Nextbit's Robin looks to merge phone and cloud like never before
You don't use a smartphone in 2015 without using the cloud in some form or another. It's just not possible. (OK, it's possible, but it won't be fun.) But now Nextbit — a new company led by a former head of partnerships for Android in its early years, a power-management engineer and one of the lead industrial designers behind some of HTC's most iconic smartphones — is looking to bring the cloud to your phone in a whole new way.
Meet the Nextbit Robin.
Launching today on Kickstarter — $299 for early adopters; it'll retail at $399 — and available early next year, think of Robin as a double-edged sword. On one hand you've got the hardware. On the other side is the cloud.
"Nextbit started because we really wanted to ... we felt anxious and a little bit bored with the progress being made at the operating system level in both Android and iOS," Nextbit's Tom Moss told us. He's the former head of business development and partnerships for Google in the very early years of Android. "Nothing's really changed. Yeah, UIs improved, but these are things that are not necessarily new."
Robin definitely is new. But at the same time there's something very familiar about it. A stylish block of polycarbonate — something Nextbit's Scott Croyle, the former HTC designer, knows very well — with a 5.2-inch display inside. The front-facing stereo speakers stand out, as do the oversized sensors and front-facing camera. The idea, Croyle said, was to do something nobody else has done from that design standpoint.
"We were equally unimpressed with the state of phones the past couple of years," Moss says. "Yes, there are some good products here and there. But in in general, as Android enthusiasts ourselves, nothing's really inspired us in a while. It feels like the last great kind of shift in industrial design in phones ... was when Scott did the HTC One. Basically all the phones kind of look the same now, and we think it's kind of boring, and we think consumers are ready for something a little bit fresh, something a little bit cool."
"How bout a lot fresh, a lot cool," Croyle chimes in.
"Really freaking cool," Moss confirms.
And you very much get that feeling with Robin. It's a phone that's definitely trying to look cool. It's got a bit of a retro feel about it, both in the colors — mint on white and midnight black with blue accents — and in the overall design.
More: Nextbit Robin specs
That desire for uniqueness goes into the details as well. You see it in the volume button on the side of Robin — two very separate and distinct buttons. The power button's over on the right, and it doubles as the fingerprint scanner — one of the first times we've seen that feature move to the side of the phone instead of in a physical home button. On the back of Robin you'll find four LED lights that look like they're straight off an external battery. They'll light up when Robin's doing its cloud thing.
And that Cloud thing is this: Right now it's all about storage. Robin comes with 32 gigabytes of internal storage. And as we all know, that's really the minimum for any phone that's not considered low-end. So Robin takes a look at your apps. And when it spots something that you haven't used in a while it'll back up the APK data to its cloud, leaving your personal application data locally on the phone. The app icon will gray out, indicating that the app is backed up. If you try to launch the app again it'll prompt you to re-download the app. (If you're not on Wifi you'll get another prompt checking to make sure you want to burn your mobile data.) The backed-up app is a snapshot of one point in time. The big selling point is that you don't lose any of your data. You don't have to log back in. You don't have to recreate progress in a game. But it also means that if you sit on an app for six months before using it again, what you download again will be that six-month-old build, and you'll then have to download and apply any updates from Google Play.
Nextbit is giving everyone 100GB of cloud storage to start with.
Says Croyle: "We're the only cloud-first, design-forward smartphone in the market today. It doesn't mean that we're a cloud phone. There are serious limitations in a cloud phone. It'll come, it'll do all that one day, but the reality is why wait? We cane take the cloud and the OS and break down the barrier between them, and do it in a smart way."
And that smart way continues into photos. Robin will back up your images to its cloud, and then serve back more resolution-appropriate versions (remember it's a 1080p display) until you tell it to download the whole smash. It's all in the name of saving space on the device. (And it's also not entirely unlike what Google Photos does.)
So we've got another affordable device that flirts between the mid-range and high-end spectrum. But it's untested (we'll get our hands on it soon), and not actually available until January.
The real question is whether that'll be enough to lure users in a crowdfunding environment when there are a number of excellent smartphone choices in the same price range. And when the smartphone space in general continues to advance as quickly as it does.
Another software tidbit: The phone will launch with Lollipop — but Nextbit already is working on Marshmallow (though Google hasn't yet released the code publicly.) It's also going to have the full Google suite of apps available.
Get the Android Central Newsletter
Instant access to breaking news, the hottest reviews, great deals and helpful tips.
Galaxy Nexus, LG viper, Galaxy s3, HTC Evo 4g, Galaxy Note 2, Galaxy s5, LG G-Flex, Galaxy Mega 6.3, Galaxy s6 edge, Galaxy Note 5 Tablets
Galaxy Note 10.1 gt-n8013, Galaxy tab 3 7.0, a few low budget tabs I care not to mention because they were terrible and not worthy of my memory. Watch
This isn't new tech though, Apples iCloud photos does the same thing and Google Photos will upload every photo and video to the cloud automatically as well. So with that being said, nothing...nothing is new
I agree with you though, performance, camera, battery life, extra features they all pretty much matter far more to me than design.
from a design perspective all I care about is small bezels and screen to body ratios, which is really more of a practical usability concern.
Current cloud products allow you to sync to the cloud, but it doesn't free the space automatically. For me that's fine , I can manually purge the local storage , but most users don't know how to do this.
which leaves them with the problem my wife has, no room for apps and stuff due to all the old photos on her phone.
The app backup doesn't sound like a particularly appealing option, given you have to redownload the apk and install it. Unfortunately for this product, the good idea auto syncing photos and videos and clearing the space on local storage could be easily implemented by google with a Photos app update.
Google, if your listening, do this, you could enable it as a option that's turned off by default to start.
email -- Inbox
photos -- Google Photos
music -- Google Play Music
files -- Google Drive
texts -- who knows?
tasks -- Tasks
lists -- Keep
the cloud sync your talking about with google all keeps a local copy on your phone.
It just seems like an awfully complicated way to save space when you could just spend the extra $50 for more capacity to begin with.
I do like the look of the phone, though. But you can more or less replicate those color schemes on Moto maker and get a similarly priced device with carrier support and a proven, quality interface and performance. Posted via the Android Central App
Removable battery (if Wiley Fox can do it then so can you!;)
4 GB ddr4 ram
3500, 4000, 4500 mAh battery for 5", 5.7" and 6.5" phones respectively
32/64/128 GB memory
21 MP camera
front facing duel speakers
water proof Cost of 5" phone: $400, $450, $500 for 32/64/128 GB
Cost of 5.7" phone: $500, $550, $600
Cost of 6.5" phone: $600, $650, $700 I guarantee you that anyone who puts such a project on kickstarter for 60 days (limit on kickstarter) will get $25 million to $30 million in pre-orders and may even reach $35 to $40 million. Either way it would be a new all time record for Kickstarter, with the previous record being the Pebble Time with $20.3 million.