Nextbit Robin XDA Review: The Cloud Phone That’s Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
Have we found a new Nexus?
Software – User Interface & Features
The Nextbit Robin runs a lightly modified build of stock Android called ‘Nextbit OS’ (creative, I know). If you’re used to the stock Android experience, then Nextbit’s UI will be no stranger to you. In accordance with the phone’s overall design language, Nextbit’s UI has a lot of white thrown into the system framework. If that’s your thing, then you’ll be happy with the look and feel of the UI. If not, at least for now you cannot customize/theme the interface on the stock ROM.
Though the base look and feel of the OS is very similar to stock Marshmallow, Nextbit has incorporated some small, albeit useful features to the UI. First of all, you can enable weather updates in the lockscreen to get a quick glance at the current temperature. They also built the Google Search Bar into the recent apps menu by default. In the display settings, you can toggle between two different screen mode presets depending on how you prefer the colors on your display. Finally, they’ve included a neat notification that tells you how many devices are connected to your WiFi hotspot.
There are some additional minor changes as a result of integrating the UI with Nextbit’s cloud storage. First, they’ve removed the ability to change profiles. There is no trace of the feature anywhere in settings, and when you click on the status-bar button that normally prompts you to switch users, you simply are shown your available storage capacity. I would imagine this to be the case because of complications with their cloud storage implementation. Next, the default file manager app is unable to be called from storage settings, though if you search for it you can still find it. Not a major change by any stretch of the imagination and I don’t think the removal was intentional, but for those of you who liked this feature you’ll have to make your own shortcut to it.
Finally, there’s NFC payment and fingerprint unlock. Early reviews of the Robin stated that Android Pay was not working at the time, however, I can attest to the fact that it works now. Nextbit was likely still finalizing the phone’s certification process to run Google’s apps before shipping the first batch of phones out, but I’m glad to see that the issue has been sorted out. As for the fingerprint reader, it works exactly as you would expect with one caveat: you have to turn the screen on before the fingerprint reader becomes active, meaning you can’t immediately unlock the device simply by pressing your finger against the scanner. Not a major issue, but for those of you who are worried about button longevity it may raise some concern. The fingerprint scanning itself is quite fast, with the device unlocking almost immediately upon pressing the power button (…assuming you used the right finger to press it). Since the device is running Marshmallow, any app that utilizes Nexus Imprint will work perfectly. I tested a fingerprint app locker from the Play Store as well as my KeePass app and both functioned properly.
Software – Launcher
The launcher plays a pretty important role in Nextbit OS given how tightly integrated the cloud storage feature is and Nextbit offers some useful features within the launcher to allow you to manage your apps.
App icons are placed across several home screens, however, there is no app drawer available. Pressing the floating menu button allows you to pull up an alphabetized app list of either Archived, Pinned, or any other app on the device. Widgets cannot be placed on the homescreen, but you can easily pull up a floating widget space by either pinching the home screen with two fingers or by long-pressing the recents button while within the launcher.
You can distinguish between archived apps and currently installed apps simply by looking at the color of the app icon — grey icons mean the app is archived and full color icons mean the app is available to launch. Clicking on an archived app will begin the process of restoring the app, and you can track the progress of the restoration by looking at the progress bar underneath the icon. Clicking on multiple archived app icons will start queuing them for restoration. If you want to pin an app, you can simply swipe down on the app icon to make it pinned.
Although you cannot uninstall the default launcher, Nextbit has decoupled many of its cloud storage integration and allows you to utilize these features within any third party launcher of your choosing. For instance, I installed Nova Launcher and was able to see and restore archived apps. If you do so, you will have to open the smart storage app in order to pin/unpin apps, though. If for whatever reason you lose the default launcher (say you uninstall it via root), then you can download both the launcher and the smart storage app from the Google Play Store.
Software – Bugs
As expected from a lightly modified build of stock Android, there aren’t very many bugs specific to Nextbit OS. About the only few things I can note (and I’m really nit-picking here) are that I sometimes encountered gallery force closes when trying to open a picture from a file browser, sometimes the volume dropdown arrow was misaligned, and sometimes I would still see images I had already deleted within the gallery. Apart from that, Nextbit OS is very stable.