Obi Worldphone MV1 - A solid but unremarkable affordable smartphone.

PROS

  • Solid build
  • Decent battery life and speaker
  • Okay display

CONS

  • Picks up marks and grease easily
  • Indistinctive design
  • Poor gaming performance

KEY FEATURES

  • 5-inch, 720x1280 display
  • 16GB of internal storage
  • Expandable memory up to 64GB via MicroSD
  • Android Lollipop 5.1/Cyanogen OS 12.1.1
  • Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 CPU
  • 8-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras
  • Manufacturer: Obi Worldphone

Obi Worldphone MV1

Obi Worldphone MV1

It’s not uncommon to see companies introducing new phone ranges. But when Apple’s ex-CEO John Sculley burst onto the scene last year, launching two phones, pretty much the whole tech industry paid attention to him.

He’s the pioneer of the Obi Worldphone brand, which aims to create attractive but affordable smartphones targeted at younger buyers in developing regions across Asia, Africa and Middle East – as opposed to the US and Europe. Now, that’s quite a feat.

The company’s first phones, the SF1 and SJ1.5, were received well by techies right around the world and seen as viable alternatives to more known handsets like the Moto G and Honor 7. But that wasn’t enough for Obi.

Looking to achieve maximum impact on a global scale and to take advantage of the growing number of people wanting cheap phones, it decided it had to release another handset. Enter the MV1, an unlocked, dual-sim phone capable of running Android Lollipop or Cyanogen OS, and it’s available in the UK for a penny-pinching £119.

OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 – DESIGN AND BUILD

At first glance, the MV1 looks just like any other budget Android smartphone, struggling to fight for differentiation. In fact, no thanks to its slightly curved design and straight edges, it could be easily mistaken for an old Lumia or the Moto G. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t exactly vie to be unique among the crowd.

Obi Worldphone MV1

Obi Worldphone MV1

It’s not an ugly phone by any means, despite not looking overly different from its competitors. You’ll still be more than happy to show it off in public. The white version is particularly pleasing, as you can see the handset’s curves clearly, as well as the metal band at the top. It adds for a classy effect, and you certainly wouldn’t think it were a cheap offering.

What’s also great is that you can actually hold the phone comfortably, unlike some of the phablets out there. Don’t be fooled, at 145.6 x 72.6 x 8.95mm, it’s no baby handset. However, your hands don’t feel like they’re stretching when you use the phone. It’s not too heavy, either, weighing 149g. Just to compare, the 2015 Moto G is 159g, so they’re similar.

Clad in Polycarbonate – just like many of the Lumia models – the Obi Worldphone MV1 feels expensive. It’s solid and doesn’t creak, and the curved edges mean it sits in your hand well. The only thing to be wary about is the fact that the material easily picks up grease and marks, meaning you may have to wipe it down with a cloth more than once. I noticed that the removable back plate picks up the most, although a case should help.

OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 – DISPLAY

The  OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 sports a reasonably sized 5-inch 1280 x 720 IPS display, which tends to be the norm for budget price point handsets nowadays. While that may be the case, if you look carefully, you can find bargains with even better displays. Budget phones like the OnePlus X and Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 all pack full-HD screens, and for well under £200.

You can get better, but I’m not overly disappointed with the display’s capabilities. With the brightness turned up, on the whole text looks crisp and stands out, and you don’t have to keep blinking in order to focus on detail.

The display has a tendency to make colours appear dull, but this is understandable at a budget price point.

I don’t have any major problems using the phone in the sun, though. I can look at texts, emails, social media feeds and images without having to glare with full force in daylight. This is perhaps thanks to a feature Obi is calling “Sunlight Display”, which does exactly what it says on the tin.

As well as this, you’ll be happy to know that the display features Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which bodes for extra protection against drops. While there is an anti-fingerprint oleophobic coating, the screen still attracts a lot of marks. You can’t really do anything about that, apart from giving it a rub down every so often.

 Obi Worldphone MV1

Obi Worldphone MV1

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OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 – SOFTWARE

Obi has decided to load the MV1 with Cyanogen OS 12.1.1, which is a strong choice. It’s essentially a heavily modified version of Android 5.1.1. Lollipop, and offers a variety of features that allow you to customise the OS to your taste.

For instance, you’re able to change the phone’s theme. There are over 100 themes to choose from, and they cater for all tastes. Once you pick one you fancy, everything from the handset’s lockscreen to its icons change, which you don’t get with stock Android. In the latter case, the UI is stripped bare, and there’s not a great deal you can do in order to add a touch of your own personality.

