Obi preps stylish budget phones for Asia, Africa and the Middle East

The Obi Worldphone Android-based smartphones both start at under $199

A company founded by ex-Apple CEO John Sculley has launched a set of low-cost yet stylish smartphones aimed for emerging wireless markets in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

The Obi Worldphone SF1 and SJ1.5 models both start at under US$199 but offer capabilities found in more expensive smartphones.

The phones use a customized interface, called Obi Lifespeed, which runs on the Android operating system, version Lollipop.

With these phones, Obi wants to reach the billion or so users who market analyst firm Creative Strategies predicts will upgrade in the next three years from low-end smartphones to ones with greater functionality.

The new phones will be available in October. The company is focusing its marketing efforts on companies with rapidly growing youth populations, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Pakistan and India.

The SF1 portable telephone is able to run on 4G/LTE networks and runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor.

For a budget phone, the SF1 comes with some surprisingly sophisticated multimedia features: The 13-megapixel camera has advanced auto-focusing technology, and sound is provided by Dolby Audio.

The device has a 5-inch (12.7-centimeter) display made of the durable Corning Gorilla Glass, a fiberglass body and a dual SIM slot, which would allow the phone to be run on GSM networks. The Qualcomm quick charging technology can charge the phone is less than three hours.

Suggested retail price for the SF1 is $199, with 2GB of RAM and 16GB or storage. A version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of memory costs $249.

Obi also has a phone for older 3G networks as well, the SJ1.5, which runs on a MediaTek MT6580 Quad-Core processor and has 16GB of internal storage. It also features a dual SIM slot, Corning Gorilla Glass and front and rear cameras.

The SJ1.5 will cost $129.

Both phones will come with built-in security software from AVG and Google. They will come with pre-installed copies of the Swiftkey predictive typing app, the AccuWeather weather app, Clean Master cache clearing software, and ColorNote notepad. Additional apps can be downloaded from the Google Play store.

Based in San Francisco, Obi Worldphone aims to bring low-cost, stylish smartphones to countries with new 3G or 4G/LTE wireless networks. The company, originally called Obi Mobiles, first focused selling budget phones in the Indian market, with limited success. The company has since partnered with San Francisco design firm Ammunition to spruce up the interface.

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