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Nextbit Robin Unlocked Smartphone
Nextbit Robin Unlocked Smartphone
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As a Robin owner, I suppose I should toss in my $0.02.
First things first, the nextbit cloud syncing stuff is the silliest thing I've ever heard of - it doesn't make any sense at all. It would only really make sense for some theoretical person who has a large mobile data plan, is never out of coverage, but doesn't want to use streaming services, and uses a literal butt ton of applications. For everyone else, and SD card slot would make a lot more sense - especially since a 128gb card is like $30, and way faster than 4g, and not tied to somebody else's servers being up and having a connection. Ultimately, the Ars Technica review hit the nail on the head when they said Nextbit's Cloud storage is reinventing the wheel, and coming up with a square.
Second, the battery life is weak. I'm a pretty heavy user, but I run a tight ship - no extraneous services, apps or whatever - just a pared down stock OS, low brightness, no sounds, and I'm getting around 3.5 hours of screen on time on a good day, browsing in firefox, texting and chatting via discord/whatsapp/steam. My Galaxy S6, HTC One M8 Windows, and my Lumia 950 all handily beat the Robin for battery life - and my Lumia 928 and Droid Turbo utterly slaughter it. The nextbit is the only phone I have, out of the ones I regularly use, that I have to charge during the course of my day. It's not a dealbreaker, but I really shouldn't have to - especially when several of my other devices have similar battery capacity, but higher resolution screens that use more power.
Third, the camera and speakers are sub par, even at this price point. The camera is fine enough, but the Nexus 5x beats it in quality and focus speed. The speakers are loud, and stereo, and front facing, but they're overdriven, and can get really gross and crackly sounding above 80% volume or so. The headphone jack is fantastic though, and drives some headphones several of my other phones cant, pretty well.
Fourth, the phone is plastic. The external body is a soft coat rubber, and I love how it looks and feels. But there's no metal internal structure at all - Jerry Rig Everything on youtube snapped one in half like a toothpick with his bare hands, and it didn't take much effort. It doesn't feel nearly as sturdy as most of my other devices, and I'd be terrified to carry it in a back pocket, for example.
Those caveats out of the way, I really like the device. I think it's gorgeous, it feels good in the hand, it charges fast, the screen is solid, and the factory load of android is mostly great. I'd love to see a dark theme, and the Nextbit launcher is trash (if I wanted all my apps in a big, horizontally scrolling list, I'd just get an iPhone, thanks). But with a bit of tweaking and a replacement launcher, it's pretty solid - not quite AOSP/Nexus level, but easily my least hated OEM android ROM. I will probably flash over to Cyanogen one of these days though, once there's a stable build out.
Overall, this phone has a lot of flaws, but it's unique, looks amazing, and it does a lot of things right. I think a Robin 2, with some refinement across the board, could easily be the best phone on the market - it'd need an OLED display, SD slot, better battery life, a much tougher chassis with a metal internal frame, speakers that don't fuzz out at the top end, and the headphone jack and USB port on the same end of the device - but it's come closer to what I think a phone should be than the vast majority of stuff out there, and that's absolutely worthy of praise for a startup like this.
For $250, you could do a lot worse. But frankly, unless you think the Robin is really sexy, you may as well get a Nexus 5x 32gb - it's tougher, has a much better camera, and can be had brand new for $240 on ebay every day, without the massdrop shipping wait.
Hey thanks for the honest feedback on the phone. Funny that you think the cloud storage is silly, considering that's the main reason the phone exists, but I guess it's not for everyone. About the launcher, the team is evaluating dark themes, and though I've used a bunch of different launchers, for some reason, I've come back to the Nextbit one often. I initially felt that the whole no app drawer thing was weird at first, but somehow it grew on me. But that's the beauty of Android right? You can switch it out if you don't like it.
The team is trying to make Robin the best, and with our consistent updates, I think it will be an even better device. A nexus device is fine, but the 5X's 2GB RAM vs. Robin's 3GB is a big difference in everyday performance.
