Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) review
Buy now from eBay
When the Galaxy A line was first introduced by Samsung more than year ago, the series brought with it the company’s first experimentation with build materials, with all these smartphone being made entirely of metal. Since then, Samsung seems to have found a more definite path in terms of design and build quality, but the Galaxy A series continues to be a way for Samsung to bring flagship characteristics to a more budget-friendly package.
SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy A9 review
While the devices that are a part of the 2016 edition of the series are available in a variety of sizes and offer differing specifications and features, what we’re looking at here is one of the more high-end offerings of the line, overshadowed by only the even more premium and newly-introduced Samsung Galaxy A9. What does this other Galaxy A device have to offer? We find out, in this in-depth Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016) review!
In terms of design and build quality, what the Samsung Galaxy A7 is essentially is a overgrown Galaxy S6, with the former featuring a similar design language and identical construction as the latter. Other than the size, the Galaxy A7 is a little more angular in its shape as well, with less rounded corners, but there is definitely an element of familiarity to it. The Galaxy A7 may not pack as much when it comes to power and features when compared to its flagship counterpart, but you do certainly get the look and feel of a premium high-end phone here.
You’ve got glass panels on the front and back that are held together with a smooth, chamfered metal frame that rounds out along the top and bottom, but flattens out along the sides, as is also seen with the Galaxy S6. While the predominant presence of glass does make for a somewhat slippery device, the flat metal sides help a lot with the grip. Glass is also pretty atrocious when it comes to keeping fingerprints and smudges at bay, so you’ll have to make an effort to keep the device looking pristine, unless you pick up the white version, where these are not as noticeable.
As expected, everything else is in its typical positions for a Samsung phone. The power button and volume rocker are to right and left respectively, and the metal-clad buttons offer a good amount of tactile feedback. With the Galaxy A7 being a touch more budget-friendly, it is not surprising that some flagship features, like the heart rate monitor on the back, are missing. However, you do get a fingerprint scanner here, once again integrated into the physical home button up front, which is flanked by the capacitive back and Recent Apps keys. At the bottom is the headphone jack, the microUSB port, and the single speaker unit.
With its 5.5-inch display, the Galaxy A7 is a decently-sized smartphone, and if you are switching from another device with a similar screen size, you’ll feel right at home with the Galaxy A7 in your hand. Samsung has also done a great job with keeping the bezels along the sides of the display very thin, and along with its thin profile, one-handed use with the Galaxy A7 is a lot more comfortable that what you’d expect. With a weight of 172 grams, the Galaxy A7 is also on the heavier side, and allows for a solid and substantial feel while holding the device, making the slippery glass backing less of a worry.
The Galaxy A7 comes with a 5.5-inch Super AMOLED display, with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 401 ppi. Quad HD may be considered the new standard, but Full HD more than just gets the job done, with Super AMOLED also playing its part in creating a great viewing experience. Everything from saturated, punchy colors, to the deep inky blacks are seen here, along with good viewing angles and brightness that allows for comfortable outdoor visibility. Web browsing, reading text, watching videos, or playing games are all very enjoyable on this screen, and you certainly won’t find yourself missing a higher resolution.
Under the hood, this version of the Galaxy A7 comes with an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, clocked at 1.5 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 405 GPU and 3 GB of RAM, but depending on the market, there is also an iteration that is powered by the octa-core Exynos 7580 processor, and backed by the Mali-T720MP2 GPU. In the case of this Snapdragon-powered review unit, the performance has been what you’d expect from this processing package, which has been the 2015 mid-range standard.
It runs reasonably well for the most part, and handles everything from web-browsing to multi-tasking, and even graphically-intensive gaming, perfectly well. However, there are occasional instances of animation stutter throughout the interface. It is very noticeable when it does happen, and the lag is almost always seen when moving from the Flipboard second screen to the main homescreen. Granted the latter is an issue with the high-end Samsung devices as well, but with the slower chipset in play here, the stutter is far more apparent. Some sluggishness is also seen when scrolling the pages and elements of certain apps, such as Snapchat.
