The Nextbit Robin is a top-level 2016 phone with a difference. Where the Samsung Galaxy S7 is like a Galaxy S6 but better and the LG G5 goes all Inspector Gadget with plug-in modules, the Nextbit Robin’s whole deal is that it is a ‘cloud phone’.
That means it’ll automatically backup your photos and quietly archive any apps you never really use, slotting them into a Cloud store. It’s a novel idea we’ll probably see more of in the future.
However, this is a £350 punt that's so cutting-edge you will find it more of an obstacle than a benefit. It’s also pretty buggy right now.
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Whether or not you end up liking all its cloud features, there’s a good chance you’ll admire the Nextbit Robin’s looks. It has a striking two-tone design that’s instantly recognisable, and has bags more personality than most phones out there. Even among more expensive ones.
Nextbit is a company made of ex-HTC and Google veterans, and this doesn’t look or feel like a company of amateurs trying their luck. As with so many bits of tech that have a high-concept premise, the Robin was initially crowd-funded, though.
It’s “one of those” phones.
The Nextbit Robin also manages to carve out a striking style without using any overly high-end materials. Its body is plastic, but doesn’t have the flex-factor of a cheaper plastic phone, and the soft-touch finish feels good.
It’s a bold, confident and visually successful design. But it isn’t perfect. The Nextbit Robin both feels and is a lot bigger than other 5.2-inch screen phones. It’s significantly wider and taller than the Samsung Galaxy S7, and while it’s very thin at just 7mm thick, because its shape is so boxy you don’t really appreciate its skinniness.
If there’s one feature to blame for the Robin’s oversize feel, it’s the speakers. Like the HTC One M9, it has a pair of drivers on the front. These get you stereo sound when the phone is right in front of you, and wider sound dispersal.
Stereo speakers don’t guarantee you better sound quality, but you do get it here. These are among the better phone speakers; they’re loud, and they don’t sound too thin or abrasive.
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If you were to try to pinpoint the Robin’s design inspirations, you’d have to conclude it nicked its speaker style from HTC, and its basic layout and shape from Sony. The Robin also has a fingerprint scanner eerily similar to that of the Sony Xperia Z5.
It sits on the side of the phone, also acting as the power button. Like most phone finger scanners of the last 12 months or so, it’s fast and reliable, a good way to unlock your phone securely. However, I do find front-loaded finger scanners more convenient as they're much less likely to make you shift your hand position to actually use them.
As with the larger Sony Xperia phones, I find a certain awkwardness to using the Nextbit Robin at times, at least for a 5.2-inch phone. It’s not a deal-breaking issue, just make sure you care about the speakers and the natty look before considering the phone’s design a total success.
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Like many phones of 2016, the Robin also forces you into an uncomfortable transition. We’re in the thick of a shift in mobile devices from using the microUSB standard to the USB-C one.
USB-C is superior in that it can be made compliant to the USB 3.1 standard and can be plugged-in either way around. But not being able to use all the charge cables from phones you’ve owned over the last decade when you can’t find the phone’s own one is a pain.
The Robin is less annoying than some in this respect, though. Its USB-C cable ends in a full-size USB connector rather than another USB-C. That means you can plug it into a computer or a power adapter from another phone with no fuss.