May 31, 2016

Let's call out the Nextbit Robin for what it is: A first-class gimmick

BYPranav Dixit

Of all the things I want in my dream smartphone, I’d put unlimited battery life on top. Followed by a killer camera that would essentially render DSLRs obsolete. And, for good measure, a shatterproof screen.
This is the Nextbit Robin. It was created by Nextbit, a San Francisco-based company, and it is now available on Flipkart for ₹20,000.

No, it doesn’t offer any of the things on my dream smartphone wish list. What is does offer, says the company, is unlimited storage. 
This simply isn’t true. You get 32GB on the phone itself, of which you can use about 24GB, because for some reason, Nextbit’s Android-based operating system needs 8GB to just, well, be there. You get also 100GB in the cloud.

If you’ve backed up things to DropBox or Google Drive, you know how this works. The difference is that Nextbit’s cloud integration is baked in right into the operating system itself.
This means that when you start bumping up against your 24 gigs, the Robin will automatically back up apps you don’t use to its own cloud. It will also back up your photos, and leave small, thumbnail images on your phone before deleting the originals.
I loaded up a Robin with about 20GB of music, and here’s what it looks like when it’s stuffed to the gills.

A photo posted by Pranav Dixit (@pranavdixit) on

But here’s the catch: the Robin doesn’t back up your videos. Or any heavy files that you may have on your device. And while the phone is supposed to learn which apps you don’t use over time before it gets rid of them, it deleted pretty much what it felt like when I used it (the apps in grey below aren’t actually on the phone, they are in Nextbit’s cloud).

A photo posted by Pranav Dixit (@pranavdixit) on

Sure, you can “pin” any app you want to your phone’s home screen so that it doesn’t get deleted no matter what. And you can also restore an app with a single tap. Which is great for the times when the Robin tries to restore a 1.25GB game like Mortal Kombat X over your data connection.
The Nexbit Robin does have a few niceties: it’s fast and smooth, comes with the latest version of Android, and has a decent camera.
But I am struggling to understand why any phone maker would make cloud storage a marquee feature. Google Photos, DropBox, and OneDrive already back up photos, videos, and pretty much anything else you want, and give you a heck of a lot more storage than 100GB without dropping ₹20,000 on a phone first. And as for apps, you can simply delete the ones you don’t use from your phone and download them again from the Google Play Store.
Or, if you’re a digital hoarder as I am, you can do the logical thing and simply buy a microSD card for your phone.

A 128 GB card costs about ₹3,000 on Amazon. Except that you can’t use it with a Robin, because Nextbit didn’t include a microSD card slot.
Look, I know it’s tough to stand out in the Indian smartphone market. But gimmicks like these will only get you traction with the minuscule minority that wants its smartphone to look like an oversized packet of Orbit.
Try again, Nextbit.
Nextbit did not respond to FactorDaily’s questions about the Robin.

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Pranav Dixit is a writer of FactorDaily.