Obi Worldphone MV1 full review

It isn’t difficult to find a cheap smartphone these days, even if your budget is severely limited. A really cheap smartphone might costs only £50, but you’ll get a low-quality screen, slow processor and a lack of features. Obi’s latest phone aims for the middle ground, but still compromises a bit too much.

Update 11 August: The Obi MV1 is finally available for pre-order. Previously Amazon's listing quoted a 1-4 week delivery time, but this really should have been a pre-order option.

Obi Worldphone MV1 review: Price

You can buy the Obi MV1 from Amazon for £99. Initially, Obi listed the phone for £119, but has since cut the recommended price to £99. However, until 14 August you can buy it with a pre-order discount price of £79 from Amazon.

Competition around this price is intense, with Motorola’s Moto E 4G and Moto G (3rd gen) being good value, and also Vodafone’s – assuming you’re happy to have a phone locked to Vodafone’s network. There’s also the Wileyfox Swift.

Obi Worldphone MV1 review: Features and design

Obi MV1 review

As the name suggests, the Obi is sold all around the world and supports plenty of 3G and 4G bands, including the ones you’ll need in the UK for 4G, bands 3, 7 and 20.

Unlike most phones at this price, you can put two micro SIM cards into the MV1 and still use the microSD slot to increase storage by up to 64GB.

Obi MV1 review

The battery, you’ll note, is removable, and you get a choice of black, red or white models. The plastic rear panel pops off to reveal the battery and slots, but the finish is so smooth that it immediately shows marks and fingerprints.

The design is unusual with curved corners at the bottom and square at the top. The raised screen reminds and rounded edges remind us of older Nokia/Microsoft Lumias and the MV1 doesn’t try to hide its plastic finish behind metal effects.

Obi MV1 review

We’re assured the combination of plastic rim and Gorilla Glass 3 is enough to protect the screen from damage and it certainly has done in our month of testing with a couple of drops – one accidental and one intentional.

The screen measures 5in and has a resolution of 1280x720, there’s 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage and everything is powered by a Snapdragon 212, a quad-core chip running at up to 1.3GHz.

You have a choice of operating system, either Android Lollipop or Cyanogen, which is based on Lollipop. Go for the former and your MV1 will have only 1GB of RAM for some reason.

Obi MV1 review

We tested the Cyanogen version and this is the one we’d recommend if you buy the MV1. It’s easy to use and has loads of extra customisation, whether you want to change the colour of the notification light or the colour temperature of the screen during the day and at night.

Obi has promised an update to version 13, but that wasn’t available at the time of review. The only sticking point is the learning curve – even if you’re used to stock Android. It’s not obvious how to enable the battery percentage or change the wallpaper, for example.

Obi MV1 review

It is easy to set your preferences for calls, texts and data when using two SIMs. You can choose to use a particular one as the default or ask you each time you make a call or send a text.

Obi includes the SwiftKey keyboard, Truecaller for identifying and blocking callers, and the Cyanogen camera app. You also get a custom lock screen, which Obi calls ‘Lightspeed UI’.

Obi Worldphone MV1 review: Performance

You’ve every right to expect decent performance even at this price, but the Snapdragon 212 is no powerhouse. The built-in Adreno 304 GPU could only manage 4.2fps in the GFXbench Manhattan test, and only 9.9fps in the less-demanding T-Rex test.

Similarly, in Geekbench 3 the MV1 mustered just 333 (single core) and 1130 (multicore). If such numbers are important to you, and even if they’re not, you can get better performance for your money. The year-old Moto E (with only 1GB of RAM) scored 1463, yet costs only £79. It only has one SIM slot, though.

Amazingly enough, the MV1’s real-world performance isn’t as bad as you might expect – possibly thanks to the 2GB of RAM. The Cyanogen interface is relatively zippy, apps don’t take an age to load and websites appear pretty quickly.

Battery life isn’t too bad either: in the Geekbench battery test the MV1 lasted just a couple of minutes shy of seven hours (with brightness set to 120cd/m2).

Just don’t try playing intensive games such as Asphalt 8 or Real Racing 3 as they’re not as smooth as on more powerful phones. But the chances are you’re not contemplating buying an MV1 to play such games, and it will cope admirably with casual games.

Obi MV1 review

Screen quality isn’t wonderful, especially considering this is an IPS display. Viewing angles are fine, but colours are quite muted and whites have a distinctly redish look, and that’s without the special ‘night mode’ which is all the rage at the moment and reduces the colour temperature to avoid too much blue light.

The other thing is that it’s relatively dim and you have to push the slider up to almost maximum all the time and this does impact on battery life; you’ll be lucky to get through a working day when out and about, relying on the MV1 for all your communication and computing needs.

You can replace the depleted cell with a fully charged battery, although it’s not easy to find a spare to buy.

Obi Worldphone MV1 review:  Cameras

The MV1 has an 8Mp main camera that’s capable of only 720p video recording. It offers the option of 60 frames per second for ‘High speed’ and ‘Slow motion’ both but then moans that 60fps isn’t supported when you hit record if you’ve also set the resolution to 720p.

It can also shoot time-lapse video and automatically create panoramic photos, but there’s no stabilisation.

Photo quality is adequate, and around the level we’d expect. Focus, exposure and detail capture are generally good, but white balance isn’t – you’ll have to colour correct most images or choose a preset other than Auto in the app.

Obi MV1 review - photo samples

Here's a 100 percent crop of the original photo:

Obi MV1 review - photo samples

When shooting close up, the focus indicator will often turn green, despite the subject not being in focus. But when you learn the limits, you can take some nice macro shots.

Obi MV1 review - photo samples

Videos are poor. Even at 720p, there’s not a huge amount of detail (partly the fault of compression) and the soundtrack is muffled and often sounds as if you’re underwater. That’s despite recording audio at 92Kbit/s in stereo at 48kHz.


Obi Worldphone MV1: Specs

  • Cyanogen OS 12.1.1 (based on Android Lollipop 5.1)
  • 5in 1280x720 IPS touchscreen, 294ppi
  • 1.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 212 quad-core processor
  • Adreno 304 graphics
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage (microSD up to 64GB)
  • 8MP main camera, LED flash, support for 720p video at 30fps
  • 2MP front camera
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 4G LTE
  • Dual micro-SIM
  • 2500mAh removable battery
  • 145.6 x 72.6 x 9mm
  • 149g