It’s a mixed bag, though. While the premise with Cyanogen is that you can customise your handset to your heart’s content, sometimes simple is better. Using the operating system, I think there’s way too much going on. I’m more interested in being able to read my emails and watch funny videos of cats dancing than customisation gimmicks.

There’s still hope here, however. Cyanogen puts security high on the agenda, offering a variety of useful tools for protecting your handset - including Cyanogen's Privacy Guard, Pin Scramble and Protect Apps. Privacy Guard, which you can access in the phone’s settings, allows you to approve the apps that can use data and those that can’t. Hopefully it’ll help you avoid running up massive phone bills.

Pin Scramble also has its uses. It makes it complicated for people to get into your phone, mixing up the numbers organised on the lock screen whenever someone tries to get on it. Protected Apps, on the other hand, lets you add passwords to folders so that intruding users can’t pillage your precious data. So if you have a relative or friend who is always trying to sneak onto your phone, you have a way to keep them at bay.

OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 – PERFORMANCE

Obi’s kitted out the MV1 with a 1.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 212 processor, 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 304 GPU, which is pretty standard for a budget smartphone. In comparison, the Wileyfox Swift is similarly priced (£120) and comes with a slightly better Snapdragon 410 CPU. The 2015 Moto G also packs a Snapdragon 410.

I don’t have any huge problems with performance when using the phone. It loads up fast, and on the whole, Cyanogen is smooth and fluent to operate. Scrolling through my social media feeds, checking my emails and web browsing were fine. There are a few occasions when apps and the browser lag a little, but they soon kick into action.

If you’re a fan of gaming, you may be disappointed. Simple games like Doodle Jump and Angry birds play fine, but intensive-heavy titles like Need for Speed are slow. They still work, but if you want something for gaming, you’re better off looking at your budget and going for something else.

OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 – CAMERA

As photography goes, the Obi Worldphone MV1 packs an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash on the back and a 2-megapixel snapper on the front. For the price you pay for the handset, the cameras are bottomline. The Willeyfox and Moto G both have 13-megapixel rear cameras, as well as 5-megapixel front cameras.

Obi Worldphone MV1

Obi Worldphone MV1

During my tests I found the camera take some decent photos. I’m impressed at the level of detail for a budget smartphone, with it picking up natural light well. If you want to brighten up your photos, you can choose from three auto-exposure modes.

When you take photos in darker environments, it’s worth turning the flash on or having it in auto mode, or your pictures will end up looking grainy and dull. Using the phone in the night with the flash on, I managed to take some detailed shots. The front-facing camera isn’t the best, but it’ll do the job. You just need to make sure you’re surrounded by light, and preferably lots of it.

The Obi Worldphone MV1 lets you record 1080p HD videos at 30 frames per second, too. Just like stills, videos shot on the phone will suffice and are respectable for a phone at this price point. It would have been nice to have seen an image stabilization mode, though, so you’ll have to hold the phone as still as possible. Other features include touch focus, face detection, geo-tagging, panorama, HDR, continuous shot and beauty face.

 Obi Worldphone MV1

Obi Worldphone MV1

The camera isn't terrible, but it doesn't match the performance of competing budget phones

OBI WORLDPHONE MV1 – BATTERY

The phone doesn’t disappoint on the battery front. It serves up 2500mAh of power, which is decent for a budget smartphone. The Willeyfox Swift has the same size battery, and the latest Moto G has 2,470mAh.

On a single charge, Obi claims you get around 16 hours of talktime (2G), up to 28 hours of music, 8 hours video playback and 6 hours of web browsing, which is all fairly accurate. I was able to get through a full day checking my emails, surfing the web, taking photos, listening to music and watching YouTube videos.

 Obi Worldphone MV1

Obi Worldphone MV1

SHOULD I BUY THE OBI WORLDPHONE MV1?

Obi has done a decent job in creating an affordable smartphone for those who simply want something for basic uses, whether that’s keeping up with emails, having a nose at the latest goss on Facebook or taking a few photos while on holiday.

The design may look similar to other handsets out there, but it’s still stylish and you certainly won’t get any odd looks in public. It’s a real shame you can’t get the handset in colours apart from white or black, although you can’t be too picky.

All this said, it’s still worth checking out handsets like the Willeyfox and Moto G. Similarly priced, they trump the MV1 in a few areas. Whatever you choose to do, it’s important to keep in mind that the MV1 and latter models are all budget offerings. If you want something a little more beefed up, it’s worth revising your budget and going for a more expensive phone.

VERDICT

A solid but unremarkable affordable smartphone.

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