Review: Meet the Nextbit Robin, an Android phone that never lets you run out of space

IDG.TV | Feb 18, 2016

The stylish Robin automatically backs up your apps, bringing some much-needed innovation to the Android world.

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I’ll be honest: I was quick to dismiss the Robin when it was announced. I pegged Nextbit as some sort of Cyanogen copycat attempting to give Google a run for its money.

Thankfully, Nextbit is unlike its forked competitor in that it actually offers a solution to a common problem. It helps that the phone is really cute, too.

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Backing up your apps on Android has always been a difficult task, but the Robin makes it so seamless, you don’t even have to think about it.

Here’s how the feature works: Once you’ve stuffed the Robin full of apps, its native Smart storage feature kicks in and starts offloading apps to make room for new ones. Those apps, along with their data, get stowed away in the cloud, though a grayed-out icon stays behind on screen so you can restore the app if you want to use it again.

By default, Nextbit’s Smart storage backs up your data via Wi-Fi and only while the phone is plugged in, so you won’t incur any data charges without your consent. And, any apps you absolutely rely on for dear life can be pinned with a simple swipe down over the icon.

I like having Smart storage enabled. It solves a pain point for Android that we’ve been waiting for Google to implement for some time. But Nextbit’s solution still needs a little work. I’d like to see what I have tied to the account in the cloud, and it’d be nice to see detailed readouts for each app.

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If you’ve been missing innovation in phone design, look again: the Nextbit Robin is calm as a cucumber, and despite its plastic build, it’s way more stylish than some of the other Android phones making the rounds.

You can tell the design team paid particular attention to ever nook and cranny of the device, right down to the tiny volume buttons on the side. As a bonus, the power button on the right side features an embedded fingerprint scanner. It’s pretty fast, but you’ll have to press and then scan to unlock your phone.

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Now, the Robin still struggles through a few features feel a little beta. Take the camera for instance: the rear-facing 13-megapixel sensor is capable of taking shots in a variety of lighting environments, but it’s slow, and the software accompanying it is barebones. There isn’t even a panorama functionality in the Robin’s camera app.

Nextbit promises that improvements will come in a future update, which might be fine for now. But this sort of thing is something to consider. If you’re an Android enthusiast, you might like the appeal of being an early adopter, but if you’re merely looking for a replacement device, consider something else.

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Android hardware has been kind of stagnant lately, so it’s nice to see a little innovation pop up in the middle of all these look-alike devices. The Robin solves a few pain points by offering a native backup solution and a seriously cool look. But whether that’s worth your $400 off contract will depend on how you feel using a smartphone that’s still sort of beta.