This morning at MWC 2016, we caught up with CEO Tom Moss and Scott Croyle from US mobile maker Nextbit, who are causing waves in the tech industry with their cloud-first smartphone Robin. It isn’t just the tech geeks that are going wild; consumers blasted through Nexbit’s first supply of product for sale in just days, and with the timing around Chinese New Year, production was delayed slightly but worry not: the Robin will be back on sale tomorrow morning (Wednesday 9am CET, or about 5pm Sydney time).
Tom tells us that Australia is an important market for Nextbit, but it almost didn’t happen. Australia wasn’t originally on Nextbit’s launch plans, due to concerns that band support might render the phone less popular for us. However, feedback from the enthusiasts quickly changed their mind, and the product was cleared for sale to Australians as well and with good results; despite our relative size in the global tech market, Australia reached #7 in terms of sales from the KickStarter campaign, and these figures are likely to be reflected in online sales as well.
Of course, Nextbit’s biggest design decision with the Robin (outside its striking physical design) was going Cloud First, meaning that apps can easily be offloaded from the Robin into the cloud to free up local storage space. Using the Robin, the most obvious change is more striking — Nextbit have done away with the traditional Android “app drawer”, opting for a flatter icon on the desktop motif for each installed app. Scott tells us this was a deliberate design decision based on feedback from users gained over the years. Tom said:
“One of the complaints from a large group of Android users was that Android seemed more intimidating or confusing to the first time user, especially those who were unfamiliar with smartphone trends thus far; customisation and choice is good — power users love it — but it can create confusion for non-Android users. A more simplified user interface like this makes it more accessible, and especially so to those coming across from iOS.”
There’s some other exciting news for Australian fans (and would-be customers) of the Nextbit Robin. While Nextbit is selling the Robin direct through their online store for the time being, they are also exploring options for local retail opportunities and this is the case for Australia too. Tom tells us that Nextbit are in discussion with a major online retailer in Australia for local ordering and fulfilment and that we should see this arrangement officially announced very soon.
There’s also the issue of the Nextbit Sheep. Their sheep mascot has developed its own cult following, especially amongst the tech media, and I was sent to Barcelona with strict instructions not to bother returning home without a sheep for Dan.
Well, I don’t just have one sheep. I actually have ten for you guys too. These are limited edition, conference-special black sheep, and they’re really, really cute. The usual colours — purple and turquoise — are available elsewhere, but these black ones are Nextbit’s
We’ll work out a way to give these away soon, so stay tuned!