The smartphone industry is growing at an unprecedented pace and thanks to the influx of brands, phones seem to have been commoditised… at least on the hardware side. Even a smartphone costing as low as Rs 10,000 can offer compelling specs, matching flagship offerings in a few cases. However, one aspect that remains a key differentiator for any smartphone is the design, and that’s what Obi is focussing on with its re-launch in the Indian market. Its latest offering, the Obi WorldPhone SF1, pairs an impressive design with an affordable price tag of Rs 11,999 (Rs 13,999 for the higher-end variant).
But the sub-Rs 15k price segment isn’t an easy category to crack, with both top-tier and new-age brands fighting it out with loaded contenders of their own. Can the WorldPhone SF1 (first impressions) make a mark? Let’s find out.
Specs at a glance
|Resolution||Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)|
|CPU||Quad core, 1.5 GHz + Quad core, 1 GHz, Snapdragon 615|
|Internal memory||32 GB|
|External memory||Up to 64 GB|
|Capacity||3000 mAH, Li-Polymer, Non removable|
|Talktime||Up to 23 Hours (3G)|
|Standby Time||Up to 480 Hours (3G)|
|Primary camera||13 MP|
|Secondary camera||5 MP|
|Network support||Dual SIM 4G|
|Other options||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS|
|Operating system||Android 5.0.2 Lollipop|
Design: the eye-catcher
Dimensions: 146 x 74 x 8.0 mm
Weight: 147 grams
One look at the retail box of the Obi WorldPhone SF1, and it’s clear that the manufacturer is trying to put its point across – this offering is unlike any other device available in the market. And, what better way to highlight the same, than to offer a unique design? The SF1 is surely a head-turner with its interesting design language.
The Obi WorldPhone SF1 is designed by the San Francisco-based firm Ammunition, which is also why the phone gets the SF moniker. The fascia sits slightly elevated (0.2mm) from the body of the smartphone, which catches one’s attention instantly. The major portion at the front is occupied by the display panel, with the space above taken up by the earpiece, a secondary snapper and a front flash. The navigation keys are available as part of the software, and hence it’s odd to see so much area being wasted below the display panel.
The phone features curved edges, with the left side sporting both the volume rocker and the power button and the right spine featuring the tray to hold SIM card(s) and / or a microSD card. In our opinion, the placement takes some time getting used to as most phones have the controls towards the right… at least the power button.
While the SF1 is crafted from plastic, it features metallic bars at the top and bottom. Interestingly enough, the top features a flat shape, while the phone is curved at the base. The audio socket is placedabove, whereas the micro-USB port flanked by precision-grilled speaker holes are present below.
The design of the Obi WorldPhone SF1 is reminiscent of Xiaomi’s debut device in India, the Mi 3 (review | FAQs) as well as Lumia smartphones. Like most phones these days, the handset sports a unibody construction. The rear panel is quite minimal with the primary camera and the LED flash available on the top left, and Obi branding towards the bottom.
Thanks to the 5-inch display, the WorldPhone SF1 fits snugly in the hands. It can easily be operated with a single hand. While the phone isn’t very lean, its thickness of 8mm is decent. Tipping the scales at 147g, the smartphone is also quite lightweight.
Sadly, as much as we like the design of the Obi WorldPhone SF1, we found the back panel to be slippery. It’s also quite prone to smudges.
Display: not its brightest point
Size: 5.0 Inch
Resolution: Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels)
Display Type: IPS LCD
Pixel Density: 441 ppi
The Obi WorldPhone SF1 uses a 5-inch screen from Japan Display Inc., which bears a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. With the pixel density of 441ppi, the display offers crisp text and images, and colours also remain vibrant. Viewing angles are decent, and brightness also appears to be fine – at least indoors. However, the screen becomes almost illegible outdoors under harsh sunlight.
Taking care of the display against scratches is the latest version of Corning Gorilla Glass.
Software: half-baked customisations
Operating System: Android
OS Version: 5.0.2, Lollipop
Handling the software affairs on the Obi WorldPhone SF1 is the brand’s custom skin on top of Android 5.1 Lollipop. Dubbed as LifeSpeed UI, the layer offers custom icons along with a few preloaded apps.
The lock screen features an interesting circular dial up front that lets you unlock the phone or access the dialer or camera app directly. Once unlocked, you are greeted by the homescreen, which has a vertical strip of eight apps. There are two homescreens by default, and if you dislike the recent shift towards unified homescreens (on most skins from Chinese brands), then you’ll appreciate the fact that this Obi phone has a dedicated app drawer. What’s extremely odd though is the fact that the homescreen doesn’t have the dialer app by default, though of course, you can drag it from the app drawer.
Talking about the preloaded content, you’ll find an anti virus, popular utility app Clean Master and Microsoft’s Office suite covering Word, PowerPoint and Excel. There’s also an app from Obi, which helps you to locate nearby service centres, although strangely, it only shows the ones present in Vietnam and there’s no option to change the country.
