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NextBit Hopes Robin Is an Android Phone Worth Waiting For

The company will start taking preorders for the cloud-first smartphone on Tuesday, but it won't start shipping until early next year.

NextBit

NextBit’s first phone, dubbed Robin, appears from its specs to resemble many other affordable Android flagship phones hitting the market.

Things get interesting — even more interesting than its unique design — when the Robin starts to run low on space. Rarely used apps on the phone are automatically moved to the cloud and their icons turn gray. With a click, the apps and related data can be moved back to the device when needed. NextBit is initially giving customers 100 gigabytes of cloud storage for the life of their phones, but says it will increase that if customers bump up against the limit.

NextBit

The phone is up for preorder Tuesday on Kickstarter, but shipments aren’t expected until early next year. The Kickstarter price is $349, though the company plans to offer the first 1,000 units for $299. The eventual retail price is slated to be $399, NextBit says.

Although the company has a good deal of venture funding, CEO Tom Moss said that handling the initial sales via Kickstarter will help the company judge demand.

“It’s a little bit different than ‘we need this [money] to make the phone,'” Moss said. “We need to know how many phones to make.”

That’s critical for a small hardware startup, Moss said, which can ill afford to sit on unsold inventory, nor does it want to vastly underestimate interest and force even longer waits.

For their patience and a couple hundred bucks, customers get a speedy Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and a five-inch screen as well as the near field communications and fingerprint reader needed to support Android Pay. The Robin also offers a fresh take on the ubiquitous black slab design of most phones today. It features a mint green and white color scheme and dual front-facing speakers that look almost like miniature versions of the listen and talk cups on an old telephone handset. (Those who want a more subdued look can go for the “midnight” color option.)

But getting customers to purchase a phone now that they won’t get until next year will be a challenge, as the market is flooded with new devices over the next several months.

NextBit told Re/code in July it was moving into the phone business, after initially working with carriers and other phone makers to support cloud synchronization features similar to those in Robin.

Though new to making their own phones, the team behind NextBit is made up of mobile industry veterans. Moss and co-founder Mike Chan both worked at Google on Android and also built 3LM, a mobile security firm that sold itself to Motorola. Scott Croyle, who leads NextBit’s product and design team, headed design efforts at HTC, where he was in charge of work on the well regarded HTC One.

While NextBit argues you can get a lot of phone for significantly less than what Apple and Samsung charge, a similar case is being made by Motorola, as well as Chinese makers Huawei and ZTE along with startups such as OnePlus and John Sculley-backed Obi Worldphone.

Despite all the competition, there is a lot of sameness out there, Moss insists.

“Consumers are super bored with the products that are out there,” Moss said. “We think it is a really good opportunity for new entrants to come into the Android [phone] space.”

Update, 9:30 am PT: Looks like at least some early adopters are happy to sign up. In two and a half hours, the company has already reached more than half of its $500,000 goal on Kickstarter with 778 backers thus far.

5:25 p.m.: And, NextBit is nearly there in less than a day, with more than $490,000 pledged so far.

This article originally appeared on Recode.net.

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