Review: Nextbit Robin

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There are thousands of smartphone models out there, and for the most part they all look much the same, and operate in much the same way.

The Nextbit Robin is different – it looks different, and with cloud storage baked into its very OS it works differently too.

Even the way in which the phone came into being is different, with the fledgling company taking to Kickstarter to fund it. And seemingly there’s a market for ‘different’, as Nextbit raised $1.36 million, despite only asking for $500,000.

Nextbit Robin review

Nextbit claims the Robin never runs out of space, and that’s its real hook. The phone backs up not just photos but even apps to the cloud, and it does so seamlessly whenever you’re short on space.

The company is charging just $399 (around £270, AU$560) for that, while for its many Kickstarter backers the price is even lower.

That mid-range price puts the Robin up against the likes of the OnePlus 2 and Moto X Play. It has a solid assortment of specs for the money too, including a 5.2-inch 1080p screen, a Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 13MP camera.

So on paper it’s more than just a one-trick pony. It’s a strong sales pitch, and for a no-name brand coming into such a crowded market that’s vital.

Design

There’s some serious talent behind the design of the Nextbit Robin: it was dreamt up by the man who created the HTC One M7 and HTC One M8. To my mind those are two of the most beautiful phones ever made – so when I first laid eyes on the Robin I have to admit to being a bit disappointed.

There’s none of the premium metal or comfortable curves found on HTC’s masterpieces; instead the Nextbit Robin is a slab of polycarbonate – or rather several slabs joined together.

My review unit came in a mint colour, although that only applies to the buttons and panels of plastic above and below the 5.2-inch screen, while the bulk of the back and sides are white.

Nextbit Robin review

The colourful, plastic design leaves the Nextbit Robin looking almost like a toy, and the boxy style means it doesn’t sit all that comfortably in the hand – but at least it’s a lot more grippable than it looks, as the plastic isn’t at all slippery.

And, for better or worse, the Robin does look different. You wouldn’t mistake this for any other phone, and I like that about it.

Little details add to this distinctive look, such as the circular dual front-facing speakers and the four little lights on the back that spring into action when the Robin is uploading things to the cloud.

Nextbit Robin review

The buttons look different too, although not necessarily for the better. On the right edge you’ll find the power button, which also has a fingerprint scanner baked in.

The scanner is ideally positioned, and as fast and accurate as you’d hope, but the button itself is slightly indented, making it harder to find by touch than if it jutted out.

Nextbit Robin review

It’s a similar story with the volume buttons on the left edge. The small, circular design is unusual, but again this makes them hard to hunt down.

The rest of the Robin looks fairly standard. There’s a sizeable 5MP camera on the front, a 13MP snapper on the back, a headphone port on the top edge and a USB-C port on the bottom, flanked by a notification light.

Nextbit Robin review

Ultimately, I’m not totally sold on the design of the Nextbit Robin. Even within this sort of price range I’d take the looks of the OnePlus 2 over it any day (especially once you’ve added a custom back to that phone).

But I like how bold the design of the Robin is; it feels gutsy, and I’d choose it over most plastic phones.

It’s not a handset that will necessarily impress people, but it will intrigue them. Expect to get a lot of questions and comments on it.

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