nextbit robin review aa (8 of 20)

It was big news when Nextbit announced it would be bringing its crowdfunded smartphone, the Robin, to U.S. CDMA carriers a few months ago, but unfortunately that was too good to be true. Nextbit has just sent out a letter to backers explaining that the Robin will no longer be headed to Verizon or Sprint.

In the letter to backers, Nextbit CEO Tom Moss gave some reasoning for the cancelation. Nextbit wasn’t even planning on launching a CDMA variant of the Robin, but so many folks reached out to the company during the Kickstarter campaign that they decided to look into it. Because the crowdfunding campaign was a mere 30 days long, Nextbit was in a rush to figure out if they could launch a CDMA version or not. The answers Nextbit received from the carriers turned out to be not so accurate, which meant Nextbit would need to pay much more money and wait much longer than anticipated to launch a CDMA-certified Robin.

Moss explains that instead of pushing back the launch date of the Robin, it’s better to cancel it altogether until the company can get things sorted out. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

Originally, we weren’t planning on launching a CDMA version, but we had many folks reach out to us during the Kickstarter campaign asking for it, so we decided to take a look. Nextbit is comprised of people who have been in the mobile business for a while (since the birth of the modern smartphone era). Many of us have worked on devices that have shipped on U.S. CDMA carriers previously, and had a rough understanding of the issues involved. As soon as we saw the many requests from our backers for supporting this, we called and emailed folks we know at the various U.S. CDMA carriers and asked about the process to ship an open-market phone that would work on these networks.

As you can imagine, we were in a rush. The Kickstarter campaign is only 30 days long, and it wasn’t until the second week of the campaign that we realized the demand and started the investigation. Because of this, we had to go with the best information we could get before the campaign was over, and over time it turned out that this information was not accurate. 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”. And we’re still not there. The goal posts are still being moved, and at this point, we think it is better to cancel this version rather than continue to try and make progress with no clear answers to offer regarding when we would actually be able to ship.

We first realized there was a big delta between what we originally thought and reality in January. It should have been sooner but to be honest a big part of the problem is how long it takes just to get the right information (and in some cases, what we were doing was a “one-off” for the carriers and they didn’t even decide themselves yet how it would be treated until as late as a week ago). Even then, we believed we could recover and launch in March. Then new information came up and it became April. We really thought that would be it, but yet again, we were wrong. We should have known better. We were not sufficiently doubtful of what we were told given everything we already knew from our experience at previous companies. We were too optimistic, too bullish, and as a result we have to deal with our biggest fear, disappointing you, our supporters. This is bad for you, and this is bad for us. The best we can do is send you this explanation with our sincerest apologies, and try to make sure you don’t suffer any financial loss in addition to the disappointment of not receiving a CDMA Robin.

So where does that leave folks that already ordered a CDMA Robin? Nextbit will give every CDMA backer a full refund within the next two days. Kickstarter backers will get a refund for their entire pledge as well as any additional expenses (accessories, shipping, etc). Folks who pre-ordered the device won’t get charged at all.

Every CDMA backer will also get a 25% discount code good for one order from Nextbit’s online store. This means you can buy a GSM-certified Robin for 25% off. If you can’t use the discount yourself, the company says you should pass it on to a friend or family member who can take advantage of it.

This obviously isn’t ideal, but Nextbit is clearly doing their best to make up for the promise of a CDMA variant. Have you ordered a CDMA version of the Robin? If so, let us know in the comments.

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