Just two days after doubling its Kickstarter goal, the startup says it will expand beyond AT&T and T-Mobile models. It is still looking at the possibility of a Sprint version.
Verizon Wireless customers will get the chance to snag startup Nextbit’s debut smartphone.
San Francisco-based Nextbit, run by Google and HTC veterans boasting reams of experience with smartphone tech, will offer a version of its Robin smartphone that is compatible with the Verizon network. That offer will kick in Friday morning through its Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign, Nextbit CEO Tom Moss said in an interview. The initial version of the Robin was compatible only with AT&T’s and T-Mobile’s networks.
Robin has made waves through its standout feature of online storage. While the smartphone comes with 32 gigabytes of internal storage, it will have a total of 100GB of storage by tapping into the cloud for further online resources. Nextbit executives have hinted that they will be able to use online access and storage to improve the phone in other ways over time.
The introduction of a Verizon version greatly enhances Nextbit’s customer base — Verizon is the nation’s largest wireless network. The announcement comes just two days after the company hit the $1 million mark on its Kickstarter campaign, doubling its goal. The interest underscores a burgeoning trend of companies bypassing carriers and selling their smartphones directly to consumers, a strategy embraced by lesser-known companies such as ZTE and Alcatel One Touch and giants such as Apple.
The version of the Robin that works with Verizon is designed specifically for that network and isn’t optimized for AT&T or T-Mobile, so switching networks would not be recommended. The company is still looking into a version for Sprint, but the requirement to add additional frequency bands complicates the task.
“We’re still figuring out whether we can make it work with Sprint,” Moss said.
Moss and co-founder Mike Chan worked on Google’s Android software in the early days, while the company’s chief design and product officer, Scott Croyle, led the development of the HTC One smartphone. Their resumes give the startup some extra clout among a myriad of startups attempting to build their own smartphones.
Nextbit will begin offering the Verizon version at 10 a.m. PT Friday and will offer an “early bird” special price of $299 for the first 300 orders. The Robin’s Kickstarter price is $349. It will retail for $399 when it launches in January.
The company will also kick off at 11 a.m. PT today a contest to let Kickstarter backers choose a color combination for a special Kickstarter-only variant of the Robin. Kickstarter backers can propose colors. Nextbit will choose five, refine them and then let backers vote.
The Robin currently only comes in a mint-white combination or a dark blue “midnight” color.
While nowhere near the scale of Apple or even HTC, Nextbit has been a success on Kickstarter. The company said it will increase Robin’s cloud storage to 129GB if backing hits $1.5 million.
“It’s amazing,” Moss said of the campaign. “It’s such a validation.”