16 GB of on-board storage is the only option available here, but luckily, Samsung decided to bring expandable storage back into the fold with the Galaxy A series, allowing for an additional storage capability via microSD card by up to 128 GB. Some versions of the device, depending on the market, also come with dual-SIM capabilities, in which case the secondary SIM slot is what serves as the microSD card slot. In the single SIM versions of the phone, a dedicated microSD card slot is to be found.
As mentioned, the Galaxy A7 comes with a fingerprint scanner that is integrated into the tactile home button up front. This is the same implementation as seen with the Galaxy Note 5 and the Galaxy S6 before it, and works well. The setup process is a little longer when compared to some competing devices out there, but once you’re ready to go, the scanner is reliable, accurate, and generally pretty fast at unlocking the phone. Apart from unlocking the device, the fingerprint reader also sees its advantage when being used with Samsung Pay.
The single speaker unit is found at the same position at the bottom, as is the case with its flagship counterparts, and offers a similar sound quality. While the speaker gets decently loud and produces a clean and clear sound without any distortion even at higher volumes, you are of course, not getting the quality that is available with dual front-facing speaker setups.
The Galaxy A7 comes with a standard suite of connectivity options, including NFC. However, as far as network connectivity is concerned, there are quite a few versions of the device floating around, but unfortunately, none of them are intended for the US market, which means that you’ll have a hard time getting any sort of 4G LTE connectivity with the Galaxy A7. HSPA+ does get the job done, but for those that definitely want LTE in the US, this smartphone will unfortunately fall out of consideration.
Moving on to the battery, the Galaxy A7 comes with a large 3,300 mAh unit that provides a battery life that has been extremely good. With normal usage, the device comfortably lasted through a full day of use, and more often than not, survived an additional half a day as well. The screen-on time has been easily surpassing the 4 hour mark, and has been around 5 hours on most days. Wireless charging may not be available, but the Galaxy A7 does come with fast charging capabilities, which is useful when needing to quickly recharge a battery of this size. The Galaxy S6 has been plagued with battery life issues, but seeing as to how Samsung seems to have figured this aspect out with the Galaxy A series, is hopefully a pre-cursor for what we can expect with the upcoming Galaxy S7.
One of the biggest complaints with Samsung’s high-end offerings last year was the camera bulge, and while it hasn’t been completely eliminated with the Galaxy A7, the protrusion of the camera lens is significantly smaller this time around, and from an aesthetics standpoint, it definitely looks a lot cleaner.
The Galaxy A7 comes with a 13 MP rear camera with a f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization, but as you’d expect the camera experience doesn’t quite live up to what you’ll find on Samsung’s flagship devices. The camera doesn’t come with video recording capabilities in 4K, there is no Youtube live streaming feature, as well as no HDR Auto. The HDR toggle on the main camera interface is also missing, which makes switching between Auto mode and HDR and little more cumbersome than I’d like. What is retained, however, is the ability to quickly launch the camera with a simple double tap of the home button, a feature that was first introduced with the Galaxy S6.
As far as image quality is concerned, the shots possible with the Galaxy A7 are unfortunately mediocre at best. You can get some good looking photos in the right lighting conditions, but even when the environment is too bright, you will see a lot of overblown highlights and crushed shadows. The Galaxy A7 also seems to lack the typical Samsung post processing that results in vibrant colors and sharpness, making for images that appear quite dull. HDR mode does provide a more balanced shot and adds a slight boost to the colors, but without HDR Auto, you will have to remember to switch to HDR mode every time the camera is launched.
You will also see a lot of noise creeping in to the shots in medium to low light situations. Details begin to look extremely soft, colors are lacking, and you are still getting the overblown highlights that are seen in pictures taken in bright conditions. The camera of the Galaxy A7 is one that will get the job done, but is far cry from what Samsung has shown themselves to be capable of.