Well, I appreciate that the cloud storage solution is the reason the phone exists, but, honestly I fully believe it's an objectively inferior solution compared to an SD slot - though it could freely exist alongside an SD slot, and I suspect much of the code for choosing what to back up might be useful for optimizing which data to migrate over to SD. And having the cloud solution in addition to the local storage and SD would be fine too - but the user experience of having to wait say, 5 minutes for the app you wanted to launch to download, because your phone decided you don't need it that bad and you've got a mediocre signal, represents a use flaw that simply wouldn't exist on one of my phones with an SD slot, where the full 16/32/whatever internal storage can be fully dedicated apps, and I can use the SD card for my large piles of media. I tried to use the cloud storage for the first two weeks or so, purposefully keeping the device pretty packed, and what ends up happening is that I don't use my phone for ancillary tasks as much - when you go to take out your phone to launch a lesser used app that's situational - like the eBay app, when I had to get an address to ship something, it's not ready to go. And that wait meant that I simply used the browser instead, completely negating the reason I had the app in the first place, which harms the user experience compared to a normal android device. And sure, you could pin the apps so they don't upload, but then it focuses more on shoving pictures up, which in my case saves less space since I have relatively few, and also could hurt the user experience in the event of a slow/no connection - "Hey, look at this picture of my dog. Err, hang on, it's loading... ...Nevermind, I'll send it later"
Further, the nextbit cloud lacks utility compared to some other cloud programs, all of which have solid android apps. If I want my pictures to go online, onedrive, dropbox, google drive, and at least 10 others can all do that seamlessly - and in the case of onedrive, which I use, automatically put that content on all my phones, desktops, all nearly instantly. With the nextbit cloud, there's no such syncing - sure you can use the web client, but it can't sync my pictures over to my mac, windows phone, iphone, and such. The app backup is neat, and novel for android, but not that useful. And the Nextbit cloud won't do other media too, so I can't say, put some music or movies up there and stream it to myself, which I can with onedrive, and several others. Plus, pardon my frankness, but I trust google/microsoft/dropbox uptime more than nextbit - you guys haven't had a big outage yet or anything that I know of, but what happens if nextbit fails? Is my cloud content gone? That's a worry I don't have with microsoft/google, since they aren't gonna disappear anytime soon, and more importantly they allow me to nearly immediately have a local copy on nearly every device I have - so even if microsoft went bankrupt, my house burned down, and I got struck by lightning, killing my phone, all in the same day, I'd still have a copy of my media and stuff on my work computer, my car, and such. (Of course, I hope very strongly nextbit doesn't fail, because we need more people making phones that aren't just boring slabs of glass and grey aluminum, but it's certainly more likely than losing a tech giant.)
Now, obviously having the device almost full is a worst case scenario, but it's the scenario you guys seem to target, since, surely, if I have say, 20gb free, there's no reason at all to back anything up - I would hope that only when the phone is within a couple gigs of full, does it start seriously migrating things to cloud storage. And as soon as it does, an SD makes more sense - or, you know, actually including a fair bit of storage from the factory - 128gb of eMMC is like $25, and I have to assume, less in quantity purchases. UFS-II in the same 128gb is more like $50. Either way, that's DRAMATICALLY less expensive than the literally hundreds that the likes of apple and samsung like to charge for storage upgrades. You really wanna disrupt the market and make an interesting phone? Don't make a mediocre cloud service - make sub $400 phone that has flagship specs, looks as sexy as the Robin currently does, but has 128gb of memory standard, with an SD slot to boot - that would be truly disruptive. Though I'd absolutely settle for just 32gb + SD, as 32gb is enough for most users, and people like me can add as much storage as they feel they need.
With regard to the launcher, yeah, I don't mind that the nextbit launcher exists - I'll just never use it personally. And, as you say, that's the best thing about android.
Certainly your OS updates are solid - no July Security update yet - but you're kicking most of my other phone's butt. I'm looking forward to that Q4 battery life update.
As for the 2gb of RAM vs 3gb, I'm sure there's use cases where it makes a difference, but in my experience, it doesn't. I don't have a Nexus 5x anymore - sold it before I got the Robin, so I haven't had a chance to directly compare them. But I never felt like it was choppy or slow or anything - never really went above 1.9gb used (quick check shows my robin is at 2.0gb used right this second), and the background app culling and such didn't really seem any worse. But I heavily use 4-5 apps, rather than 20 or something, so maybe it just doesn't show for me. Individual users will need to decide for themselves, I guess - but for me, 2gb or 3gb just doesn't matter.
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