Four years ago I was an early adopter of the effort to build a mobile operating system on top of Firefox; as part of this effort, I purchased a Firefox OS-powered Geeksphone Peak in May of 2013 and, the next year, upgraded to a Geeksphone Revolution.
There seemed to be such promise in a non-iOS, non-Android mobile OS, and Mozilla made great progress toward this.
After seeking solace in the arms of a Moto G for a couple of years–a generally happy and productive time–I opted to back another dark horse and purchased a Nextbit Robin, a crowdsourced Android-based phone with an intriguing design and a promise of a unique “we’ll dump overflow into the cloud so you don’t need to manage” storage promise.
I’ve been using the Robin for the past seven months. It’s proved itself a serviceable, mostly-snappy Android phone. The cloud features haven’t proved useful for me at all: their web-based photo management site is primitive and, in the end, I seldom bump up against the 32 GB internal memory anyway. The promise of better community engagement that the Kickstarter origins suggested never really materialized: there are discussion forums, which is something, but seldom is there much useful information there. Perhaps most frustratingly on a day-to-day basis, the camera and gallery apps Nextbit includes have always been pale imitations of what’s available elsewhere.
And then, this week, the announcement that, like Geeksphone before it, Nextbit is shutting down.
Perhaps the promise of the artisanal mobile phone maker is one that simply cannot be realized in a sustainable way; perhaps these devices are simply too complex to expect a small team to be able to design, build, sell, distribute, manage firmware for, and so on. In any case, I’m not likely to buy a phone from Novterinity or Cellphotophia any time soon, and, when my Robin begins to degrade, will likely need to invest some time in understanding the world of commodity iOS or Android phones to find a replacement.
Either that, or just go back to my Nokia N70.