I’m pleased to report that the Nextbit Robin is almost ready. The packaging is about 90 percent figured out, while the final hardware is nearly complete. Here’s what to expect if you’ve backed the Robin on Kickstarter, or if you’re just excited to buy the phone yourself once it goes on sale to the public.
A box that tells a story
I’m not usually impressed with smartphone packaging, but when I see a company try something different, I applaud their efforts. Nextbit’s Robin will ship in a box that looks like a special edition DVD case, with a thin booklet affixed inside the front cover that details how to set up the phone. The Robin rests neatly inside, along with a USB Type-C cord and an adapter waiting for you to pull it out and plug it in. It’s simply the best smartphone packaging I’ve seen in a while.
A different kind of design
You already knew the Nextbit Robin was going to be sort of rectangular. It’s definitely different from other Android smartphones on the market, most of which are wide-bodied with rounded edges. I didn’t think I would like the Robin’s style, but I’m attracted to it precisely because it’s not the norm. The mint-and-white version of the device is delightfully sweet in person.
There are all sorts of little details about the Robin, too. For instance, there’s a fingerprint scanner embedded in the power button on the right side of the device. Admittedly, I’m not entirely sold on the placement of the scanner, but it is just as fast as the Nexus 6P’s. Tiny volume buttons live on the left side, and they make a light “tick” sound when you press them. The speakers, which are located on the top and bottom of the chassis, have a kind of toy-like appearance to them. If anything, the Robin looks more like a well-designed Japanese toy of some sort.
Also, it’s worth noting that the black-and-gray version of the device offers an entirely different look, even though it has all the same design elements as its counterpart. I hate to say this—because I’d hate to perpetuate the idea that women like pastel colors and men love dark-colored things—but I envision that more women will initially be attracted to the mint version of the Robin, while more men will gravitate toward the darker-colored one.
Software I need more time with
At first glance, the Nextbit Robin’s interface looks like any other Android device with a custom launcher on top. It’s easy to cycle through pages, Google Now on Tap works flawlessly, and the Settings menu is just as Google made it. If you’ve used any other standard Android device, you’ll be just fine using the Robin.
What I particularly like about the Robin’s interface is that it’s transparent about what’s going on in the background. App icons remain grayed out as they’re downloading, or if they’re up in the cloud. You can also designate which apps should absolutely never be archived, which will be helpful if you’re not always on Wi-Fi.
I will say that, during my demonstration, the Robin was having connectivity issues due to spotty hotspot connections, and I saw how frustrating it can be if the phone doesn’t have all the proper applications downloaded—you will have to wait a bit as the Robin pulls the apps down from the cloud. It’s like installing any application from the Google Play store when you’re on a cellular connection, but if you buy a Robin, you’ll probably want to get it set up and ready to rock before you head out with it into the wild.
It’s going to be an insane year for Android fans. There will be so many different devices to choose from, with all sorts of special offerings and features attempting to sway you their way. Nextbit already has a leg up in that it started as a Kickstarter and it’s already established a customer base.
My only worry for the company is that the cloud element of its software might be too confusing for Android novices—like my mom. She’s typically pretty quick with technology, but she’s still getting her bearings with Samsung’s TouchWiz, so I’m not sure how I’m going to explain to her that half her applications and photos live up in the cloud on the Robin. Still, I’m eager to see if Nextbit will be able to sell common consumers on the concept.
The Nextbit Robin will ship to early backers beginning February 16. Robin will accept preorders until January 15; after that, the company will cease taking any new orders until it fulfills the ones made during that time.