Little is known about the man behind the much-hyped Freedom 251 smartphone that was launched yesterday. Director Mohit Goel hails from a family who has been running a three-decade old agriculture-related business based in the Shamli district of Uttar Pradesh, and the CEO of the company is his wife, Dhaarna Goel.
The device their company, Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. has launched, Freedom 251 is the cheapest smartphone in the world which runs on Lollipop (Android 5.1). People were not expecting much from a 3G enabled smartphone that only costs Rs. 251, when a standard 1 GB monthly 3G subscription costs more than the phone itself. But, does the phone even hold up to the much touted ‘Make in India’ tagline?
Read on to know what we know so far about this wonder phone:
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#1. The launch
Image Courtesy: PTI
Indian Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar failed to show up at the launch event stating he had to attend a cabinet meeting. Senior BJP leader, Murli Manohar Joshi was present along with Director Mohit Goel, CEO Dhaarna Goel, and company President Ashok Chadha. The details that were given about the specifications of the phone at the launch event were vague. However, we know that the phone has a 4 inch display with 540×960 pixels resolution, 1.3 GHz processor, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB storage with expandable storage up to 32 GB, 1450mAh battery capacity (even though the actual samples have batteries that say 1500mAh), 3.2 megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3 megapixel front camera.
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#2. Press samples
Image Courtesy: Gadgets 360 (right), Twitter (inset)
It has been claimed that the products the press received for review are not the ‘final products’. The devices the journalists received for review had peeling whitener/paint reveal the logo of the company, Adcom. In fact, the phone looks and has very similar features to Adcom Ikon 4.
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#3. Ringing Bells
Image Courtesy: PTI
The Noida-based company that launched Freedom 251, is not a registered company at BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards), which means the product is not safe to use. And, this further begs the question if these devices are indeed repurposed Adcom Ikon 4 phones, which were launched two years ago. Not so much of a ‘Make in India’ proud moment of glory then.
Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. is not subsidised by the government, but Ashok Chadha said this to the press:
“By going for Made in India components, we can save on the 13.8 per cent, also we will be selling online first and thus save the costs incurred on large distribution networks.”
#4. Actual price
Image Courtesy: Daily Mail UK
People have been speculating how a smartphone can cost just Rs. 251. Company President, Ashok Chadha stated the original cost of the phone is Rs. 2500, and that the company is planning to balance things out by innovative marketing, economies of scale, reduction in duties and by creating a marketplace in the e-commerce sphere. But, according to a letter by ICA (Indian Cellular Association) to Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the phone with similar features is estimated to cost somewhere around Rs. 4100.
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#5. The website
The official website, many users have claimed is a hassle to use. It is ridden with bugs, and was brought down by a huge amount of traffic post-launch. People have had difficulty in purchasing the phone, some have even been able to order half a phone by entering the unit as 0.5 phones! But, let us chalk that up to initial stage glitches.
#6. Built and features
Image Courtesy: Livemint
According to a review by Livemint, they have copied hardware and software elements from the iPhone. The icons as well as the software are iOS copies. Moreover, quite unsurprisingly, the built of the phone is flimsy, but given the price it is not that big of a deal.
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#7. The target consumer
Given the price, the product has been targeted at unconnected India. But, the product is solely available on the website in the initial phases due to budgetary reasons, and not anywhere else. The buyer has to pay a flat shipping charge of Rs. 40 and is promised to get it delivered in four months from the moment of booking online.
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#8. The local scams
The opportunists are already exploiting the fact that the phone is not available in physical stores. Plenty of local stores are taking the money in advance from people who do not know any better.
Many who have failed to book the phones have started protesting outside the office of Ringing Bells.
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Let us wait and watch what happens next in this highly intriguing developing story. Affordable technology is very much a necessity to connect remote parts of India for a better future. But meanwhile, let us know if you or anyone you know has been able to order this phone online. The bookings started on February 18 and can be done till 8 pm on February 21, 2016.