Freedom 251, The 4$ Smartphone: all you need to know

Freedom 251, The 4$ Smartphone: all you need to know
There’s a lot of buzz on the internet about the cheapest android smartphone in the market which costs about 3.7$ (251 Rs). It’s the cheapest smartphone in the world till date.Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd;a Noida Based Firm in the capital of India have recently launched an android smartphone named as “Freedom 251”.This phone is a part of the Digital India Campaign and is thus heavily subsidized by The Government of India.

Freedom 251 Smartphone

First,lets see the product specifications :

The phone has a 4″ (10.2 cms) qHD IPS display with a screen resolution of 960 x 540 pixels.It is powered by MediaTek 1.3 GHz Quad-Core MT6582 processor,has 1 GB of RAM,8 GB of Internal Storage and Externally Expandable upto 32 GB of memory.

There’s also a 3.2 MP rear camera with auto-focus, a 0.3 MP VGA front camera, a 1450mAh battery and dual-SIM 3G support, so you’re not getting a dumb phone either. The phone runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop, and will come with a bunch of preloaded apps such as Women Safety,Farmer,Fisherman,Medical and Google play.

Comparing the device specs with current phones in the market,it’s cost would be around 3000 Rs (43-44 $).

By looking at the specs you can just buy it first and then decide what you’ll use it for.For 4 $ even if you drop it and break it,you can buy another one pretty easily than spending a money and gas rather than going to the service center.

Coming to the question : Should You buy the Phone ?

Before answering the question,lets just have a look at the brand and its price (which is cheaper than a Pizza tho !!)

The company named “Ringing bells” in smartphone market is an unknown name even in the Indian Market.As an Indian customer whoever comes across such products are termed as ‘China Products’ (an umbrella term in brands that you’ll never find second phone of in the market).

Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi and  Mr. Mohit Goel at the launch

Livemint found out that there’s little known about the company, and that it has Sushma Devi, Rajesh Kumar and Mohit Kumar Goel listed as it Directors in public records. Mohit Kumar Goel holds a few academic degrees, and hails from a family who primarily dealt with agri-products, venturing into telecom only in September 2015. As Livemint quotes, this shift from agriculture to technology was spurred by the “Modi government’s extensive work and obvious commitment to “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”” (roughly translates into “Development for All”).

Freedom 251 was launched by the guests Mr.Murli Manohar Joshi,Member of Parliament.The phone was launched under “Make In India” banner on 17th February 2016.The booking is from 18th Feb to 21 February 8 PM and the company claims to finish all its deliveries by June 30.

The Price :

How does a company manufacture a phone which is cheaper than a micro SD card ??

There are many possible theories to consider :

  • The phone could be heavily subsidized by The Government of India.
  • It could be subsidized by a carrier.
  • Maybe the company has actually scale down the costs of the device to an extent that it even cuts down the Chinese. That’s nearly not possible as the product would cost upto 20 $.There are also other costs such as advertising,marketing(All the front page ads in top dailies do cost a lot of money) and also after sales services.The company guarantees 1 year warranty on device and claims to have 650 service centers across India.

Factoring all this it is nearly impossible to make a smartphone as low as 4 $ and the possibility of the last theory is least considerable.

Why we think you should not buy it :

Considering the raising issues and concerns on the social media about the device,lets have a look :

There’s a lot of controversy about the device.

17th Feb 2016
18th Feb 2016

Firstly the product on the website had another phone showcased having three capacitive buttons untill recently,before few hours of the launch the image was changed.This created a lot of confusion at the time of the launch as then the product did not look like the product on the website,rather looked like the iPhone-ish design and had the circle button even the icons were copied.So,the confusion was legit.

Also the product that media received looked like a re-branded device rather than one produced by Ringing Bells themselves.While rebranding is very common,in this case this raises issues because the product was already touted success of “Make In India” campaign.

The beta prototype that was released at launch event was an Adcom product. Adcom is a New Delhi-based importer of IT products. The closest matching product is the Adcom Ikon 4, which is on sale in the Indian market for INR 3,599 ($53). When the team at Hindustan Times got in touch with Adcom, the marketing head denied any knowledge of an Adcom device being used!

Ringing bells could easily deny that it is not an Adcom product.But they overlooked a major factor.The Device that they showcased at the launch was an Adcom Device with the front logo covered in white ink.Here are the uncovering pics :

The white inked front is visible in several media videos. Someone somewhere thought it was a good idea to cover up branding with peel-able white ink, visible even from afar. The tricolor sticker on the back is also for allegedly hiding the Adcom branding. We hope that there was some really impeccable use of logic and reasoning behind this that we just can’t grasp, because there is really not much we can come up with to explain.

Also the phone is on the edge of copyright lawsuit from Apple as it very clearly copies the icons and the front layout is same as that of iPhone,complete with the round home button.In countries like India violating copyrights is no big deal and the implements are also not that strict.

But if the Freedom 251 catches up a lot of market share in the rural areas, we can be sure that Apple would like a bite out of it as well.

Freedom 251 icons

Recently NDTV found out that the Freedom 251 is also not certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as being safe for use in India. This means that the phone does not carry a minimum guarantee of its quality and safety from overheating and fire hazards, amongst others. Getting BIS certification is a costly and time-consuming affair, so the Freedom 251 skipping these does not bode well for the safety of the product, but is consistent with the cut-corners business model.

Do note that no other phone from Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. or even Adcom for that matter appear on the BIS page, but other notable and popular manufacturers do. This is certainly a serious matter if the device is to make its way into the hands of thousands of people in the country.

Freedom 251 is not a people’s phone.It’s a ray of hope to a common man in rural areas to get access to vast plethora of knowledge through Internet.But how does a poor man buy the phone when it is sold online ? He doesn’t get to.Because the cost of the phone would impact if it’s sold by retailers.

Combined with the limited time frame for booking and website downtown and most important fact that you need internet in first place to buy the phone makes it out of reach of the poor.

Freedom 251

For $4, you can use it as an alarm clock and still be satisfied with its performance. But it still is a phone, and an Android at that. As such, it can do all the functions that one expects from a low-end handset. You obviously won’t be able to run the latest Asphalt on it, nor would you be able to take excellent low light images from its camera. But looking at the bang-per-buck ratio as a final consumer, this is arguably the best device you can buy in the market right now (as far as value goes).

Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd.’s Freedom 251 surely has a lot of us talking. Whether you smell a scam in the making, or whether you foresee a future uncovering of a corruption racket caused in the making of the device, or whether you see a visionary entrepreneurial team looking to disrupt the market, we can all agree that the Freedom 251 brought questions aplenty in our minds. We hope the company stands true on the promise of providing the poor man with his phone, opening up his world with opportunities.

What do you think about the Freedom 251? Do you look forward to purchasing this device in your country, if at all it arrives? Will the phone spur other manufacturers to a race to the bottom? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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