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Three huge takeaways from our Nextbit interview

We are surrounded by sub $400 Android phones from new companies trying to re-invent the Android phone, and while that's awesome for those of us simply unwilling to shell out $900 for something "top of the line" it means these companies really need something solid to offer customers in order to stand out. For Nextbit, the strategy is two-fold. You've got a unique cloud integration solution that acts as though your phone has an extra 100gb of non-local storage baked right in, and you've got the undeniably unique design of the Nextbit Robin.

We had a lot of questions about how the Nextbit Robin would actually work, so we sat down live last night to talk about how this phone would actually work. Here's what we learned.

Cloud security is a priority

The Nextbit folks are completely aware of the natural concerns whenever anyone mentions backing everything up to a data center somewhere, and there's no getting around that with clever features and a visually pleasing UI. Rather than trying to manage a data center on their own, Nextbit is using Amazon's AWS for the 100gb included with every Robin. Your data is encrypted when travelling from your phone to Nextbit's Amazon cloud, and it remains encrypted when sitting with Nextbit.

On top of an encrypted Amazon cloud, Nextbit will be working with a third-party security company to conduct regular audits of their systems to ensure your data remains secure.

Nextbit Robin

Nextbit data management is designed to be automatic, but users have the final say

When your Nextbit Robin starts to run out of local storage, the phone will automatically start backing things up for you to save space. This includes offloading photos and video, locally stored documents, and even apps. It'll pulls the APK from infrequently used apps off your phone and leave a shadow icon for you to pull it back when you decide you want to use that app. When the app returns, your login is still there and your local data is still usable.

This sounds like a cool idea, right until your find yourself without access to data and the app you want is off in the cloud. To address this, Nextbit has a special interface tool that lets you pin apps you know you're going to need even if you don't use it particularly often. As the user, you control what is backed up and what gets sent away.

Nextbit Robin

Nextbit Robin is totally unlocked, and there will be easy tools for flashing

Nectbit is baking some clever software into their version of Android, but if that's not your thing but you still really like the hardware you can do as you wish with the software. The Nextbit Robin will be sold unlocked, both SIM and bootloader, and if you want to flash a different image to your phone the Nextbit folks are totally cool with that. In fact, there's going to be tools and instructions available from Nextbit to make doing so easy.

We did ask if the Nextbit ROM would be something easily flashed to other devices as well, but currently the team isn't ready to make that commitment. Which makes sense, especially if the goal is to release a complete thought in the form of the Robin before getting crazy with third party phone support. We'll see how this develops in the future.

Ultimately it seems like the Nextbit team is well on their way to a great idea. The Nextbit Robin Kickstarter is still going strong for anyone who wants to get one of these phones at a discounted rate, and the company seems to think they are well on track to have this phone shipping by January. If you're still hoping to touch one of these phones for yourself before putting money down, Nextbit promises to have prototypes for people to touch at the Big Android BBQ in October.

Russell is a Contributing Editor at Android Central. He's a former server admin who has been using Android since the HTC G1, and quite literally wrote the book on Android tablets. You can usually find him chasing the next tech trend, much to the pain of his wallet. Find him on Facebook and Twitter

