India's $4 smartphone to begin shipping this week; 70 million customers registered so far

The world's cheapest smartphone will finally start shipping in India this week, several months after it was originally announced. The Freedom 251 - named after its price in rupees, equivalent to just $4 USD - was first unveiled in February amid a wave of controversy.

Below is an image that appeared on the website of Ringing Bells, the company behind the device, which purported to show its impressive and stylish design:

...but here is the actual device that was sent to reviewers, looking nothing at all like the promotional images:

Journalists noted that the device bore a striking resemblance to an existing handset, the Adcom Ikon 4, and indeed, it didn't take them long to spot that the review units sent to them had the Adcom logo clumsily painted over. The Hindustan Times reported that Adcom had no knowledge of its logo being used on the Freedom 251, and also noted the shocking similarity - or rather, the pixel-perfect duplication - of Apple's iOS icons on the Android handset.

Along with doubts raised over whether the device could even be viably produced at such a low price, many wondered if the Freedom 251 would ever make it into the hands of consumers - or if it would remain little more than a fanciful dream.

Well, according to The Indian Express, the dream of the $4 smartphone will finally become a reality in a few days' time. Ringing Bells founder and CEO Mohit Goel said: "We are ready with nearly two lakh (200,000) Freedom 251 handsets. We will start delivery from June 30."

But now, the handset again looks different - both from the original render, and from the review units that were previously sent out:

Image via IANS / Indian Express

Still, at least they've removed those iOS icons.

The Freedom 251's key specs include:

  • 4-inch display
  • 8MP rear and 3.2 MP front camera
  • 3G connectivity
  • 1.3 GHz quad-core CPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 8 GB internal storage (expandable up to 32GB)
  • 1800mAh battery
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop
  • Available in black or white

The company says that it has already received seven crore (70 million) registrations from those interested in buying the device. Goel said that once the first phase of 200,000 shipments is complete, Ringing Bells will re-open registrations for the device, after its site collapsed due to the huge volumes of traffic after its initial announcement.

"We learned from our mistakes and decided to go silent til we come out with the product," Goel explained. "Now, we have a 4-inch dual-SIM phone ready for delivery. I feel vindicated."

Goel also said that the company will be making a loss of Rs.140 to Rs.150 per unit, but added: "We will have a loss, but I am happy that the dream of connecting rural and poor Indians as part of the 'Digital India' and 'Make in India' initiatives has been fulfilled with Freedom 251."

Source: The Indian Express via TNW

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