​Take two: Ex-Apple CEO launches 'Designed in San Francisco' Obi phones

Obi Worldphone has unveiled two Android handsets aimed at fast-growing emerging markets.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
The SF1.
Image: Obi Worldphone
Former chief of Apple John Sculley has launched two sleek smartphones targeting the sub-$250 category in emerging markets, under the Obi Worldphone brand.

Sculley is taking a second crack at smartphones for emerging markets with the SF1 and SJ1.5, two Android devices that proudly state they're "designed in San Francisco" and will cost below $250. Obi Worldphone's goal is to bring premium quality smartphones to emerging markets across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Sculley launched several smartphones between the $70 and $200 range last year but as the Economic Times reported today, he said Obi Worldphone's former strategy of sourcing devices from Chinese factories without differentiating them was a misstep. The company has since stopped selling Obi Mobiles phones in India, the world's fastest-growing smartphone market, but plans to make a return to the country this year.

The two new smartphones were designed by San Francisco-based Ammunition, a design firm founded by former Apple industrial design director Robert Brunner, the man behind Dr Dre's Beats headphones.

On the specs front, the two devices don't stand out from many of the newer lower-cost smartphones, but they are designed uniquely, in particular the SF1's slightly protruding display rather than the typical flush front of many of today's smartphones. Brunner told Wired the raised display was a "pleasing" feature since it brought the user interface above the base.

Also, the flat-edged top of the frame on both devices is reminiscent of Nokia's N9, and makes a refreshing change from the many handsets influenced by Apple's curved edge iPhone 6.

The $249 SF1, named after San Francisco, has a Qualcom Snapdragon 615 processor with LTE, and will be available in 32GB and 16GB storage editions with 3GB and 2GB RAM respectively.

The SF1 has a 3,000 mAh battery and, like many phones designed for emerging markets, is dual SIM. It also sports a five-inch full HD display (1920 x 1080 pixels, 443 ppi), along with a 13-megapixel main camera and five-megapixel front shooter.

The $149 SJ1.5 -- a nod to San Jose -- retains the flat top but eschews the SF1's raised screen for a flush face. As the cheaper of the two, the SJ1.5 is running on a MediaTek processor, lacks LTE, and has a five inch HD resolution display (1280 x 720 pixels). It's only available in a single 16GB variant. The SJ1.5 features an eight-megapixel main camera and five-megapixel selfie snapper, offering 1080 Full HD video recording. Like the SF1 models, it also has a 3,000 mAh battery.

Obi Worldphone says on its homepage that it is "born in Silicon Valley"- not just a place but a "mindset", apparently.

"'Designed in San Francisco' can be found on the back of every Obi Worldphone. To us it means you can expect a world class, original and distinctively designed smartphone that's ready to accompany you on any path you choose," the company says.

Obi Worldphone plans to launch both devices in October in Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, UAE ,and Saudi Arabia, with an Indian debut by the end of the year.

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