This Might Be Better Than The New iPhone

Photo: Courtesy Nextbit.
What if you never had to worry about phone storage, ever? You could download as many apps as you want, take as many photos as you want, store as many videos as you want, and your phone would just deal with it. That's the goal of Robin, a new phone from a team of Android veterans seeking to solve a major smartphone pain point and create a device that's unique, colorful, and stylish.

"We wanted to do some changes on the experience at a very fundamental level," Nextbit chief design and product officer Scott Croyle said. "iOS and Android were developed pre-cloud. We’re bringing the cloud down into Android."

It's an interesting prospect. Robin, which launches on Kickstarter today, offers 32 GB of storage on the handset itself, and 100 GB online in cloud storage. You use your phone like you always have, but you don’t have to manually back up photos or delete apps because you're running low on space. The phone adapts behind the scenes, moving things on and off dynamically, based on how you use them. If there are videos you haven't viewed in months, those may get offloaded to the cloud; ditto for apps you never use. The handset will delete the app itself from the phone, leaving you a grayed-out icon you can tap to re-download (and pick up where you left off) the next time you want to use it. If you don't want an app — or a photo, or anything else — to ever be offloaded from the handset, you can pin it to the home screen.

On top of this built-in, automatic cloud storage, Robin also looks and feels different from your typical Android phone or iPhone.

Robin eschews the softly curved edges of today's iPhones and Samsung Galaxies for something more square and boxy, Ashley Yousling, Nextbit's creative director, explained. The phone has a large, 5.2-inch display on front, sandwiched between identical circular speaker/microphone grilles. On the front, it has a five-megapixel camera — on the back, a 13-megapixel shooter with dual LED flash. A power button is on one side of the device, two round volume buttons are on the other, and it charges via USB Type C (the newest cable and charger standard). It comes in two color variants: midnight, a dark navy, and ivory with a seafoam-colored top and bottom. The midsection of the device is smooth, while the top and bottom sections have a soft, rubberized texture.
Photo: Courtesy Nextbit.
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On-screen, things aren't your typical bold-and-bright Android interface. The design team created mood boards, pictured above, to help them decide on the look, feel, and color scheme for the device. Robin's skin is based on a calming, teal-and-purple color palette, and rather than bouncy or sharp transitions when you swipe to different screens, this phone embraces the idea of fog.

"As you swipe up, the goal is to immerse yourself into the home screen, so it’s not this hard swipe gesture where [the screen] disappears," Yousling says. "There's this fog that opens up to reveal your home screen."

To further these thematic design elements, the team also created a new app-icon library for the stock apps that ship with the phone. Rather than using plus-minus operations symbols for the calculator icon, they use a more literal rendition of a calculator; for the phone icon, rather than the handheld receiver of an old-school home phone, they used an image of a modern-day smartphone. Third-party apps will retain their normal icons.
Photo: Courtesy Nextbit.
At its core, Robin is an Android phone, but while it's got the expertise of former Android and HTC leaders behind the scenes, it's not what you'd typically see from one of today's big phone manufacturers. It's less about the tech, and all about the experience. You can pre-order Robin for $300 now, and it will be available for $400 when it ships in early 2016.
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