Today's release of the iPhone 7 has us all up in arms about the disappearing headphone jack and making our annual harrumphs about breaking up with Apple at last. (Sort of like how we're all moving to Canada come election day, too.) But where the alternatives to iPhone have lacked sex appeal in the past, a new San Francisco–made smartphone has recently hit the market and already has its plugs in the fashion crowd.
Swooping in to our possible rescue is Robin, a rebel of a smartphone aimed at aesthetes who have an insatiable lust for taking photos and videos, and, of course, for owning beautiful things. From the makers at Nextbit—a young company based in SF—Robin hopes to be a game changer. The phone, available in chic navy blue and zesty teal, comes without any carrier restrictions and promises never to run out of storage (a benefit sure to perk the ears of iPhone users who lament the space suckage of Apple's own OS).
What began as a Kickstarter campaign that ultimately raised nearly $1.4 million, Robin is a modern and playful alternative to status brands like Samsung and Apple. "I wanted something that looked like nothing else on the market," says Nexbit's chief designer and cofounder Scott Croyle, who honed his chops at HTC. "This led us to a pure design approach, where premium quality was realized by achieving something that appears to be very simple even though the work was actually quite challenging."
Robin is available in two unique shades: mint and midnight blue.
The phone is design-focused to be sure—its rectilinear shape rendered in soft materials and unique hues has already garnered a Red Dot Design Award—but is intended to be fully functional without taking itself too seriously. And yes, it has a headphone jack. But more importantly, Robin is the first phone designed to never run out of space, with 32GB of local storage in addition to 100GB of free cloud storage. But, of course, it's slightly more complicated than that. In fact, Robin might be an even smarter smartphone.
With machine learning baked right into its OS, Robin manages your storage for you, noting which apps and photos you access most often. When your local storage begins to dwindle and you have just 2GB of space remaining, Robin will automatically archive to cloud any apps and photos that you haven't touched in the last several months so you'll never again get that pesky storage error while shooting important videos of your cat.
"We've all been there—at a concert or a party, about to get the perfect shot—only to find [our phones are] out of space. It's really frustrating," Croyle notes. "Robin intelligently opens up space on your phone by offloading apps and photos to the cloud so you won't ever have to deal with that again."
The offloading process uses none of your data, and Robin will leave behind smaller, screen-resolution versions of your pics and shadow icons for your apps so you can still easily access them when you want them. Files are automatically backed up to cloud when you're plugged in and connected to WiFi.
It all sounds pretty cool, right? And the team—which also includes investors Rich Miner, a Google Ventures advisor who happened to cofound Android, and Rich Wong (Accel)—certainly seems to have the bona fides needed to make a quality product. But can Nexbit really lure us all away from our soooo-sleek-and-shiny iPhones?
"Anytime you put yourself out there in any way and open yourself to the world for criticism, it is very scary—it requires really believing that you have something to offer that people will love," says CEO and former Googler Tom Moss, who cofounded Nextbit in 2013 along with Croyle and CTO Mike Chan, an OG Android engineer. "We know how crowded the smartphone space is and how loyal people are to their brands," he says. "We made the phone that we ourselves wanted...and the reaction has been so positive."
Folks wary of getting roped into contracts and those who try, at all costs, to avoid the Verizon store, will also appreciate that Robin is carrier free at purchase and is sold direct to consumer in places we already shop—hello, Azalea. The price is right too: At just $299 with shipping including, buying a Robin is hardly more of an investment than a pair of trendy jeans, and even comes with a 30-day return guarantee. Currently, Robin is available in only two hues, but as with all things stylish, we suspect there are updates to come.
As Croyle says, "We envision a future where your phone can actually get better over time."