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Nextbit Shifts to Become a Phone Maker (Exclusive)

The company, which has been focusing on cloud-based software to keep phones and tablets in sync, plans to make its own device.


While many phone makers are looking to move into software and services, startup Nextbit is moving in the other direction.

Though still tiny, the San Francisco company is announcing Monday it plans to get into the hardware business — launching its first smartphone.

Nextbit is only teasing the Android phone at this point and will share details on the device and how it plans to sell it in the coming weeks.

Scott Croyle, the former HTC design chief who joined Nextbit last year, did say Nextbit is aiming for a provocative design.

“We want to set this off as something different,” Croyle said. “We don’t have to be for everybody.”

Nextbit also looks to leverage a bunch of the cloud-based storage technologies it previously showcased, features that allow much of the contents of the phone to be mirrored on cloud-based servers. That allows users to easily move not just apps but their place within apps from one device to another.

The company debuted last year at Code/Mobile and had a partnership with NTT DoCoMo and a handful of phone makers to use some of its services.

Those efforts generated millions in revenue and gave the company time to refine the features, Moss said. Nextbit has also raised $18 million from Accel Partners and Google Ventures.

The company plans to move away from its past strategy, which was to offer its services for use on other companies’ devices.

“We’re really shifting the focus to a controlled experience,” CEO Tom Moss said. “We don’t want to do piecemeal services anymore.”

Jumping into the hardware business, though, is likely to be a costly endeavor which will put the 20-person company in direct competition with huge companies with armies of engineers and gigantic marketing budgets.

It will be interesting to see where Nextbit sees room in the crowded smartphone market.

Apple and Samsung dominate the ultra-high end while Motorola, OnePlus and others have been increasingly offering a lot of the features of a high-end phone for hundreds less. At the low end there are too many phones to count that offer a pretty decent experience for $175 or less.

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