The trend of unlocked, higher-end but affordable smartphones has been great for the mobile market, and Nexbit’s Robin is one that we’ve been tracking for some time. After the project caught fire on Kickstarter, the company received feedback from users that wanted a CDMA version of the phone so they could take it to Sprint and Verizon.
Nextbit has now canceled those plans. In a sorrowful blog post, CEO Tom Moss described at length (but not in great detail) why the team made the decision. In a nutshell, they thought they could pull off a CDMA version, but after working with the carriers, they realized that it was going to cost too much money and take too long.
"What people at the carriers, in good faith given our need for quick answers, thought would take 'weeks' has turned into 'months.' What they thought would cost 'hundreds of thousands of dollars' has turned into 'millions,'" said Moss in the post.
He also noted that there was no clear end in sight, and rather than delay, delay, delay, Nextbit opted to stop pursuing the CDMA option altogether.
Nextbit is refunding CDMA backers in full, within the next 48 hours. As an olive branch, the company is offering a 25% discount code for each CDMA backer. Obviously, for backers locked into CDMA networks, that’s not especially useful, but you can gift your discount to a friend or family member that can use it on a GSM unit.
It’s good that Nextbit is being candid (and remorseful) rather than stringing backers along or making excuses or throwing the carriers under the bus, but it highlights some of the struggles inherent in startup land and the Kickstarter culture. Nextbit is staffed with mobile industry veterans and was well-funded, but it still couldn’t get over that particular hump.
However, the good news is that after a few delays, all GSM Robin orders have now shipped, according to Moss.