John Sculley, former head of Apple, has co-founded Obi Worldphone, a Silicon Valley based maker of smartphones. The company partnered with Ammunition, another big hitter based in the Valley to design and manufacture two new smartphones. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ammunition’s founder and partner is Robert Brunner, former Director of Industrial Design for Apple Computer from 1989 to 1996. Furthermore, the past lives of these leaders shows through the moment you lay eyes on SF1. It’s packaging – a transparent, acrylic case – is very much reminiscent of an iPod. Inside the case is a striking device and power supply. There aren’t any peripherals like earphones included but for the price, I can live with that. My initial impression of the smartphone is good, but does it stay that way?
Obi Worldphone SF1 has a unique design. The unibody of the phone can be best described as a flat cylinder with rounded edges and metallic accents. The “floating” glass display is mounted on top of the casing which creates a cool effect but is also cause for concern. I worry that the mounted screen is more likely to not survive drops and falls than it would be if the display was inlayed. The phone feels substantial in my hand and has good weight to it. The branding is nice and subtle with a gray “obi” logo placed in the bottom right corner of the phone. Both the volume control and power buttons are located on the same side – the left hand side – of the device. I’m right handed and accustomed to the power button being on the right so that felt a bit clunky to me. The buttons are also flush with the side of the phone, making them difficult to use. I think this is a drawback of the cool, curved edges but not a deal breaker. Overall, the phone is sleek and well designed for its price tag. The designers did a great job of creating a budget friendly device that doesn’t look cheap.
SF1 features full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) and Corning Gorilla Glass 4. I didn’t encounter any problems streaming video and found the display to be vivid and crisp.
With a 13MP primary, rear facing camera and a 5MP front facing camera, SF1 gets the job done. There is room for improvement of the camera’s software however. Outdoor shots in natural light were brilliant but indoor photos were a bit noisy. With the flash set to ‘auto’ (my preferred flash setting) the flash was always triggered when shooting indoors. The filters are basic too – not artistic. For example, the Blue filter simply overlays the entire photo with a shade of blue. The same holds true for the Latte filter which uses a shade of brown. You can take good photos in good lighting conditions but editing should be done in social apps or using desktop software.
SF1 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chip with a 1.5GHz 64-bit Octacore processor. I didn’t encounter any notable performance issues.
Bright, colorful, fun, youthful, geometric – all the words that came to mind when I saw the phone booted up for the first time. The lock screen is transparent and instead the back splash is visible. It has a circular dial on the screen as opposed to an unlock button. The brightly colored circle fades from neon orange to pink and has three equally spaced icons on it – one for home, another for the camera and the other got the phone. There’s a white circle in the center of the dial that you drag and drop onto an icon to open the smartphone. So, if you drag and drop the white circle onto the camera icon, the phone opens to the camera. Different…I like it. The back splash is a black and gray abstract comprised of the letters o and b. Strategic placement of the letters spell out the word ‘obi’ in a repeating pattern. Again, they’ve done something different that adds visual interest.
SF1 runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop and was easy to setup. It had charge out-of-the-box and it rolled through a few installation steps seamlessly. The device found both my home and printer Wi-Fi networks immediately and connected without any problems. To my surprise Microsoft WORD, PowerPoint and Excel apps were pre-installed – a nice touch especially since I’m giving Office 365 a whirl.
My favorite feature has to be the FM Radio app which lets you listen to local radio. To use the app you must connect headphones to the device which can be a bit restrictive. I plugged in my Bass Buds and selected the ‘scan’ function. The app found Radio One (100.5) almost immediately but other stations were not detectable. Even with the lack of variety (which could have been limited because of my location) I appreciated having a radio on my phone. Despite the fact that most radio stations have proprietary apps to stream their own content, I never listen to the radio unless I’m in the car. This app makes local radio truly mobile and it doesn’t stop there. “Welcome to My House” by Flo Rida came on so I hit the ‘start recording’ function in the pull down menu to test it out. When the song was over, I chose ‘stop recording’ and a notification popped up telling me where the audio file was saved. Did you follow that? You can listen to and record local radio on SF1. But what do you do with a bunch of audio recordings from the radio? Are they usable? Yep. There’s another app called Play Music, which allows you to organize and play back recordings. It’s a simple and FREE way to curate music on your mobile device. Coupled with Dolby audio, SF1 offers quite the listening experience.
SF1 features a 3000 mAh battery and Obi Worldphone boasts that it renders up to 20 days standby time and up to 28 hours talk time and up to 10 hours play back time. I never used the phone as my primary mobile to “stress” it’s lasting power under heavy social media use but it did seem to charge quickly and remain powered at times when I was sure the battery would be dead. It took about 30 minutes to reach 30% charge.
The SF1’s suggested retail price is $199 USD for the 2 GB RAM / 16 GB internal memory version and $249 USD for the 3 GB RAM / 32 GB internal memory version.