Obi Octopus S520 Review: Will former Apple CEO’s first smartphone dazzle?

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Obi Mobiles is the newest entrant into the Indian smartphone market and is backed by former Apple CEO John Sculley. Unlike the Cupertino-based company however, Obi Mobiles is targeting the affordable segment with its focus on first time smartphone users and the youth in India. With that in mind, the company launched its first smartphone called the Obi Octopus S520. Priced at Rs 11,990, the S520 is currently the cheapest octa-core smartphone you can buy in India, but can it standout in a crowded segment? We spent some time with the smartphone to find out. 

The Obi Octopus S520, with its candybar design, looks like many of the budget Android smartphones being sold by Chinese or local brands. But the moment you take the smartphone out of the box, the weight of the smartphone — or rather the lack of it — will take you by surprise. Even with the battery inside, you barely feel the weight of the device in your hands and this is down to the build materials, which is disappointingly plastic.

The front is dominated by the 5-inch display with generous bezels, capacitive buttons near the bottom and the front-facing camera placed just above the earpiece. At the top there is a 3.5mm audio jack, power button on the right, volume rocker on the left and the micro-USB port at the bottom.

obi-octopus-s520-review (3)The back too is equally plain with the rear camera placed at the top-left corner alongside the LED flash and the speaker grille towards the bottom. Unlike other smartphones, there is no branding etched or painted on the rear; instead the company has stuck its logo to the rear panel. The logo is etched into a small piece of metal that is stuck to the panel, and it also has fake rivets. If the designers thought it would give the phone a cool rugged look, they were mistaken. It almost seems like an afterthought.

The back panel slides out to reveal the SIM-card slots, microSD card slot and a removable battery. It took us a few tries to pry the rear panel open and we nearly chipped our fingernail too. Initially it felt as if only the middle section of the panel would come out, but it turned out to be attached to the lower plastic section and whole thing slides out.

As mentioned above, the Octopus S520 has entered a highly competitive market, and for an unknown brand, first impressions are what matter. Unfortunately, the smartphone’s plain design doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

obi-octopus-s520-review (13)The display however makes up for the above disappointment to some extent. The 5-inch HD 720p display is bright, crisp and does a decent job in color reproduction. Viewing angles are good and the screen is comfortably legible under direct sunlight. The screen is however a fingerprint magnet and we would advise you to use the scratch guard bundled with the device.

The smartphone is powered by a MediaTek MT6592 octa-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz and paired with Mali-450 MP4 GPU and 1GB of RAM. This translates into smooth and near lag-free performance. The fact that the device runs on a near stock version of Android 4.4.2 KitKat also has a positive effect on performance.  Aside from Truecaller, file manager, software update app and Movie Studio apps, the device is free of any bloatware.

obi-octopus-s520-review (14)Running multiple apps simultaneously and switching between apps is quite snappy. It even took graphic intensive games like Riptide GP2 in its stride when playing on medium settings. Only when we maxed the graphic settings did the game become jittery and even crashed a couple of times.

The Octopus S520 comes with 8GB of internal storage, of which around 5GB is available for the users. You can further expand the memory up to 32GB by using a microSD card.

The device’s battery life, however, is another disappointment. The 1,800mAh is grossly under powered and is not enough to last a day. On heavy usage — involving voice calling, push notifications from two email accounts, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, half hour of gaming, half hour of video playback and texting — the battery was barely able to last four to five hours. With a more judicial usage, we were able to boost the battery life for another hour or so. So essentially you will need to carry a charger every time you step out of your office or home.

obi-octopus-s520-review (5)On the photography front, the smartphone boasts an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The primary camera is only useful as long as the lighting is optimum. In brightly lit outdoors, the photos were quite decent, but even a slightly cloudy sky resulted in significant loss in details and colors. The camera does surprisingly well indoors as long as there is enough light. It managed to capture a lot of details when clicking macro shots in our office. The front-facing camera is only good enough for video chats and selfie lovers will be a tad disappointed with the quality of the photos.

To conclude, the Obi Octopus S520 is an ordinary smartphone and is unlikely to set the market on fire. While the display, stock Android and octa-core performance are more than decent, the overall design, build materials and battery life leave you disappointed. We are spoilt for top notch build quality ever since the Motorola Moto G was launched, and for Rs 2,000 more you could also get the Xiaomi Mi 3, which is a flagship-level smartphone in terms of build quality and performance.

obi-octopus-s520-review (1)RELATED: Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley is hell-bent to sell you his new phone; and we know how…

In a chat with BGR India, John Sculley revealed that Obi Mobiles is gearing up for a big push around Diwali when it plans to have half-a-dozen smartphones in the market. He also mentioned how the company will go on a marketing blitzkrieg towards that time to develop a brand image. The smartphones too will have to live up to the hype and Obi Mobiles will have to do much better than the Octopus S520 to leave a lasting impression on an Indian buyer’s mind. Until then, buyers will continue to flock towards the likes of the Moto G and the Mi 3.