On the software side of things, the Galaxy A7 is running Android 5.1.1 Lollipop out of the box, with the latest version of TouchWiz on top. While it is disappointing to see Android 6.0 Marshmallow not available on a device launched in 2016, a planned upgrade to the latest version of Android is in the works, and should make its way over shortly. This is the newer version of TouchWiz with the squarish circle icons, as seen with the Galaxy Note 5, and personally the look I prefer. The general look and feel of TouchWiz remains largely the same though, and the software experience is pretty much identical to what is available with something like the Galaxy S6.
Multi-window is available to cover all your split screen multi-tasking needs, there are useful motion gestures included, such as the swiping your palm over the screen to take a screenshot, a one-handed mode can be activated by a triple tap of the home button, and finally, the robust theme store is also found this time around. The theme store remains one of the best additions to the TouchWiz UI, and with numerous themes to choose from, you can easily cater the look and feel of the UI to your liking.
Pricing and final thoughts
The Galaxy A7 hasn’t officially been launched in the US, but can be found on eBay from anywhere in the $400 – $500 range, depending on your preference of color, with a choice between gold, pink, white, and black.
So there you have it for this closer look at the Samsung Galaxy A7! The Galaxy A7 certainly falls towards the higher-end of the “budget-friendly” spectrum, especially if you are trying to import it to the US. At this price range, a lot of other great options are available as well, including devices like the OnePlus X, Nexus 5X, the Moto X Pure Edition, honor 5X, and for a little extra, even the Nexus 6P. Not only will you potentially getting a device that is more powerful with these choices, but also one that will allow for full 4G LTE connectivity in the states.
For those considering picking up the device in other markets, the Galaxy A7 is a solid smartphone that brings a lot of flagship features to a more affordable package. From its premium design and build quality, to the availability of a fingerprint reader, the Galaxy A7 does tick the right boxes, but it is certainly far from a bargain. Considering how much the budget smartphone landscape has changed in just a short period of time, Samsung may have to reconsider a few things in order to allow the Galaxy A7 a fighting chance.
Buy now from eBay
Next: Samsung Galaxy S7 rumor roundup
Nextbit Robin Review
Crowdfunding isn’t a new concept and while many projects do fail to see the light of day, just occasionally, we’re treated to a project that has the potential to alter the way we use technology. The problem of limited storage is one that affects the growing number of devices that launch without microSD card expansion, but American company Nextbit has a unique solution to this growing problem with its Nextbit Robin smartphone.
Harnessing the power of the cloud, Nextbit’s first smartphone aims to supercharge the smartphone experience using smart cloud-based storage, which intelligently, and automatically, backs up your photos and apps to the cloud. When the company first launched on Kickstarter, many may have thought this was a dreamy concept that wouldn’t see the light of day, but several months later, the Robin is almost ready to jet into your pocket.
With over $1.3 million in backing on Kickstarter and a leadership team that has considerable mobile pedigree – including Scott Croyle, the former SVP of design at HTC and Tom Moss of Google – the Nextbit Robin has many ingredients for success. However, does it deliver and is cloud storage really the solution to a lack of storage? Let’s find out in this, our Nextbit Robin review.
As with the Mate 8 review last month, we have two reviews of the Nextbit Robin: above, you can see Josh’s video review of the smartphone, and below, you’ll find Nirave’s written review of the smartphone.
In an industry of seemingly-homogeneous devices, the Nextbit Robin stands out from the crowd, despite being a throw back to older smartphones that were nothing more than rectangular slabs. Yet, with the industry widely adopting curved front and/or reader displays, the rectangular design of the Robin actually feels refreshing and there’s no denying that it’s unlike any other smartphone.
Since we first went hands on with an early unit of the Robin back in September last year, Josh and I have been waiting to experience the phone in all its glory, and for good reason: from the design to the cloud storage, the Robin is the most unique devices on the market, and both of us really like the design. As Josh puts it:
It’s very rare that you find a device that’s incredibly unapologetic about its design.
Opting for the flat rectangular shape has also allowed Nextbit to be quite clever in the design of individual elements; from the size of the bezels above and below the display (more on this later) to the front and back cameras and the speakers, all the individual elements are perfectly symmetrical to one another; the bezels are the same size and colour; the speakers are exactly placed; the cameras are exactly the same size and distance from the edge of the phone and the USB Type C port is perfectly in line with the headphone jack.
