Nextbit Robin review

And now for something completely different

Nextbit Robin review

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I can't help feeling drawn to the Nextbit Robin simply because of how different it is to most other phones. Its colourful, distinctive design helps it stand out immediately, and the way cloud storage is handled means the differences are more than just skin deep.

At $399 (around £270, AU$560) it's also attractively priced, and it has the specs to rival most other phones in that bracket. But the battery is a worry, and not all of the Robin's innovation has paid off – so should you really pick it over rivals like the OnePlus 2 and Moto X Play?

We liked

The Nextbit Robin's design is likely to divide opinion, and in many ways I'm not its biggest fan – it's a bit too plasticky. But I really respect the fact that Nextbit has done something different here; this is a phone that doesn't look like anything else out there.

It also has a handy fingerprint scanner. More and more phones are rocking these now but they're still far from being a core feature, especially on mid-range handsets, and the one on the Nextbit Robin works well, almost always unlocking the device at the first attempt.

The Robin is good value too, and has a fairly sharp screen and decent specs.

We disliked

I don't dislike the Robin's use of cloud storage as such, but it's positioned as the main selling point of the phone, and it's far too problematic for me to recommend the Robin on the strength of it. Overall it would have been better with just a microSD slot.

The battery life is disappointing too; both in our video test and in general use the Nextbit Robin puts in a substandard performance.

I'm also not a fan of some of Nextbit's interface tweaks. The lack of an app drawer in particular is an annoyance; I got used to it, but I never liked it.

Final verdict

I really want to love the Nextbit Robin. Nextbit's desire to be different appeals to me, but that desire has driven it to solve a problem that doesn't really exist – or at least one that could have been solved just as well with a microSD card.

I don't really see the cloud storage as a negative, but it's not a compelling reason to buy the Robin either. If you really want lots of storage you're still better off with a phone that has a microSD card slot, as it gives you more immediate and omnipresent access to your content.

But for what it costs I can't be that down on the Robin for not having a microSD card slot, especially when it has a respectable 32GB built in alongside that 100GB of cloud storage.

The Nextbit Robin doesn't live up to its billing, but assuming you like the design the only significant problem is the battery life. Otherwise the Nextbit Robin is a fairly powerful, great value phone, with a nifty fingerprint scanner. It's brave and it's different, and while it doesn't totally succeed, it gets more right than it gets wrong.

First reviewed: February 2016

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.