can place orders for a new Robin for as little as $349. But, currently, Nextbit says it plans to start producing Robins in January 2016 and shipping them to some customers that month. Most other backers will get their hands on the Robin in February or March.
 

Yet another new smartphone brand has hit the mobile market, and its makers seek to carve out a niche for the device. They are touting the new handset—called the Nextbit Robin—as "the smarter smartphone." It runs the Android OS, but it comes with an interesting design and relies on the cloud for storage and managing apps. Another interesting factor is that supporters and prospective buyers have backed Nextbit with Kickstarter funding. Robin is part of a growing contingent of smartphones attempting to change buyers' expectations. Products from Samsung, Apple and others that look similar and have roughly the same features dominate the market. Companies like OnePlus and now Nextbit are trying something new. However, as small players, they have difficulty at least so far in attracting the market attention they need to grab significant mobile market share. Still, they soldier on, and Nextbit's Robin looks interesting enough to be worthy of a second look by smartphone buyers. Read on to learn more about the Robin and judge for yourself if it can succeed in an increasingly crowded market.

 
 
 
 
 
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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