For a rectangular device, the symmetry makes the phone surprisingly pleasing to look at and the circular elements contrast the rectangular design perfectly. Aside from the power button, the SIM tray and the USB Type C port, all the other elements on the Robin are circular, which continues through to the OS as well.
Bezels are a necessity on almost all smartphones as they serve to hide the complex mesh of wiring, connectors and transistors that are packed tightly underneath them, but Nextbit have – quite cleverly – use circular elements to make the considerable size of the bezels more forgiving. For example, the company could have opted for more traditional shaped speakers, but by opting for circular speaker grilles, the bezel somehow feels a lot smaller.
One benefit to the rectangular and flat design is the graspability of the phone; whereas current smartphone designs that adopt curved sides can be quite difficult to grasp, the flat sides of the Robin makes the smartphone easy to pinch and hold. Furthermore, while some may make claims that a curved back is more ergonomically friendly in the hand, the flat design of the Robin refutes this.
There’s a lot to like about the design of the Robin but there are a few areas that takes adjusting to. One of these is the location of the USB Type C port, which is offset to the left of the bottom of the phone and means gripping the phone is extremely difficult when it’s on charge. While the software goes some way to solving this by allowing you to use it upside down – unless you’re on the home screen that is – it’s near on impossible to comfortably grip if you have the charger and headphones plugged in at the same time.
On the left of the Robin is the two circular volume keys that are recessed enough to provide solid tactile feedback, while on the right is the dipped power button, which also houses the fingerprint sensor. The design of this is similar to that found on Sony’s latest Xperia Z5 range, but the button is more dipped, meaning you have to press it down further than you might have first thought.
On the back of the Robin is the circular camera elements alongside a rather nifty cloud logo, which has LED lights underneath that light up when the Robin is connected to the cloud; it’s a cool design feature that makes the Robin feel ever more unique. The back is made of plastic but, as we’ll touch on later, it can get as hot as a metal smartphone does; that being said, the phone feels sturdy and quite comfortable in the hand.
As you can see by the plethora of images used in this review, the unique identity of the Robin is also largely down to the colour scheme; rather than the more-traditional black and white colours we see on other smartphones, the Robin is available in this rather quirky mint colour. This is also where Josh and I agree and disagree; while Josh prefers the midnight colour, I rather quite like the Electric Blue version, which is exclusive to those who backed the Robin on Kickstarter. Both of us agree that, while the mint colour is certainly unique and quite nice, the other colour options are more likely to appeal to you and, when questioned, Josh’s brother had no hesitation is saying the midnight colour was the one to buy.
Despite a few elements that do take adjusting to, there’s no denying that the Nextbit Robin is a striking smartphone in every sense of the word and, in a world full of devices that blend together – much like the clouds in the sky – the Robin certainly stands out. HTC have a considerable pedigree in making stylish smartphones and now – no doubt thanks to the influence of Scott Croyle – Nextbit does as well. If there’s one area that Josh and I definitely agree, it’s that the Nextbit Robin is one of the nicest smartphone designs we’ve used in many years.
In between the bezels on the front, the Nextbit Robin has a 5.2-inch Full HD IPS display, which is acceptable given the price tag. Full HD has become the standard for affordable flagship devices and the Robin’s display is on par with the current crop of Full HD devices at the same size.
In actual usage, the display proves to be satisfactory, but not amazing. When testing the display in the Arizona sun, Josh found that the display remained legible when the phone was set to full brightness, which is somewhat surprising as other devices do struggle in direct light. Many of you may be contemplating whether QHD would have been a better choice to make the Robin stand out more from other affordable flagships, and while it would have helped, it’s unlikely the phone would have remained as affordable.
As Josh eloquently puts it, the display is absolutely fine and – when you have the right expectations of it (remembering that it’s a device that costs $349) – the display is actually great. If you’re coming from a more expensive device that has QHD resolution, you might find yourself a tad disappointed, but for the most part, the display on the Robin is certainly more than acceptable for an affordable flagship at this price.
