The Nextbit Robin has been one of the most talked about smartphones in recent times. And unlike many “in-the-news” smartphones, it has got attention not for its hardware but because of what it offers in terms of design and experience – most notably its leveraging cloud storage to ensure that you are never a byte short in terms of storage. The phone itself is set to arrive in India shortly, and we managed to get a brief look at it.
And well, just how well the phone works is something that will be discovered in our detailed review, but one thing that the Nextbit Robin definitely does is attract attention. We saw the Mint model in a box that greeted us with the words “Hey Rebel, meet Robin.” The box itself is different from other phone boxes, eschewing the shoe box and pizza box shapes that most brands prefer, and instead going for one that is slightly more than a foot long and about a third of it in width – the effect is of a wine menu or one of those svelte boxes that bear ties (of the wardrobe kind). Inside are the phone, a USB cable and a yes, a cloud-shaped SIM extractor.
And the first thing you are going to notice about the Robin is not the phone itself but the wrapped in which it comes. Right on top are the words “This is a speaker (obviously)” and on the lower part come these: “This is a speaker too (not a home button).” This is clearly a company that has a sense of humour about it. But take off the wrapper and it is difficult not to just stand and stare at the Nextbit Robin. At a time when most smartphones are trying to get more out of glass and metal, the folks at Nextbit (driven by Scott Croyle, He Who Gave Us The HTC One M7 and M8) have fallen back on carbonate and weaved a fair bit of magic with it.
The Robin is a rectangular slab of carbonate, with design nuances rather than flourishes, reminding us of the Sony Xperia S and the Nokia Lumia 930. The mint model (inspired by the eggs of a Robin bird, we wonder?) has mint green panels above and below the 5.2-inch display (Corning Gorilla Glass 4, for those who need to know), and these panels are present on the back and sides too, only this time there’s clear white color between them. The front has two spherical indentations above and below the display which (as the wrapping told you) are front facing speakers. There is also a selfie camera, next to the speaker on the top, with another sphere next to it, which we think is perhaps the ambient light sensor (it is not a selfie flash). The back has a camera with a TrueTone flash (the flash itself is split into two parts instead of having two separate bulbs), and on the white portion are the cloud icon and a set of LED lights which glow when you are backing up data to the cloud. The sides are absolutely straight, but the edges have been gently smoothed to ensure that the phone itself is not uncomfortable to hold. On the left is a fingerprint sensor that also doubles up as a home button, which is reminiscent of the Xperia Z5 in terms of design, but is slightly recessed, and right next to it is the single SIM slot. The left has two round volume buttons of the same mint colour as on the front and back panels, and the top houses the 3.5 mm audio jack, while the base has the USB Type-C port.
All this in a frame that is a shade under half a foot long, is 72 mm wide and a mere 7 mm thin. At 150 grammes it feels light enough (the Galaxy S7 weighed 152 grammes and felt super light, remember?), and while not as super compact as the Xiaomi Mi 5, is comfortable to hold – contrary to what some have said, the edges do not feel sharp at all. And yes, that hint of mint is going to turn heads whenever you place this phone on a table, although the dusty and sweaty conditions of India make us worry about the white.
The hardware is decent too – the 5.2 inch display is full HD, the processor a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, RAM is 3GB, the camera on the back a 13-megapixel one and the one on front a 5.0-megapixel one, there are stereo speakers, a 2680 mAh battery (Quick Charge 2.0 is supported) and connectivity options that include 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and NFC. All this with Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) on top, with quick updates being promised thanks to its being near-Stock in nature. The real talking point about the Robin however is likely to be its storage – it comes with 32 GB onboard but instead of having a memory card slot, it allows you to seamlessly back up apps and data on the cloud (it offers 100 GB online storage), leading to its claim of never leaving you short of storage. Just how well that, and the other hardware and software on board the device, work is something that we will be exploring in our detailed review later.
It is set to arrive in India shortly where it is likely to face some very stiff competition. A lot will depend on its price point. It is available at USD 399 overseas, which is around Rs 26,500 in India, which would make it go toe to toe against the likes of the Xiaomi Mi 5, the Lenovo Vibe X3, the OnePlus 2 and the Moto X Style. No, we are not making any predictions or speculations as of now.
What we can tell you that we have had a glimpse of the Nextbit Robin. It ain’t Batman, but it sure is unlike anything you will see in the phone market right now.