Ex-Android and HTC employees launch Robin, a cloud-first smartphone

Ex-Android and HTC employees launch Robin, a cloud-first smartphoneIt's not often a new Android OEM comes along, but today a company called "Nextbit" is taking the wraps off of its first ever phone: the Robin. The Robin is a high-end phone launching on Kickstarter for $349 (with discounts for early birds), but the real draw of the Nextbit Robinaccording to the companyis the phone's "cloud-first" software.

Nextbit's Android-based OS mixes cloud-based storage with onboard storage, giving you the onboard 32GB of storage on the phone, plus 100GBs in Nextbit's cloud. If you get close to filling up onboard storage, the software automatically moves some of your phone's data to the cloud, which frees up space. It won't just be pictures and videos moved, eitherthe Robin will even move apps to the cloud.

During a demo, we watched the phone backup and remove apps from the device to make room for a 4K video that was being recorded. Apps would get deleted, but the personal data would be kept on the device. Icons for the automatically-removed apps would stay on the phone as black-and-white icons. Tapping on a removed app re-downloads and installs the app from Nextbit's cloud, merges it with the personal data stored on the phone, and launches. The Robin tries to intelligently guess which apps it should move to the cloud based on your usage patterns.

Nextbit Robin

It's certainly a different way to go about increasing phone storage, skipping the more obvious route of increased internal storage or a MicroSD slot in favor of some proprietary cloud action. There are some downsides though. This system will, of course, use more data than a conventional setup and won't be able to transfer data if you're offline. Launching a cloud-stored app seemed like a painful process, too, as the download/install/launch process took about 15 seconds in our demo.

Nextbit is worth a look because while the name might be new in the industry, the people behind it aren't. The company's CEO, Tom Moss, was an executive on the Android team at Google. Mike Chan, the company's chief technical officer, was with Android from versions 1.0 to 3.0. Heading up product and design for Nextbit is Scott Croyle, the former SVP of Design at HTC. Croyle launched some of HTC's best designed products, including the Evo and the One M7.

As for the hardware, the shape of the phone is about as basic as it gets: it's a rectangle. The corners are rounded but only enough to not be sharpit's basically a box. The colored top and bottom pieces are plastic, while the middle section is metal. On the back of the device is the Nextbit logo and a few LEDs. When the phone is transferring data to the cloud, the lights will turn on to let the user know something is happening. The unique design traits continue on the front of the phone, which puts the usual ambient light and proximity sensors behind a circular lens that looks just like the front facing camera.

The Nextbit Robin has a 5.2-inch 1080p display, a Snapdragon 808 SoC, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a 2680mah battery. There are a ton of extras here, too. There's a USB Type-C port on the bottom thatunlike the OnePlus 2supports USB 3.0 speeds. There's a fingerprint reader on the device, but it's integrated into the side-mounted power button. You also get dual front-facing speakers, NFC, and a 13MP camera. Nextbit told us they want to embrace the modding community, too, as they will allow users to unlock the phones bootloader without voiding the warranty.

The phone is launching though a Kickstarter campaign that's asking for $500,000. Devices are for sale for $350 and ship in January. After the Kickstarter the company plans to sell the device directly to consumers for $399.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Android, smartphones

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