Aside from its unique design, the Nextbit Robin truly stands out from the rest of the smartphone market thanks to its unique selling point; the innovative cloud-based smart storage provided by the Nextbit cloud. However, before you rush to buy the Robin, it’s worth keeping in mind that this isn’t cloud storage in the traditional sense, and the experience vastly differs from cloud backup solutions such as Google Drive or Dropbox.
Why it differs so vastly is solely down to the implementation of cloud storage into the OS; while the Robin does run stock Android in its entirety, Nextbit’s Smart Storage features have been baked directly into the OS so it’s able to intelligently manage your storage. To do this, the Robin automatically offloads the apps and photos you’re not using to the cloud when your smartphone is running out of space, but this comes with its own set of issues.
For example, when we received our Robin smartphones, they had been set up as if they had been used for many months as it showed the smart storage in action. However, when you use the phone from new (or after a reset), and subsequently run out of space (if, for example you take thousands of images when travelling for a week), the smart storage features won’t offload any apps or photos as you’ve only just taken / installed them.
Furthermore, there’s no way to force a backup to the cloud as you, the user, have no control over the cloud storage feature. This is where many users are likely to be left disappointed and both of us are no different; the key selling point behind the Robin is the cloud storage feature, but as the user has no control over the storage – whether it’s being able to force a backup or use the storage as you see fit – the cloud features do leave you wanting.
With that being said, the smart storage features do have the potential to be incredibly useful. For the average consumer, who keeps a smartphone for two to three years, the cloud backup will come in handy after around 12 to 18 months, when you’ve filled up the phone and the lack of storage is becoming an issue. In its current state, it’s unlikely you’ll use the smart storage features too often in the first 12 to 18 months but with a simple tweak to the experience, Nextbit could make the Robin truly stand out.
What should Nextbit do? It’s simple; give users access and greater control over the cloud storage, whether it’s allowing them to force a backup or even use it as traditional cloud storage (like Google Drive). How could Nextbit do this without having to put considerable resources into building it into the next update? Josh has the perfect solution; build an app, ask users to login with their Nextbit account (which you have to sign up for to use the smart storage features) and you can manage all the cloud features from there. Will this happen? At the moment, it’s unknown but we honestly believe they’ll adopt this approach by the end of this year.
The cloud storage features may be a key selling point but what about the rest of the Nextbit software experience? For the most part, the company has stuck to stock Android, which is unsurprising as Mike Chan, the co-founder and CTO at Nextbit, was a software engineer at Google and worked on Android from its inception until Android 3.0 Honeycomb.
The changes to stock Android are minimal and mostly visual, with the key changes being the colour set and the launcher adopted by Nextbit. The company’s launcher is key to the cloud storage experience as apps that have been offloaded to the cloud are represented by a grayed out icon and restoring an app is as simple as tapping on it (although, there’s no way to offload a particular app or an app you’ve restored by accident). The launcher also supports pinned apps, which will never be offloaded to the cloud and there’s also an omnipresent menu button, which gives you quick access to various lists: your pinned apps, apps that you have archived to the cloud and all your apps.
You might be asking why you’d need a list for all your apps and the answer is somewhat simple; the Nextbit launcher comes without the app drawer found in the traditional Android experience. What is good however, is that if you choose to change the launcher to one of the excellent third-party launchers available, icons for archived apps are still grayed out and you’re still able to restore apps with a single click. This is crucial as – at least while running Nova launcher – you get the benefit of the smart storage features without being bound to Nextbit’s launcher. For those who do use the Nextbit launcher, you can easily pin an app by swiping down on it and we’d like to see Nextbit add the option to swipe up on an app to offload it to the cloud, as the ability to force a back up would really improve the smart storage experience.
There’s a particularly good reason you might choose to use an alternative launcher and that is the colour scheme used by Nextbit. The company has clearly attempted to make an ethereal experience using light colours and for the most part, the experience is mostly positive.
That being said however, there are a few areas that Josh and I agree could be improved; in particular, the notification menu is a light grey and semi-translucent colour that looks sloppy, especially when used in a light app. The translucency of the notification menu is quite nice when used in an app with dark colours, but the experience is strange when you pull the notification menu down while using an app that has predominantly light colours.
