John Sculley, the former Apple CEO famous for firing Steve Jobs in the '80s, believes he’s created a smartphone that strikes the elusive balance between quality and affordability. Last week, his company Obi Worldphone announced the release of two new handsets, the SF1 and SJ1.5. The phones will go for $199 and $129, respectively, and will be targeted at buyers in the developing world.
According to WIRED, over the next few years, one billion people in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are expected to buy a smartphone for the first time. Tech companies, including Sculley’s own year-old Obi Worldphone, are scrambling to infiltrate these emerging markets. Their new phones offer a cheaper alternative to the premium brands currently dominating markets like Brazil, while providing higher quality than the knock-offs that are sold on the streets.
The phones are high-quality in appearance as well, thanks to Beats by Dr. Dre designer Robert Brunner. To set the Android-powered phones apart from their competition, he designed them to have a square top, round bottom, and seamless, rolled edges for a sleek silhouette. The screen on the SF1 is also elevated slightly above the body of the phone, which further protects the glass from breaking and brings the interface closer to the user.
In just the first quarter of the year, local brands and Chinese manufacturers saw an average growth of 73 percent in smartphone sales. Obi Worldphone hopes their new products are appealing enough to steal sales away from their cheaper competition in developing countries. To start they plan to target the untapped markets in Nigeria, South Africa, Vietnam, Turkey, and Pakistan. For many customers, the SF1 and SJ1.5 won't just be their first smartphone—it will be their first computer as well.