The Nextbit Robin was probably one of the crowdfunding campaigns of last year. It’s a stylish, kind of artsy take on a smartphone, made by a small Silicon Valley startup founded by two former Google employees. They hit their crowdfunding target – USD$500,000 – within 12 hours, and proceeded to raise more than USD$1.3 million from over 3,600 backers of the project. This has the manufacturers feeling good about the chances of the Nextbit Robin.
The Nextbit Robin will be shipping its smartphone to the first 1,000 backers this February, marking the company’s formal entry into the smartphone market. And with an industry whose profit is seemingly monopolized by Apple and where Android manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei and Lenovo fight for what’s left – Nextbit execs are a bit bullish about their chances. “We think we can lead in terms of design,” said Scott Croyle, Nextbit’s head of product and design. “If I was to put the iPhone and every Android phone out here on the table, nothing really stands out. Everything feels like a derivative of an iPhone and an HTC.”
I can understand the positivity, but statements like “nothing really stands out” are a bit misguided, I think. Huawei, LG, and even Sony makes gorgeous phones (IMO) – and even they are struggling to make earnings. As a phone, the Nextbit Robin will not wow you with specs, although it will do the work and then some – a 5.2-inch FullHD (1080p) LCD screen on a stylish angular design, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, and supported by 3GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, a fingerprint sensor, a 13MP main camera, and a USB Type C port which supports fast charging.
But that’s not the main selling point of the Nextbit Robin. The manufacturers are angling it to be a first “cloud phone”. Each user gets 100 GB of free cloud storage while Nextbit’s modified OS intelligently manages the phone’s internal storage by off-loading applications and content to the cloud when the systems needs to free up space. Manufacturers are really harping on this being a good hook for the market, but we’re not so sure about that.
In the end, the manufacturers say that they don’t need to sell a lot to make a profit. “Because of our size, we don’t need to sell a daunting amount of phones to stay in business. We don’t need to sell 10 million phones, we don’t need to have a certain percent market share,” says Nextbit co-founder Tom Moss, who was head of business development for Android at Google between 2007 and 2010. Well, we will have to see about this. Soon, the company will really be in the market for real, and results will tell.