Despite a few changes to colour scheme, the Robin is stock in almost all its entirety and if you’re used to stock Android, you’ll find the Robin easy to use. I’m personally not a fan of stock Android, but the Robin feels like a smarter version of stock Android and is surprisingly enjoyable to use.
On paper, the 13MP camera on the back of the Robin should be average at best but the company has really surprised us with the quality of this camera. The sensor itself is the same one used by Samsung in the Galaxy Note 4 and, although it doesn’t have all the features included in the Note 4, the camera is certainly impressive.
The Robin’s camera comes equipped with Phase Detection Auto Focus and f/2.2 aperture and most images captured are usually quite vibrant and, despite the lack of optical image stabilisation, low light performance is much better than expected. It’s not without its flaws however, as as there is a fair amount of noise reduction happening in post-processing meaning images aren’t the sharpest on the market and in particular, noise is apparent when zooming into a particular image.
By far the biggest disappointment with the camera is the camera app itself, which is bare and leaves us wanting more. Firstly, this build of the Robin is lacking in camera modes, including panorama mode, which Nextbit say will be available in the next software update. Both, Josh and I, have also found that the camera app is rather slow with a noticeable lag when taking an image; when taking a normal image, the Robin takes between half a second and a second to take the image, while there is 2-4 seconds lag when capturing a HDR image.
That being said, the camera app does come with a few modes and by far, the most interesting of these are the HDR and manual modes. When capturing a HDR image, the Robin does well to brighten the image with less shadows, but it does fail to have an effect on blown out areas of the image.
Below you’ll see the effect of HDR on the Robin, with images on the left captured without HDR and the ones on the right, captured with HDR.
The other mode that you may use quite often is manual mode, which is nice but is not a true manual mode. For example, the first setting Josh changes in manual mode is shutter speed but this option isn’t available on the Robin. Furthermore, the white balance options are presets – such as cloudy, daylight, incandescent etc – and there’s no option to configure the white balance to a particular Kelvin figure. With that being said, the manual mode is really well designed as – if you’re holding the phone with two hands – the various settings load next to your left hand and, once selected, the control sliders load next to your right hand.
Overall, the camera is certainly impressive on the Robin and despite a few flaws, it’s actually rather impressive. From an affordable flagship that costs $349, you could be forgiven for expecting a less-than-stellar experience, but the camera on the Nextbit Robin is a pleasant surprise and is a lot better than it actually should be.
Performance & Hardware
Under the hood, the Nextbit Robin is certainly on par with most smartphones at the same price (and several that are more expensive as well). It’s powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor with Adreno 418 GPU, 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, and the performance of the Robin mostly lives up to the powerful internals it possesses.
On the software side, Josh and I haven’t found the handset to slow down and mostly, the performance is above average and definitely more than acceptable for an affordable flagship. The Robin does have the half-step of lag that is found on other Snapdragon 808 devices but, unlike the Nexus 5X, 3GB RAM does serve to make the experience almost-always snappy and responsive.
However, there are a few areas of performance that the Robin leaves us wanting; in particular, the heat management. I’ve personally found the handset can warm up considerably, and on one occasion, it even overheated to the point I wasn’t able to hold the phone without it burning my hand. Granted, this was while the phone was plugged in to a charger, the phone was running low and was trying to offload apps to the cloud while also downloading new apps from Google Play, but it was a major concern.
As covered earlier, the smart storage features don’t work as you expect them to and the actual performance of the automatic backup does seem to be a little hit and miss. It’s worth noting that Josh and I agree that it will take a while for you to fill the internal storage before you need to rely on the smart storage features, and it’s quite likely the cloud backup will be vastly improved by then.
Alongside the impressive hardware, the Robin also comes with NFC, which is missing from other smartphones at a similar price, and can be used with Android Pay that comes preloaded on the phone. It’s worth noting however, that when I tried to set up Android Pay, the Google authentication failed to recognise the Robin as an Android smartphone and, while this is should be simple enough to fix, it’s not currently possible to configure Android Pay on the Nextbit Robin.
