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Gadgets & Gizmos: A Hint Of Mint
The Robin phone from Nextbit is a breath of fresh air with its quirky design and equally quirky software
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As I write this, I find that the Nextbit Robin phone is out of stock on Flipkart. Let’s hope it’s back because its design alone is a reason to pick it up.
The Nextbit Robin started its life as a Kickstarter project and not too much later, seems to be out in the market. Looking at it, I have to wonder why other phones don’t bother to look anything different, rarely varying from the same-old look with creativity extending to metal, chamfered edges and a few colour options that are never really available. Well, the Robin too is actually available in its darker shade right now, for that matter.
The Robin, in its nicer avatar, is a chalk white slab with two bands of mint on top and underneath. These bands on the front, sandwich the screen. It’s a very flat, very rectangular slab of a phone, a little smaller than others at 5.2 inches. It’s made of some soft synthetic stuff, not metal, and is really very nice to hold.
The Robin’s power button on the right and the volume buttons on the left are really pretty, again mint against white. But they are very difficult to locate by feel because they’re so flush against the phone. The power button is also a fingerprint sensor and it registers the print without a fuss and also goes very quickly from wake to unlock.
The phone seems to have been made carefully to be symmetrical. Circular camera parts and speakers and even the USB-Type C and headphone jack are all aligned very carefully. The USB cable is flat and —mint. It looks really pretty but doesn’t come with the adaptor. This doesn’t matter too much as you can plug that end of the cable into any adaptor, preferably one with fast charging. You’ll probably need that as the battery will run out in the day sometime. The way I use a phone, I’d need to charge it thrice.
The display on the Robin is nice and clear but often needs the brightness turned up high. While colours and viewing angles are good, the Nextbit launcher tends to use labels in that hint of mint which is very difficult to read. The launcher takes a different approach to arranging apps, allowing some to be pinned on to the home screen and others to be archived. These get greyed out and stored in the cloud until you need them. Then, with a tap, they’ll take a moment to come back. That’s what the phone does with photos as well, and so there is access to cloud storage as one of the device’s biggest selling points, with the design actually being secondary. It’s all about the cloud on this phone and it’s tagged as a device that never really runs out of storage. Dynamic handling of that storage actually ensures free space for your apps and photos, music and data after learning how you use them. It takes a backup on the cloud. But yes, you do have to worry about the cost of back and forth to the cloud.
All the same it’s a difficult format to get used to, especially if you’re accustomed to other Android phones. For this reason I think it’s best handled by someone tech-savvy so that they can also figure out workarounds for what they want back.
The Nextbit Robin has more or less the camera of the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 onboard. The 13MP and 5MP cameras have an f2.2 aperture, and no optical image stabilisation. It’s also very slow. It’s a better than average camera but it’s let down badly by the software. Fewer options, an HDR mode that doesn’t work too well, no scenes and photo editing, and again a difficult-to-read bunch of settings brings the experience down several notches.
This phone isn’t as heavily customised for India as many other Android phones are. It’s not a Dual-SIM, it doesn’t have FM radio, no USB OTG, no earphones and no ready access to this or that service. But it does have a set of wonderful speakers on it — and they’re loud.