Razer brings Robin phone into its nest with Nextbit acquisition

The Android phone maker will continue to operate as a standalone company.

nextbit robin 30
Florence Ion

Mergers and acquisitions are nothing new in the tech world, but every now and again, one comes along that makes us raise our eyebrows. The news that gaming company Razer was purchasing Android phone maker Nextbit certainly falls into that category.

While the exact terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed, Nextbit will continue to function as a standalone business under Razer, which will reportedly retain all of the Android phone maker's 30 employees. Nextbit wrote in a forum post that while it will cease selling its Robin phone and all accessories, it will “continue to fulfill warranties for 6 more months. … (and) provide software updates and security patches through February 2018.” Company co-founder and CEO Tom Moss added that Nextbit decided to join Razer “to reach a wider audience and continue our mission ... of pushing the boundaries of what our devices can do.”

On the surface, the pairing seems strange. Razer is best known for its PC hardware, with notebooks, mice, and keyboards all geared toward gamers, and has yet to dip its toe into the mobile world. Nextbit, on the other hand, is best known for its Kickstarted Robin smartphone, which raised more than $1.3 million dollars on the back of some 3,600 supporters.

When it launched in September 2015, Robin instantly captivated the Android community with a unique design and concept that challenged the traditional smartphone conventions. With a boxy blue aesthetic, Robin instantly stood out in a crowd of black rectangles, but it wasn’t just its good looks that caught people’s attention. Nextbit marketed the $399 Robin as “the only cloud-first smartphone,” with a concept that continuously backed up your apps and photos to free up local storage space. Its ambitious idea never really caught on, however, as Nextbit struggled to compete with the larger Android players.

In a statement, Razer co-founder and CEO Min-Liang Tan praised Nextbit as “one of the most exciting companies in the mobile space,” adding that “with the talent that Nextbit brings to Razer, we look forward to unleashing more disruption and growing our business in new areas.”

The endgame: There are several ways this could play out. The most obvious is that Razer could be looking to launch its own smartphone, possibly one that focuses on gaming. While there are plenty of handsets with high-end chips and high-resolution screens that deliver powerful gaming experiences, there is no phone on the market that truly caters to the mobile gamer. A Razer-branded Nextbit phone could fill a niche and get Razer’s foot in the door. And then there’s the cloud. In an interview with TechCrunch, Tan said he was particularly intrigued with what Nextbit was doing with “phone technology and on the cloud-based storage side of things,” so Razer could also be looking to bolster its cloud gaming cred. It currently offers Synapse, “the world’s first cloud-based setting network for gamers,” and Cortex for automated online backups, but the Nextbit acquisition could pave the way for a full-fledged cloud-based gaming service.

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