Apparently, that Rs. 251 smartphone doesn’t actually cost Rs. 251 to make. We knew that and figured that someone had to take a loss somewhere down the line, but the more scrutiny the Freedom 251 gets, the more doubt comes upon Indian upstart Ringing Bells.
The company’s site recorded 600,000 hits per second at its peak before crashing and 30,000 confirmed orders. Ringing Bells director Mohit Goel said that he plans on selling a total of 5 million units total — half online, half in brick-and-mortar stores — and that he doesn’t get the money from the company’s escrow account until the deliveries are actuated. First shipments are promised within four months.
But small scandals have started piling up around the Freedom 251. Some customers claimed to have been able to order half a phone for Rs. 125.
— Bezawada (@alareyala) February 20, 2016
Full-page newspaper advertisements displayed dealer contact information that, when rung, ended up on deactivated lines or was just plain incorrect. The Indian Cellular Association, a coalition comprised of local OEMs like Intex and Lemon and the Indian divisions of major OEMs like Apple, Samsung and HTC, has complained to the country’s telecoms minister saying that it’s not possible to sell a 3G phone at such a low price. Various outlets have reported different specific thresholds, but we’re generally talking four digits, here.
Perhaps worst of all, the phone seems to have actually been manufactured by Chinese ODM Adcom. Its branding on the front face of the device was literally covered with white-out. The Indian government touted Ringing Bells for being part of its “Make in India” which heavily encourages domestic job-building and manufacturing. Yet, the company doesn’t seem to have a factory within the country.
While the media has their review units in use right now, it doesn’t stop us from wondering if the world’s cheapest smartphone might ultimately end up as vaporware. We shall see.