Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Boasting the latest Cyanogen OS and a unique design from the geniuses behind Beats headphones, this value mobile phone is Obi’s first entry into the UK market. Here’s our full Obi MV1 review.
Obi Worldphone, a smartphone manufacturer headed by ex-Apple CEO John Sculley, is finally bringing its mobile hardware to the UK in the form of the Obi MV1 4G. Unlike Apple however, Obi is very much focused on budget blowers rather than expensive premium smartphones.
The MV1 packs in the latest version of Cyanogen (a remixed version of Android boasting extra customisation and privacy features), as well as a 5-inch HD screen, 8-megapixel camera and a unique design courtesy of the firm behind Beats. All that, for the rather lovely sum of £99 (although you can pre-order for an impressive £79 from Amazon, until the phone is released on August 14). That’s cheaper than a Moto G4, and about the same cost as some other Cyanogen handsets like the Wileyfox Swift.
So, is the Obi MV1 a funky and feature-packed mobile to suit anyone on a strict budget? Here’s our full Obi MV1 4G UK review.
Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Design
Here at Recombu HQ, we’ve always said that Beats headphones would be brilliant if you didn’t actually have to listen to music on them. The bass-heavy audio may leave lots to be desired, but Beats cans sure do look great, which no doubt helps their sales considerably.
Getting the same San Fran team behind Beats to design the MV1 was a stroke of genius on Obi Worldphone’s part. Of course, you’d expect ex-Apple bod John Sculley to know something about the importance of design and so the MV1 inevitably stands out from the crowd with a funky flat-top finish, standing in stark contrast to the traditionally curvy bottom. And Obi’s first UK handset also sports a floating display, where the glass panel sits up on top of the soft-touch plastic body; something we haven’t seen since the Lumia phones of yesteryear.
The MV1’s curved design helps it to sit comfortably in the palm and at 5-inches it’s reasonably easy to use one-handed, despite that chunky finish. The smooth rear surface doesn’t exactly help grip, but at least the phone won’t go skidding across a table or desk if knocked. More troubling is how easily that plastic back becomes blighted by scuffs and greasy marks – definitely don’t handle after a fried egg buttie.
Power and volume buttons are simple to reach on the right edge, while there’s an old-school USB port down below for charging and a headphone jack up top. You can also prise open the back end to access the removable battery, dual SIM card slots and memory card slot.
Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Screen and media
At this price point, you can generally expect a basic display with a high-def resolution these days. The MV1 certainly doesn’t disappoint on that front. That 5-inch IPS screen is perfectly fine for the price, offering pleasingly crisp 720p HD visuals – you certainly won’t be seeing individual pixels, unless you have the eyeballs of a champion eagle. Contrast levels are decent although colours are muted and rival phones such as the Samsung Galaxy J5 pack more of a punch with their vibrant tones.
As for audio quality, the rear speaker is fairly powerful although you do get some minor distortion on top volume. It’s perfectly good for watching a YouTube video on the go, but for anything else we’d recommend plugging in earphones as usual.
The Obi MV1 comes with 16GB of built-in storage, 12GB of which is usable. Thankfully you can quickly and easily expand this storage via the microSD memory card slot, accessed by removing the back plate.
Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Features and OS
Cyanogen OS 12.1.1 is Obi’s OS of choice here and it’s a strong one. You get all kinds of great little features such as spliced themes and scrambled PIN pads, as well as the True Caller ID system, on top of Android Lollipop’s usual fare. And even though you miss out on Android Marshmallow’s new stuff, Cyanogen already did some of it anyway (such as control over app permissions).
Check out our Cyanogen 12.1.1 review for more info.
Beyond Cyanogen, there’s not really much to talk about when it comes to the Obi MV1’s features. There’s no fingerprint sensor for effort-free security (unsurprising at this price point), and thankfully only a couple of own-brand tweaks and apps (pay attention, Samsung). All we really noticed was the Obi Care app, which on our test phone was merely a list of Vietnamese service points and a link to the website.
Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Performance and battery life
A basic Snapdragon 212 processor is packed inside the Obi MV1 and as expected it provides perfunctory performance. Cyanogen runs smoothly enough, although we noticed the odd pause when attempting to load an app or when fiddling about in the Chrome browser. Thankfully you can still play fast-paced racing and action games, but the MV1 will likely show signs of ageing before too long.
Battery life is a marked improvement over other Cyanogen handsets that we’ve reviewed, however, such as the Wileyfox Swift. After the first couple of days of use, we regularly managed close to 48 hours of play time on a single charge. That includes plenty of web browsing and messaging, as well as taking a fair few photos and a bit of music streaming. Most other budget Cyanogen blowers tend to just about make it through a single day.
Feel like streaming video non-stop? You’ll get almost six and a half hours of playback before the MV1 dies, which is a solid enough result (although the Galaxy J5 is still the media test winner, giving ten full hours of video streaming).
Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Cameras
On the back of the Obi MV1 you’ll find an 8-megapixel camera with a single LED flash. The good news is, it’s a dependable (if frills-free) little snapper for the price, capturing an impressive amount of detail. There’s occasional oversaturation in high contrast, but the MV1 deals well with changes in lighting and you can quickly swap between three Auto Exposure methods if you want brighter images or spot lighting.
In low light the MV1’s photos are of course grainy, but the LED flash is powerful enough to light up your subjects in a pub or club. However, artificial light occasionally throws the camera and we sometimes ended up with very orange results. The front-facing 2-megapixel camera is also a write-off in low light, so you’ll need to seek out a well-lit place for those selfie shots.
As for video, you can shoot up to 720p HD footage and it’s perfectly servicable for home movie shenanigans. There’s no kind of image stabilisation to cut down on judder and shake however, so don’t move around too much while you’re filming.
Obi Worldphone MV1 4G Review: Verdict
The Obi MV1 is another solid budget Cyanogen handset, like the Wileyfox before it, with the benefits of a funky (yet chunky) design, strong battery life and a decent 8-megapixel camera. Performance is rather limited and the 5-inch screen isn’t exactly punchy, but for £99 the MV1 definitely offers good value for money.