In terms of features, you can customise the usage of power and volume buttons, as well as the home key. You can also pick up the call automatically as soon as you bring the phone near your ears or flip the phone to mute the call. With the proximity sensor, you can capture a screenshot or an image by moving your hand over it.
One good thing that Obi offers with the WorldPhone SF1 is the option to switch to stock Android interface. We certainly like this capability, as the customisations by the brand look half-baked and seem to ruin the experience, rather than improving it. We also ran into a couple of crashes which most probably were due to the unoptimised software.
Camera: average results
Primary camera: 13 MP
Flash: LED Flash
Secondary camera: 5 MP
On paper, the Obi WorldPhone SF1 has a powerful camera, with a 13-meg sensor from Sony with f/2.0 aperture taking care of primary photos and an 5MP camera at the front for selfies. What’s more, you can use both the shooters in dim settings as both of them get help from dedicated LED flash units.
The camera app’s interface is heavily modified, letting you capture images, videos or preview them with the options towards the right in the landscape mode. The app offers a variety of modes such as IQ Camera, Portrait, Night, Snow, etc. as well as various effects like Sepia, Posterize, and Sketch, among others. You can also switch to the front camera or toggle flash, while the last option on the left brings the settings menu. It lets you change ISO levels, exposure, enable HDR, etc.
Sadly, the images don’t deliver on the expectations. Most images turn out over-exposed, and while details are fine, colours reproduction doesn’t look realistic. It’s still fine for daylight photography, but capturing images in poor light results in artificial-looking images. The phone does get some help from software features under the option called IQ Camera, such as Opti zoom, Chrome Flash and ReFocus. Opti zoom helps in capturing long shots as you can zoom in without much pixelation, as the camera captures multiple shots and then combines together. Chrome flash results in better images in low light, as it merges two images – one with flash and one without, offering more natural colours. ReFocus, as the name suggests, lets you change the focus on the subjects after capturing the scene.
Take a look at the images captured by the rear snapper on the Obi WorldPhone SF1.
Talking about video capabilities, the rear camera can capture videos in 1080p, while the front shooter is capable of recording in HD resolution.
Performance: gets bogged down due to the software
CPU: Quad core, 1.5 GHz + Quad cor…
GPU: Adreno 405
RAM: 3 GB
Memory: 32 GB + Up to 64 GB
SIM Slots: Dual SIM , GSM+GSM
Battery: 3000 mAH
The onus of the performance in the Obi WorldPhone SF1 lies on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 CPU. The processor is made up of two quad-core clusters running at 1.5GHz and 1.0GHz respectively. The device is available in two models, while the lower-priced model comes with 2 gigs of RAM, the higher-end version – the one we’re reviewing – sports a generous 3GB of RAM. The hardware is competent and ensures that the device delivers a smooth usage throughout. App opens quickly, and switching between them is also instantaneous.
However, due to the half-baked software, there are times when even switching between screens isn’t stutter-free. We also ran into a couple of app crashes for this very reason. However, raw performance is impressive, and playing games like Badland is a joyful experience. The device has also managed to keep the thermal efficiency in check, with it getting slightly warm only when used for long durations.
Obi has ensured that there are no complaints when it comes to the storage aspect of the WorldPhone SF1. The 3GB model ships with 32GB of memory on board, out of which around 24GB is available to use. You can also make use of the secondary hybrid slot for expanding the storage via a microSD card. The phone also supports USB On-the-Go letting you plug in compatible flash drives.
For connectivity, the Obi WorldPhone SF1 offers the usual options with support for 4G on its primary SIM, along with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. Call quality is pretty good and we were able to hear callers on the other side comfortably, even in noisy environments.
The device comes with a beefy 3,000mAh juice pack, which lasts quite long. The WorldPhone SF1 easily manages to go on for a day and a half, and if you use it sparsely, then it can last even longer. As part of standard battery drain test, the phone continued for a little over 10 hours while playing a 720p video on loop.
The WorldPhone SF1 represents a starkly different approach followed by Obi with its re-launch. Earlier, the brand was following the spray-and-pray methodology by introducing a number of offerings, priced between Rs 5,000 to 10,000, which had similar hardware specs as the competition. But now, it has launched an attractively-priced proposition which has promising specs, and one that also stands out amidst the competition with its unique design.
However, the 3GB model of the OBI WorldPhone SF1 is up against some powerful and reliable options in the form of the more affordable Xiaomi Mi 4i (review | FAQs) and similarly-priced Moto G Turbo (first impressions), in case one is looking for compact offerings. There are loaded phablets like the ASUS ZenFone 2 (review | FAQs) in this price range too.
In a nutshell, the Obi WorldPhone SF1 is a solid effort, but falls short in terms of an overall user experience. If a unique design is what you’re after, then there’s nothing wrong with the SF1, but otherwise, it doesn’t seem as impressive as the competition.
Editor’s rating: 7 / 10
- Impressive design
- Powerful hardware
- Good battery life
- Average camera performance
- Unoptimised software
Photos by Raj Rout