Ex-Apple chief unveils emerging markets smartphone play

Ex-Apple chief unveils emerging markets smartphone play

27 AUG 2015

Obi Worldphone, a US smartphone start-up targeting “discerning young people in fast-growth markets in Asia, Africa and Middle East”, unveiled its first devices, with prices starting from $129.

The company, which was co-founded by former Apple head John Sculley, said that the products are “set apart by industrial design”. This was the role of San Francisco-based product studio Ammunition, which was also responsible for Obi Lifespeed, a custom Android user interface.

Of course, Obi is not alone in targeting growth markets, and its price point means it will be competing with a raft of Android smartphones from vendors new and old. But the company is claiming to take “the best of Silicon Valley – innovations in design, state-of-the-art technology and high standards for manufacturing – and fused them into beautiful, powerful tools at attractive prices”.

“Our efficient cost structure and broad distribution combine to present empowering tools that help our customers achieve their aspirations,” Sculley said.

According to The Economic Times, in its earlier guise as Obi Mobiles, the company “failed miserably” in efforts to crack the competitive Indian market, having sourced devices from China which “had no differentiation or upper hand”.

This led to the partnership with Ammunition, a company founded by Robert Brunner, who served a stint as director of industrial design for Apple.

SF1
Obi Worldphone’s flagship device, SF1, is powered by a 1.5GHz octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor, and includes LTE support.

And the company has not skimped on specifications: it includes Dolby Audio support, 13MP Sony main camera, 5MP front camera with flash, and 5-inch full-HD screen.

It costs $199 for the version with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, or $249 for 32GB of storage and 3GB of RAM. Storage can be expanded via a microSD slot.

SF1.5
Also available is a lower-tier sibling, SF1.5, which is a 3G device powered by a 1.3GHz quadcore MediaTek processor.

This device has a 5-inch HD (720 pixel) screen, 8MP main and 5MP front cameras, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (with microSD expansion slot).

Pricing for SF1.5 is $129.

Availability is slated from October, “in retail stores in some countries and online in others”.

Target markets will be “those with rapidly growing youth populations including Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Pakistan, Turkey and India”.

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Steve Costello

Steve works across all of Mobile World Live’s channels and played a lead role in the launch and ongoing success of our apps and devices services. He has been a journalist...More

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