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Former Apple CEO launches affordable Obi smartphones

In October, India will get two more budget smartphones: the Obi SF1 and the SJ1.5. This itself isn't news -- cheap smartphones have been flooding the market for the last few months.

gadgets Updated: Aug 28, 2015 16:55 IST
Pranav Dixit
The Obi Worldphones SF1 and the SJ1.5 cost $199 and $129 respectively -- well under Rs. 15,000 in India.
The Obi Worldphones SF1 and the SJ1.5 cost $199 and $129 respectively -- well under Rs. 15,000 in India.

In October, India will get two more budget smartphones: the Obi SF1 and the SJ1.5. This itself isn't news -- cheap smartphones have been flooding the market for the last few months. But the Obi phones were made by former Apple CEO John Sculley -- infamous for presiding over the ouster of Steve Jobs 30 years ago.

The Obi Worldphone, a brand new mobile company, is Sculley's latest venture after he co-founded Misfit Wearables, which makes fitness trackers and sleep monitors among other things. Like most brands that make budget phones, Obi targets the billion plus people in developing markets -- Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, South Africa, Pakistan, Turkey and India.

The Obi Worldphones SF1 and the SJ1.5 cost $199 and $129 respectively -- well under Rs. 15,000 in India -- but that's not their USP. "Our differentiation is no-compromise, beautiful design," said Sculley to The Verge. Both phones were designed by Ammunition, the San Francisco design firm that also designed the iconic Beats headphones.

As a result, both phones look, well, cool. "Looks like the iPhone 6 and Nokia Lumia 925 had a baby," says one commenter on Engadget.

The guts aren't too different from other budget phones -- your run-of-the-mill MediTek and Qualcomm processors, Corning Gorilla glass, the works, 5-inch screens, the works -- but the phones themselves are bright and colourful, their bodies covered with an anti-fingerprint coating.

They come with 2 or 3 GB RAM and 16 and 32 GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD). More importantly, they also support dual-SIM cards.

Will they take off? The smartphone market in India is so crowded that it's anyone's guess at this point. And for a company hoping to crack the developing market, the Rs. 15,000 price-point is still too expensive.

Obi hopes to be in more than 50 countries by 2017.