Freedom 251

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Launching the word’s cheapest smartphone is the kind of news people in public image building call a public relations coup. And so it is for India. The news that an Indian based company is launching a very cheap smartphone is one bit of news the government of India would milk dry.

Freedom 251
                                                                            photo: independent.co.uk

The smartphone, superbly named Freedom 251, is made by a little known (at least outside India) company called Ringing Bells. Initially, Ringing Bells said the smartphone would be priced at about $7; but somewhere along the production chain, the cost of production saw the price of the phone further reduced. The new cost of the phone, about $4, was announced at the launch on Wednesday.

Though Freedom 251 is tagged as a made in India phone, the parts are actually imported from abroad and assembled by the company in India. There are plans to build production plants in India that would manufacture all the parts, to make the Freedom 251 a completely made in India phone. From the cost of the handset, it is obvious the target market is the low cost phone niche presently dominated by Chinese brands. Producing a cheap phone like this dispels the myth about the cost of producing a smartphone. What this means is the unit cost of making a phone is far cheaper than what the major OEMS are telling us.

Considering that the Freedom 251 costs less than the price of a cinema ticket, the official specifications are decent. Surprisingly.  The phone runs the Android Lollipop 5.1 operating system, and is powered by a 1.3 GHz quad-core processor. It also has a 4-inch screen, 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of internal memory (expandable to 32 GB) and a 3.2 megapixel front camera.

A spokeswoman for Ringing Bells had this to say about the phone while speaking to the AFP news agency,

This is our flagship model and we think it will bring a revolution in the industry.

But according to India’s Hindustan Times, the phone might face a lot of backlash from Apple, the makers of the iphone. Reviewing a model of the Freedom 251, they noticed features that may be termed copyright infringement. For instance, most of the icons used for apps installed for the Freedom 251 are exactly like the icon’s used in the iPhone.

Freedom 251
Freedom 251 looks like iPhone 4  image:bbc.com

Also, according to Hindustan Times, the phone they got from Ringing Bells is remarkably different from the phone on Ringing Bells website. As a matter of fact, the phone looks like a copy of the iPhone 4, right down to the round home button at the bottom of the phone.

Again, the top of the phone had an ADCOM tag on it. Meanwhile, ADCOM is just a company based in India that specializes in the importation of IT products. And this particular phone model is being sold in several online stores like Amazon for about $58. For a full report of this debacle, you can read it up on the Hindustan Times website.

What would a cheap smartphone like that mean for people like me? For now the only thing I can think of is buying a bunch of them come December. And taking them to the village to distribute to all those relatives expecting gifts from you anytime you are bold enough to pay a visit.