By far the most surprising part of the Nextbit Robin is the dual front facing stereo speakers, which are absolutely fantastic and some of the loudest speakers on the market. HTC’s BoomSound feature is known for leading the way in terms of audio quality and the Robin does seem to imbibe the quality of these speakers. As an example, Josh was able to watch a YouTube video in a crowded restaurant and hear the audio clearly, with no issues at all.
Overall, the Robin features some impressive hardware that, while being older compared to the new chipsets of 2016, does offer a flagship experience. The company certainly needs to improve its smart storage features and implementation, but for the most part, the Nextbit Robin delivers an experience that is worthy of most flagship devices.
The area that the Robin most disappoints us is the battery life; under the hood, the Nextbit Robin is powered by a 2680mAh battery, which, coupled with Doze Mode in Marshmallow, should offer ample power for a full day’s usage. In actual practice however, the Robin does fail to deliver in the battery department.
Although the battery isn’t a 3000mAh unit like many other smartphones, there is the expectation that it will last a full day but it does struggle to do so. While testing the Robin in the Arizona sun – which included taking lots of photos and the phone was constantly searching for coverage – Josh found the phone struggled to make it to the end of the day, with around 3 hours’ screen-on-time.
One of the best features in Marshmallow is doze mode, which is meant to offer vastly improved standby time and, as we found in the Nexus 6P during Best of Android last year, it can be very effective when implemented correctly. On the Nextbit Robin however, doze mode is very ineffective and in some of my testing, the standby battery time is worse than on Lollipop. During day to day usage, I’ve found the Robin battery can drain to almost empty in less than two days with very minimal usage and, on one occasion, I’ve even had it drop 35 percent in less than three hours with no use.
Throughout our testing, Josh and I agree that there is something preventing Doze mode from being effective and this is most likely due to something running in the background. Given the Robin runs almost-stock Android, it’s likely that the company’s smart storage features are preventing doze mode from being effective and it’s a shame, as the battery life on the Robin definitely leaves us wanting more.
In effect, the Robin is actually a smartphone that runs Marshmallow, but with the battery life of a smartphone running Lollipop.
Although the Nextbit Robin only has a 2680mAh battery, the presence of doze mode gave us hope that the battery would make it through a day but it certainly struggles to do so. If you’re someone who uses your phone even moderately, it’s likely you’ll need to keep a portable charger with you, as you’re likely to be searching for a power outlet by the end of the day. In effect, the Robin is actually a smartphone that runs Marshmallow, but with the battery life of a smartphone running Lollipop.
The Nextbit Robin is definitely one of the most interesting smartphones ever made and if you’re looking for a smartphone that different in many ways, the Nextbit Robin definitely sets the standard. Every bit the smartphone that the LG Nexus 5X and the OnePlus 2 should have been, the Robin has its head in the clouds, for better or worse.
Rather than being the complete product, the Robin is definitely a dreamer’s phone in the sense that it shows the potential of cloud storage, but with some improvements needed in the implementation. Giving Nextbit the benefit of the doubt, the company did say the cloud storage features worked in a particular way and they’ve definitely achieved this, but it’s not enough o make the Robin a truly cloud-first smartphone. Luckily for them, when you look at the Robin phone-first, it’s pretty fantastic.
At the moment, it’s a nimbus cloud, but given time for the smart storage to evolve, it has the potential to become a cumulus cloud.
At the end of the day, the Nextbit Robin is a very unique phone, but with this, comes its own set of flaws: mainly, it’s a new concept that, while performs exactly as Nextbit said it will, definitely needs improving. At the moment, it’s a nimbus cloud, but given time for the smart storage to evolve, it has the potential to become a cumulus cloud.
At a cost of $349, the price makes sense for a phone that is – cloud storage aside – rather fantastic, but by if users had control over the 100GB storage (which is provided for free by Nextbit), the phone and its price would be an absolute steal. As an affordable flagship, the phone is great and with the right tweaks and improvements, it has the potential to be a truly remarkable smartphone.