30 Comments
  • I still have a really hard time believing they got Sprint on board with this phone.
  • You mean Verizon. Never heard of sprint being all that hard +++ Insert witty signature, watch as others not get it, profit +++
  • I watched snippets of it from the video and my main takeaway was how the cloud system worked for the OS. Was really intriguing. Seems to work in background better than I was imaging. I really like this concept. Don't know if I'll adapt to it cause I never max out on memory to need to have apps upload and download. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It will be sold with the bootloader unlocked, not just easily unlockable? That's surprising. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Which makes absolutely no sense. Just leave it like the Nexus phones as it is much more secure with it on. People who don't know anything about bootloaders and roms are going to be buying an insecure device.
  • Its a very interesting concept, but still no one has told me the advantage of this vs just having 128GB of storage.
  • My thoughts too, it's even more expensive, because you use your data plan...
  • You don't use your data if you don't want. It's how you set it. The video is very informative. Most is done via Wi-Fi. The impact to your data plan is minimal. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Take the data cost factor out of it. What is the benefit to this over just 128GB of internal storage? I'm being serious. People are throwing praises their way for this, but I just don't see it. What am I missing?
  • I agree with you. I say the same thing. This phone is not geared with high storage capacity, however. It's simply a new concept to give limited storage a new way to manage it. Technically you could have unlimited storage, but you're just shuffling things around on a 32GB phone. The cloud is your "sd card" and the way it manages your apps pic and data is done through the software instead of you worrying about it manually. It keeps cache of pics so if you need to attach it for example to an email it'll pull it from the cloud instead of you having to download it manually. If you're on your data plan it will confirm with you first. The video is really informative on how it works. It's not your normal cloud storage. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's basically Dropbox for your apps along with logic that determines when and what to move between local and cloud storage. It does photos, music, etc. as well, but you can do that now with existing cloud drives, meaning the primary difference is the ability to automatically move APKs. It sounds interesting, but I wonder if they would be better off focusing purely on their software solution and make it an app that anyone can get.
  • The only benefit I can see is if you lose your phone. With 128 GB of on-board storage, it's all just gone (unless you back it up somewhere). With Nextbit, you get a new one, sign in, and voila. All of your apps AND data can be automatically pushed back down to your new phone, like you never lost it.
  • Not to mention the pricing. That 128GB is gonna cost you at the minimum an extra $100-$200.
  • Agreed. The only thing cloud will be used for is backup I guess. But then I thought the next android version will backup all data from the apps to google's server, if true, then we really don't need the cloud. no ?
  • Well for starters, you're not having to pay for 128 gigs of RAM. You're only paying for 32. The extra 100 gigs is free with purchase. Secondly, you know that there's going to be more storage available - hopefully not too expensive. So you could certainly end up with a terabyte of memory (32 on board, plus as much as you're willing to pay for in the cloud).
  • Sounds like one of the coolest and most interesting phones I've seen in a long time. Glad to see a company actually attempting something new. One question, are you able to install a launcher like Google Now launcher or Nova launcher if you want? I love the concept of this phone, love the design but would prefer to use a launcher I am comfortable with. Might sound like a silly question, but I purchased a Huawei phone and it won't let you changed from the default launcher. If you can use a launcher on it, I'll back the kickstarter. Only have to decide which colour. Probably fly with the white & mint.
  • It appears to be running just a skinned version of Android, so I don't think your limited in what you can install from Google Play Store. This image appears to be stock lollipop with just a skin and some themed icons:
    https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/assets/004/415/776/c0aa92054e5aa5b1836cb89a954... and they are aiming to ship it with Marshmallow, so that'll be good to see:
    "Built on the newest Android, Robin will be familiar right out of the box, but you’ll quickly realize it’s a better experience. We like to keep things simple, and we’ve taken a light touch with the look and feel, streamlining everything so it’s intuitive in all the ways you want it to be, and organized so that what you want is where you need it. Because everything we do with Robin is based on up to the minute innovations on Android, it will always be running on the newest possible version. We’ll do our damnedest to ship it to you running Marshmallow, unless that drops after Robin ships. Then we’ll do an OTA update as soon as possible." https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nextbit/robin-the-smarter-smartphon...
  • You can definitely use Nova. Nextbit already confirmed it in the backer comments. I can't wait to get mine to give it a shot. I'm getting the mint unless the kickstarter only color is nice. I think voting begins Monday for that.
  • yeah, I almost jumped on the VZW $299 fire sale, but I can't justify spending the $299 now without something to hold till early 2016. I usually sell a phone to buy a phone, can't do that here :) But I do want to give it a try. I love the hardware and the design elements of their skin.
  • That's what I generally do as well. I sold my M9 to back Robin. I'm using my iPhone until January.
  • I wish I could afford to back this. Not like I need another phone, but the concept is great and I hope the do well.
  • I'm not sure a SD 808 in early 2016 (and with a Kickstarter, add a few months to that) will be worth $400 no matter how cool the other features. And like anything cloud-based, it increases your data usage. Those of us currently on 2-3 GB plans probably should not plan on getting a Nextbit. The MXPE-esque compatibility with every U.S. carrier is awesome, and points for a cool design.
  • Yeah, I like the design a lot. I'd want this to throw CM or another stockish rom on there. It's got a perfect screen resolution that will give good performance and battery life and it doesn't look like every other phone by HTC or Apple or whoever.
  • You can set it to do all it's uploading, etc. on WiFi. Surely you are on WiFi at some point every day of the week?
    "Robin backs up your apps and photos whenever you’re connected to power and Wi-Fi. (These are the default setting to conserve power and data, but you can change them to fit your needs.)" There are phones shipping right now (e.g. Moto X Style/Pure) with the 808. It'll be more than enough when this drops early next year. It'll probably still be too early for 820 but they could change it up in the future depending on how the campaign / manufacturing process goes. Plus it has 32GB of on board storage (Memory: 3GB RAM / 32 GB onboard / 100 GB online) so it's not like every single thing on the phone is actually in the cloud. You control what goes to the cloud and what doesn't. From the sound of it, you can have very little (if not anything) get uploaded and keep it all locally or you can have it adapt and upload most things. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nextbit/robin-the-smarter-smartphon...
  • But it doesn't have to use your data. If you watch the video they explain how you can use it w/o affecting data usage. Until you get close to the 32GB onboard the cloud stuff only does a backup while on wifi plugged in.
  • "Your data is encrypted when travelling from your phone to Nextbit's Amazon cloud, and it remains encrypted when sitting with Nextbit." But is the data encrypted with a key that only the user has (because he chooses that key on his device)? Or is it secured by Amazon and can the data be accessed (theoretically) by other people than the user alone?
  • This phone is absolutely adorable.
  • Drop the price $100 on each model. Posted via the Android Central App
  • That would be great Posted via the Android Central App
  • That's nice . . I'll wait till January... I think I can save some money .... Thanks to nextbit Posted via the Android Central App