Former Apple execs aim to fill “gap in market” with Obi WorldPhone

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New smartphone launched in UK today and goes on sale for £119 later this month

A new handset manufacturer built by former Apple CEO John Sculley and Apple product designer Robert Brunner has launched its first device here in the UK.

The San Francisco-based brand, Obi Worldphone, was founded by Sculley in 2014 with a focus on providing affordable smartphones for customers in emerging markets.

To date, it has released three handsets in 10 countries, with the UK becoming the 11th today (May 9) when its entry-level MV1 handset was launched.

“John Sculley noticed a gap in the market because there aren’t many design-led handsets coming in at a really low price point,” Obi regional director Rafael Aldon explained to Mobile News ahead of the launch.

“He got in touch with (former Apple head of product design) Robert Brunner and they came up with the raised screen design you find on Obi devices.”

The MV1, built in Shenzhen, sports what Aldon describes as a “floating screen” which sees the five-inch display raised slightly above the rounded corners on the body. It is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 212 processor with 2GB of RAM and a 2,500mAh battery.

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John Sculley, centre, pictured with Apple co-founders Steve Jobs, left, and Steve Wozniak

It has an 8MP camera on the rear and a 2MP sensor on the front. It is also a dual-SIM device and has space for a microSD card up to 64GB. The handset will initially only be sold through Amazon, though VP for product marketing (alliances and innovation) Ankush Chatterjee said they have started discussions with other retailers.

In Vietnam, the second market it launched in after Singapore, Obi’s devices are in 500 stores after an initial online-only launch.

“We can only grow so quickly and we’re only a small business, but we’ve got a clear strategy, and this allows us to stay quite skinny with our initial products,” Chatterjee said.

“Our proposition is extensively around design. The idea is that customers buying in that segment aren’t interest in design, but that isn’t the case. Customers expect well-designed products and good performance at the lower-end of the market as well.”

The Obi MV1 will go on sale through Amazon for £119 from the end of May.

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