Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/16/2016 10:18:33 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Great design | Unique cloud storage features | Inexpensive
Camera not great | OS could be less intrusive | Very laggy performance
- By Sunetra Chakravarti
Chances are you have not heard about Nextbit. They are that new on the block. They started a kickstarter in September 2015 and within a month had raised over $1 million for a 'cloud first' phone. The first phones started shipping in February to backers and the Robin is currently on sale through their website.
And if you are still wondering what a 'cloud first' phone is, it isn't as technical as it sounds. Every evening, when you put your phone on charge and if there is wi-fi available, the phone automatically backs up content to the cloud so if you ever lost/damaged the phone, you would not lose your content.
Still intrigued? Read on...
One of the most fresh and bright looking handsets around, the Nextbit Robin gives the de rigeur unibody metal phones a run for their money. My review sample was a duck egg blue and white (they also do a Black and orange version) which has a plastic soft touch body thats slim and angular, giving it a very distinctive look. During my time reviewing it, I got several 'What's that phone!' questions.
Form-factor wise the phone is the closest to the Sony Xperia range, especially because the fingerprint sensor is on top of the power button on the right of the phone and the phone has the sort of angular edges and stone slate type feel that I have come across only on a Sony handset before.
There is also something of an HTC phone here and why not? The Head of Design at Nextbit is ex-HTC himself. In a nod to HTC's design aesthetic, there are speaker grilles both on top and bottom of the front panel and the camera lens in front isn't a pinhead but a design feature.
The Nextbit Robin does not come with expandable memory, but you don't have to rely on its 32GB internal memory either. When the phone is connected to wifi and charging, the phone gets automatically backed upto Nextbit's encrypted cloud where each user gets 100GB worth of free storage.
The phone also keeps a beady eye on your apps, so if there are some that you don't use for some time, it will automatically remove them from the phone and stick them on the cloud. They are not deleted from your profile and leave a ghost of their presence behind so you can download them if/when you miss them.
The whole exercise seemed a bit pointless however, so if I don't use Maps for a long time and then need to use it when on holiday, I would never want to download it over 4G and kill my data allowance!
It is a great idea on paper but very difficult to put to use in real life.
The battery on this device is diabolically bad, not only is it small (2680mAH) in comparison with the size of the screen (5.2-inch) but the HD display doesn't do it any favours either. During the time I spent reviewing the device, it would run out of charge at the end of the day even after low to medium use and woe betide if I tried to play games or watch streaming videos.
The Robin supports Qualcomm's Fast Charge 2.0, but in a twist of bizzarre behaviour, Nextbit don't supply a charger plug with the phone, just a USB-C type charging wire. I happened to have a Fast Charger and the phone didn't take longer than an hour to go from 0-100%
Fiddly menu access and grainy low-light shots make this a sub-par camera on a phone despite its 13-MP primary camera. During daytime, it did an okay job but fell over as soon as it came to taking pictures in low light conditions. Pictures taken in HDR mode reminded me of over-exposed low-res images I would take on previous generation phones and the manual mode was too fiddly for me to bother with and I eventually gave up.
Processor and software
Robin packs a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor and in keeping with the pricing of the handset, it is a firmly middle of the road performance that you can expect from it. Software-wise, it is Android 6 onboard but one that has been heavily tweaked so Nextbit could put their custom cloud features on it.
In theory, it should work well, but sadly it doesn't. I found the Robin quite temperamental with a potential to be quite laggy. Switching between apps was lternated between being so breezy and painfully slow with such regularity that I didnt know what to expect when I unlocked it.
Upon unlocking, you see the usual apps on the screen but also get another layer of choices with a second layer of options so you can see 'all apps', 'archived apps' and 'pinned apps'. As far as custom Android themes go, this is not a patch on what manufacturers like Sony and LG try to pass off to customers but it is still quite superfluous.
Should I buy the Nextbit Robin?
Street-cred wise this is a great phone. It is a breath of fresh air in an all metal world. It is also a very good idea to hook up a phone to cloud for it to backup automatically and especially for a challenger brand. However, niggles remain. The camera is very laggy and performance is hit and miss.
However, it is a good handset to buy if you are tired of the usual array you see in stores and are really looking for something that tries to break the mould. And the Robin does exactly that with its keen pricing because even when I was writing the writing the review, the phone was discounted by $100.
Go, get it!
Nextbit Robin specifications
Operating System: Android™ 6.01 Marshmallow with Nextbit OS
Dimensions: 149 x 72 x 7 mm
Resolution: 1080x1920 pixels
Display: 5.2-inch 1080p IPS LCD
Processor: Qualcomm™ Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor; 3GB of RAM
Camera: 13-MP Rear-facing with phase detection autofocus, dual-tone flash 5-MP Front-facing
Memory: 32 GB Onboard; 100 GB Online
Battery: 2680 mAh
Fingerprint sensor: Yes
Misc: NFC, Type C; Bluetooth 4.0 LE Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac