Nextbit Robin

Hands-on with the cloud first Nextbit Robin

Born on Kickstarter, the Nextbit Robin is a peculiar phone. But that’s a good thing. In a time where 99% of smartphone are pretty much the same, it’s refreshing to see a brand do something different.

The headline feature with the Robin is its cloud based storage solution. Instead of forcing you to rely on internal storage, or microSD cards, you get 100GB of cloud storage to keep everything from apps to music and photos. When the phone senses you’ve stopped using say a particularly big game, it’ll move it from the 32GB internal storage to the cloud.

Check out our Nexbit Robin hands-on video

Importantly, the game isn’t deleted. Tap on the greyed out icon and it’ll re-download with all your progress, settings and so on kept intact. In theory you could have 100GB worth of stuff on your phone and even if you lose it, or it breaks, you’ll be able to pick up another Robin and everything will be synced back exactly how it was.

It’s a great idea, though probably one that sounds better on paper than it does in real life. By default, you need to be connected to Wi-fi to re-download your stuff. If you’re out and about and find that app you suddenly need has gone, you’ll be using your data allowance to get it back. You’re also completely reliant on phone signal – no signal, no download.

The other big differentiator with the Robin is how it looks. It’s been quite a while since I have been so impressed with how a plastic phone feels. The matte back is grippy, the angular design stands out amongst a crowd of curvy slabs and little touches, like the dimpled circular speaker for instance, show a lot of work has gone into the design of this phone.

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I also really like the two colour options – a slick, completely black version and a mint green and white combo. There’s even a Kickstarter exclusive green and black colour scheme that looks fantastic.

Specs-wise the Robin is positioned in the upper-mid range. It’s a quick phone, the Snapdragon 808 processor and 3GB RAM made swiping through menus and opening up apps a smooth experience. During my, albeit short, time with the Robin I didn’t notice any lag, though I will need to spend a lot more time with it to really test the performance.

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The 5.2-inch, 1080p IPS LCD display might not match up to the quad-HD panels on devices like Samsung’s Galaxy S6, but it’s still bright and colours are accurate, with impressive viewing angles and not too much of a gap between the glass and the actual display.

In a similar move to Sony with its recent Xperia Z5 phones, Nextbit has tucked a fingerprint scanner inside the side-mounted home button. While, in my opinion, this isn’t as good a spot for it as below the camera on the back (hello Nexus 6P) it still works. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to try the scanner for myself, but I was shown a demonstration and it seemed nice and fast.

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On the back you’ve got a 13MP camera, with phase detection autofocus and a dual-tone LED flash. There’s no OIS, so I’ll have to see how low-light shots come out, but well lit photos in the demo room looked good. There was lots of detail and punchy colours, while the app itself seemed capable. Focusing was fast and there wasn’t that few moments of lag after the shot it taken you often find with mid-range Android devices.

There’s a 5MP camera on the front for selfie action, a 2,680 mAh battery that should easily get you through the day and a USB-C port for charging. USB-C is almost certainly the connection of the future, so it’s nice to see Nextbit using it here. There are also front-facing stereo speakers that should give you a good hit of noise.

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While it’s not a completely stock build of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, Nexbit hasn’t done a Huawei and covered up all of Google’s impressive design work. Yes, the app tray has been killed completely for a more iOS style app grid and a few of the icons and menu colours have been changed, but aside from that there’s a lot of stock Android at play here. And that’s a good thing.

First Impressions

The Nextbit Robin is a charming phone. It’s not trying to overthrow the likes of Apple and Samsung, but it’s doing things differently and offering something you simply can’t get elsewhere.

The cloud aspect is cool, though I will need to really use it on a day to day basis to see whether or not it’s better than simply having lots of internal storage and it looks fantastic. This is a phone I am excited to spend more time with.
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