Apple’s Former CEO Built an Impressive Cheap New Phone

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Since stepping down as Apple’s CEO in 1993, John Sculley has become one of the technology industry’s top spokespeople, while also serving as a mentor to many business leaders and startups. Sculley, who Apple lured away from PepsiCo in 1983, is also a world traveler, and over the past two decades has spent much time in India, Africa, and parts of Asia. During his travels, Sculley witnessed first-hand the rise of a new middle class whose spending is driving economic growth across parts of the developing world.

All that growth means a desire for new technologies. Even in some of the poorest countries, Sculley observed, there is now high demand for smartphones and wireless connectivity. Our research, for instance, shows that about 2.8 billion people in the world have some kind of mobile handset, while we expect another 1 billion to buy smartphones for the first time over the next three to four years.

But Sculley believes most of the world’s relatively cheap, $150-or-less smartphones aren’t very good. He and his partners began to wonder if there was a way to make a high-quality smartphone while keeping prices at $200 or below for buyers who wanted a better product at lower prices. So Sculley set out to work on a new brand called Obi Worldphone, and, along with famed designer and fellow Apple alum Robert Brunner of Ammunition, built what became the Obi Worldphone SF1 and SJ1.5.

The idea behind the Worldphone lineup was to create no-compromise smartphones designed in Silicon Valley using top-tier components but sold for under $200. The end result took two forms: The SF1 is an elegant fiberglass-body Android smartphone with metal trip, sporting a five-inch screen, an eight-core Qualcomm 614 processor, a Sony-made camera and Dolby sound. The 16GB model goes for $199, while the 32GB costs $249. The SJ.1.5 is a lower-end device that supports wireless networks no faster than 3G, and sells for $129.

The end result and I’m talking about the higher-end SF1 here is what I believe to be the best Android phone under $200, and probably one of the best-designed Android phones at any price.

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