Nextbit Robin “Electric Edition” Quick Look: Thoughts on Exclusive Design, Performance
There are plenty of examples of failed Kickstarter smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other technology. However, being either a dreamer or a glutton for punishment – I backed another one many months ago.
The Nextbit Robin jumped out at me with a unique design, some known names in the industry, and a fantastically friendly warranty policy.
The user’s Robin warranty is not voided wholesale when you unlock the bootloader, root, or even install a custom ROM. Being a power user, I had to support a policy like this, so I backed it. Really, the headline feature (that we’ve written about before here) is something I don’t even care for.
Robin is protected under a one-year warranty that covers everything except physical damage.
Since Robin comes with an unlocked bootloader and open source drivers, you can load Cyanogen (or your other favorite ROM) and we’ll still cover the phone.
A little ways into the campaign and after continuous updates, Nextbit offered a Kickstarter-exclusive color of the Robin. I switched my backer phone over to the Electric option. Shockingly, the Robin managed to deliver mostly on time to a majority of initial backers. Now that I’ve had the device for a couple of weeks wanted to share some photos and some thoughts about the device.
- The Robin has surprisingly great build quality, particularly for a first go at a small quantity device. I really like the way the Robin looks and feels.
Obviously, this will vary between users, but I find the Robin’s design adorable. In a sea of metal/glass/predictable devices, the quirky and “fun” Robin sticks out in a good way.
- While the Robin’s UI is mostly inoffensive, the notification shade’s glassy white theme can cause contrast issues at times.
The Software experience is mostly great, though. A lot of the Robin’s (Marshmallow!) build is very close to stock and the UI brings smooth performance even with the 808 under the hood.
- Having no app drawer is pretty silly. I realize that this is likely a function of Nextbit trying to make the whole “cloud storage” easily visible and understood. Personally, not having an app drawer makes organizing the device outrageously cumbersome for no real advantage.
- Unlocking works fine without even having to toggle something in Developer options. Simply get the drivers sorted (which come on a mountable partition in the Robin itself) and head over to fastboot.
- Front facing stereo speakers remain one of my most favorite device features a phone can come with. These aren’t the loudest speakers I’ve heard on a smartphone, but they sound great.
- The notification light on the bottom is unique and still effective.
- The Gold SIM tray for Kickstarter backers is a fun little touch to make the whole package feel a bit more “exclusive.” I could have absolutely done without it, but it’s a neat little “thank you” to the backers.
- Camera2 API features are all present and accounted for.
- The camera itself is nothing special. It’s about average for the price range and certainly “good enough,” but it’s outclassed by flagships (which cost hundreds more.) Here’s a few sample shots:
Overall I’m left feeling pleased with backing the Nextbit Robin. The refreshing design, excellent warranty policy, and solid price point come together to make a very compelling device. The Robin is also certainly one of the more successful kickstarter stories in the Android world. What remains to be seen is how useful the cloud storage becomes and how well Nextbit will support their device with software. Look for our full review coming soon.