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World's cheapest smartphone a hoax?

Posted: 24 Feb 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Freedom251  cheapest phone  Ringing Bells 

An Indian company called Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd recently made waves by opening a pre-sale booking for a $3.73 (₹251) phone. Yes, you read that right! A $3.73 phone.

The booking for the Freedom 251 model started Feb. 18 morning and closed Feb. 21 evening (here) with the promise of deliveries in June.

The company claims that the phone runs Android Lollipop ver. 5.1 using a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory. The phone has a 4-inch QHD IPS display and offers SD card support up to 32GB, a 3.2Mpixel AF rear camera and 0.3Mpixel front-facing camera. The phone reportedly connects you using 3G.

Ringing Bells is not only beating the usual market price by a huge margin but offering a warranty on top—12 months for the "host unit," 6 months for battery and charger and 3 months for the earphone.

So what is Ringing Bells? Established 2015, the company has "a complete in-house product testing set-up in India." And it does have other models in its line-up.

Too good to be true?

But a $3.73 phone! Really? Has Ringing Bells just sounded the death knell for your phone design?

Don't worry. At least not yet because reports surfaced a few days ago that the Indian Cellular Association (ICA) wrote the Indian minister of communications and IT, Ravi Shankar Prasad, that the cheapest BoM for a product like this is about $40 (₹2,684 at US$1:₹67.28). The ICA estimated the least retail price at $60 (₹4,027).

And here it starts getting even more interesting. Local reports started claiming soon after that this was in fact a Chinese phone from a company called Adcom, which then turned out to be demo unit. And then someone noticed that the UI icons were ripped off from an iOS screen shot. (Did you visit that link above yet? If not here it is again.)

Fortunately, with more reports that the company is not on the list of Android Partners, claimed by the company otherwise, and that the country's Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) haven't received a phone for certification, the company is coming under greater scrutiny.

The company, which has raised over $260,000 (₹17.5 million) through its website, has claimed that it won't take the payment from the payment gateway facilitator PayUBiz until it gives proof of delivery. In the meantime, PayUBiz has issued a statement to the effect that it won't release the payment to Ringing Bells until the product is dispatched to buyers.

It appears the story as it develops is a lot more interesting than its inevitable resolution. What do you think?

- Vivek Nanda

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