“The Obi SF1 comes across as a potential hit with its unconventional, yet stylish design and decent specs”
Obi Worldphone, formerly know as Obi Mobiles, is making a comeback in the Indian smartphone market with the launch of Obi Worldphone SF1. A venture by ex-Apple CEO John Sculley, the company has aimed at the affordable segment since the beginning and debuted in the Indian market with a flagship dubbed, the Octopus S520. Later on, the brand made other additions to its portfolio, with more fauna-based monikers. With its rebranded avatar, Obi Worldphone recently unveiled two stylish-looking devices at an event in the US, named the SF1 and SJ1.5. The pricier of the two is the SF1, and it comes in two variants. The SF1 is expected to reach our shores shortly, and we already have the 3GB RAM + 32GB storage variant in our lab. Here is a quick unboxing and our first impressions of the upcoming smartphone.
Obi Worldphone has done some unconventional things when it comes to the SF1. The phone comes in an eye-catching packaging which makes sure the device gets displayed in all its glory… something you would normally expect from a high-end accessory, rather than a smartphone. The oblong box features a transparent plastic casing for two of its thirds, while the bottom third comes concealed with a paper overlay featuring product information. Peeling away this overlay lets you flip open the plastic box. Inside, you will find the handset, secure between plastic mounts, the documentation, a 2A wall charger and a micro-USB to USB cable. A wired headset isn't included.
Another unconventional thing about the Worldphone SF1 is its design. Clad in a fibre glass bodice, the phone sports metal on the top and the bottom edge. While the top edge lays flat, the one on the bottom is curved. The interesting unibody design gets another unusual element, with what the company calls a floating glass screen. The 5-inch display rests on a panel which is raised above the body, and looks like it has been laid on top.
The 5-inch display bears full HD resolution and comes protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass 4 along with an oleophobic coating on top to keep scratches and fingerprints at bay. The display looks sharp and the colours on the screen look vivid. The screen brightness is just perfect and the sunlight legibility is good as well. Viewing angles were decent, and touch response is excellent.
The button and port placement is standard with the volume rocker and power button placed on the left edge, the audio jack on top and the micro-USB port on the bottom spine. The micro-USB port is flanked on both sides by sets of precision-drilled holes. While the one towards the left hides the primary microphone, the one on the right is the loudspeaker. The ejectable SIM tray find its home on the right edge.
Towards the front, you will find that the display comes bordered by the earpiece, secondary camera, an LED flash and a few sensors on the top. The navigation keys come as part of the software.
The back panel is understated, with the primary camera module on the top left corner, and minimal Obi branding etched diagonally opposite to it. The Worldphone SF1 has got just enough weight for it to feel secure in your hands. The solid build quality only adds to the grip. The overall design is stylishly intriguing. In some ways, the design reminds us of the Xiaomi Mi 3, and this also means that the phone isn't as compact as some of the other recent 5-inch offerings like the OnePlus X (first impressions | FAQs).
The software affair on the SF1 is handled by Android Lollipop v5.0.2 which comes with the brand’s own custom UI layer on top. The first thing that will catch your eye is the lock screen, which features three unlocking options placed on a wide ring, with the unlock button in the centre. The ring fills up with hues of pink and orange when you press the power key. You can drag the button in the centre to one of the three available icons on the ring to simply unlock the device, open the dialer or launch the camera app. The dialer icon does not come placed on the homescreen by default, which is a bit strange since the most basic operation you do with your phone is calling someone. The shape of the icons is another thing that catches the eye as it mimics the shape of the phone – flat on top, curved on the bottom.
Under the display settings, you can change the way you unlock the phone by switching from the Obi Lifespeed UI style to default Android. The setting allows you to simple swipe up the screen to unlock the phone along with changing the icons to basic ones as well.
The primary homescreen,which is the only one that there is, features a vertical assortment of apps. The preloaded apps on the Obi Worldphone SF1 include all apps from Google, Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, AntiVirus, Clean Master, SwiftKey Keyboard and Sweet.
The device comes with some interesting software features. You can customise the function of the home key for double press and long press. You can also customise the volume buttons to wake up your phone. There are a few gesture controls as well called Smart Function. The SF1 comes equipped with Dolby Audio Surround 7.1 sound tech.
Out of the 32GB onboard storage, you get about 24.4GB for personal use. The phone comes backed by a 3,000mAh non-removable battery, which should easily last you a day. The phone also boasts Quick Charge 1.0 technology for fast charging. The dual-SIM SF1 accepts a micro-SIM and a nano-SIM. However, if you choose to expand the storage (upto 64GB), you will have to compromise on the dual-SIM capabilities of the phone as the second slot is a hybrid one. Other connectivity options on the phone are standard including 4G LTE support, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
The Obi Worldphone SF1 comes equipped with a 13MP primary camera assisted by an LED flash, and features a Sony IMX214 sensor. The Chroma Flash technology, as the company claims, enhances low-light imaging by capturing two pictures, one with flash and one without, and then merging them to create an evenly lit picture. The front camera is rated at 5 megapixels and comes aided by an LED flash too. The camera UI seems simple with all the settings and modes arranged on the left of the viewfinder, while the virtual shutter button resides on the right. The shooting modes include IQ camera which further comprises three modes – ReFocus, Chroma Flash and Opti Zoom. Other shooting options include Backlight, Sports, Night and Snow. From the camera settings you can also access the HDR mode. While the shooters look fairly capable, we can only tell you how good they really are after we’ve tested the camera in different shooting conditions.
The SF1 comes powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 64-bit octa-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz and mated to 3GB of RAM. There’s a 2GB RAM variant as well, which also halves the inbuilt storage. An integrated Adreno 405 GPU takes care of the graphics. During our brief usage, we didn't encounter any stutter. We’ll be testing the performance of the phone during our review and will leave our final take on it for later.
It has been a while since the brand came up with a smartphone, and for a comeback, the Obi WorldPhone SF1 packs in fairly powerful hardware and rocks a stylish design. We're currently waiting for the exact pricing and the launch date, but you can expect it to be out quite soon. Keep watching this space for our in depth review of the SF1 to know how it stands against the competition in the market.