Review: Nextbit Robin

When you buy a smartphone, chances are you use it for a variety of things – installing tons of apps, capturing photos, downloading music as well as storing videos. All these activities rapidly fill up your phone’s storage and many of you must have got the below message:

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There are few solutions to this problem: You could buy a new phone with higher storage, buy a phone with expandable storage (which is becoming a rare breed, especially the iPhone and Nexus flagships), or you could either connect your mobile to the PC and transfer the media you don’t use often to make space or go extreme with deleting your apps, files and media.

Nexbit RobinWhat if you don’t have to do either of the above and never run of storage? Well, yes, that’s the promise NEXTBIT ROBIN gives – that you will “never” run of storage! Robin is a typical mid-range phone that comes factory unlocked with 32GB of onboard storage plus 100GB of its own cloud storage that seamlessly backs up your unused or very rarely used media and apps to its cloud and with one click it restores them. A highly interesting idea with implications that could change the way we look at storage on our devices.

 

More on this in a bit, first let’s get the basic specs out of the way.

Screen: 5.2-inch Full HD

Processor and RAM: Snapdragon 808 with 3GB RAM

Security: Fingerprint scanner at the power button

Camera: 13MP camera with dual LED, 5MP front

Dual front-facing speakers, USB C charging with fast charging

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Design

Robin’s design is unique and its mint colour option stands out from the usual sea of grey, silver and gold offered by other OEMs. It doesn’t have any glass or metal, instead it has a robust, industrial design with sharp edges and matte plastic, which actually doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. When you look at the phone there is a sense of symmetry all over — circular camera and LEDs, circular volume buttons and circular dual speakers. This phone will surely grab people’s attention.

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Camera

The camera on the Robin is just… hmm… basic. Basic is every regard and probably what to expect of a Dh1,500 phone. Loading up the snapper can take a few seconds, taking shots in good light is at times a little slow and capturing moving objects is rather frustrating and far from accurate. The camera software is also plain and basic. There are no specific shooting modes to choose other than auto and HDR. The quality is acceptable especially in favourable conditions, but once the lights go down, this camera struggles with slow speed in capturing the photos and too much noise. Autofocus sometimes stutters, especially in low light.

Battery

The battery on the Robin is also average. No surprise here since it’s a mid-range device. Coming in at around 2,680mAh, it will probably last you 14-15 hours if you are a moderate user. With heavy usage expect to charge the phone by early evening. With my daily use – one hour of gaming, one hour of browsing and regular checking of emails and WhatsApp, playing couple of YouTube videos and taking a few snaps — the phone gave me around 3.5 hours of on-screen time. I started my day at 9am and was down to 10 per cent by 8pm.  The good thing is it comes with quick charge 2.0, but you have to buy the charger separately.

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Software and the cloud

This is Robin’s USP — the cloud integration along with local storage. It runs on  Android 6.0 M, and the user experience is almost stock or vanilla like – something like the Nexus phones. Where Robin has complicated the user experience is the home screen — it has no app drawer button as such, instead it has a floating button on the home screen, which then gives you access to your apps.

This just increases the time taken to view all apps, and sometimes when you click all apps it takes a couple of seconds to load. This is a shame because otherwise the UI feels and looks good.

Now to the smart storage system. It seamlessly backs up and restore anything that isn’t being used on your phone often including media and also apps.

Once you start installing apps, and as the storage reduces, Robin starts removing the apps from the local storage and backing it up in its cloud. These app icons start getting greyed out to show you that they have been moved to the cloud. If you want to use that greyed-out app, all you need to do is tap the icon and in a few seconds it’s back on your phone – no hassle, no complications! But a point to note is that it will back up and restore only on Wi-Fi to save battery and data usage, though you can change this in the settings.

Other things that Robin can do is store your images just like Google Photos. The old images will back up to the cloud and only a small preview image is saved on the local storage. And when you need it, with one click it will load the hi-res image.

All this sounds great, but there are a few hiccups. There are times the app takes really long to load up, and they still clutter up your home screen space with greyed-out icons. Also, if you have to load a game that is above 500MB and you are outdoors with no Wi-Fi, then your data usage charges will mount. Lastly, the Nextbit’s cloud doesn’t back up videos, which take up way more storage than photos.

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Verdict

So does the unique cloud storage system do enough to make the Robin a stand-out or must-buy? Nextbit is trying to solve most people’s real problem of storage and their solution is clever and simple to understand and doesn’t require any further investment in the future once you get the phone. Its idea of seamless cloud storage is innovative, but the phone itself isn’t. With average performance and battery, spending around Dh1,500 may not be justified especially with much better competitors like Nexus 5x and Samsung A7.

Also, privacy and security questions arise in the mind – can you trust your data with a new start-up company with no proven track record? What happens if the company shuts operations in a couple of years? Or what if you switch to another phone? Then what happens to all your cloud data?