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Nextbit finally announced their first smartphone project yesterday, and have set up a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the development. Nextbit is a fairly new startup, composed of ex-employees from Apple, Google, HTC, and Amazon. Their first project was developing cloud-based data transfer service Baton, which let you backup your data, apps, and settings for your device, so you could switch to another on the go, and they’ve used that progress, as well as past expertise, to develop the new smartphone.
Enter Robin, the world’s first “cloud-first” smartphone. At first sight, the design is reminiscent of the Jolla; minimalist, soft tones, and slim. But this IS still and Android phone, just a little different. One major difference up front is that the phone learns your operating habits, but not in the conventional Google Now sort of way. Robin, instead, has it’s cloud deeply integrated into the OS. So whenever you’re connected to Wifi and power, everything on your phone backs up to the cloud (of course, you can turn that off). But Robin learns over time, which apps you don’t use anymore, and which photos and songs you don’t access. Those are then removed from your phone, giving you more space to work with. If you want them back, just tap to restore.
That’s a big plus in my book, when the limited space provided on your smartphone means you can only have a certain number of apps at one time. With Robin, you can effectively swap utilities on the go. Another benefit of having so much freedom with the cloud is that you can effectively shoot all your photos in RAW format, and not have to worry about transfering them via USB every few days. The cloud is so deeply integrated in fact, that the phone actually has four LEDs on the back that let you know you’re connected and synced to the cloud.
Another major difference is that Robin comes with an unlocked bootloader and open source drivers. That way, you’re free to load whatever mods you want, and it’s still covered by warranty, even if you end up bricking it. While Nextbit has specified that their phone is “based on the latest version of Android”, they haven’t given out a name for their UI. They’ve also said that, by the time their phone ships, they hope to have it running on Marshmallow, or will, at the very least, send an OTA update later.
The two volume buttons sit on the left spine, with a nano SIM slot on the right, and a combination power button/fingerprint scanner above it. There are no hard buttons, but it does have dual front-facing speakers, and USB Type-C. The notification LED is, noticeably, located on the bottom, so you’ll stay connected even when your phone is face down on the table.
Every Kickstarter backer will get Robin for $50 off the retail price, and the first 1000 backers will get $100 off the retail price. That sets the retail price at a cool US $399 (approximately Rs 26,400), with US $349 (approximately Rs 23,100) for Kickstarter backers and US $299 (approximately Rs 19,805) for the first 1000 early adopters. The phone will ship in Mint and Midnight colour variants. You can help Nextbit meet their funding goal here. Foxconn is manufacturing the Robin, the first batch of which will ship in January 2016, and the next one in February 2016.