Indian phone maker, Ringing Bells, will be shipping out a tiny batch of the $4 Freedom 251 smartphone, but says it may discontinue the program unless it gets some government funding to meet the pricing set for the device. On the other hand, the company has now announced two new smartphones and four feature phones at rather more realistic prices, suggesting that the $4 claim was merely a marketing gimmick.
Back in February, Ringing Bells, announced the $4 Freedom 251 smartphone in India, a country which loves having the cheapest devices. The smartphone was soon made available for pre-order in the country and the company claimed that it had received over 70 million registrations over the course of five months.
As Android Authority points out, it initially claimed that it would ship 2.5 million units by the end of June. It later said that it would ship just 200,000 units by June 28, then June 30, July 6 and July 8.
Now, Ringing Bells seems to have issues delivering on its shipment promise, and its CEO, Mohit Goel, has sought 500 billion rupees ($7.4 billion) in an open letter to the Government of India, to make the devices.
We have brought 'Freedom 251' which we offer on 'Cash on Delivery' terms but we have a gap between the BOM (Bill of Materials) and the Selling Price. We, therefore, humble request government support to actualise the objective to cascade the availability and usage of smartphones all through the far reaches of our great nation
From its earlier promise of 2.5 million units, an initial batch of just 5000 Freedom 251 smartphones has reportedly been shipped out and the buyer will have to pay Rs. 291 ($4.34) at the time of delivery to get the device. However, another batch of devices is looking increasingly unlikely, if the company cannot get the expected funding to bridge the gap between the bill of materials and the selling price.
A representative for the firm said: "We may deliver more units if we get help or we may not deliver at all in the upcoming months".
While the cheapest smartphone debate is still open, the company capitalized on the publicity it's gained in recent weeks by launching six new phones, including two smartphones and four feature phones that stick more closely to reality in terms of pricing. These two devices also come with their share of controversy, as the company has blatantly copied the LG G5 lockscreen onto the renders of both these smartphones. It's previous smartphone featured iOS icons so these renders should come as no surprise.
The two smartphones, called Elegant and Elegance, are entry-level devices with no ground-breaking specs, generic designs and are priced at Rs. 3999 (~$60) and Rs. 4499 (~$66) respectively.
The four feature phones are priced between Rs. 699 ($10) and Rs. 1100 ($16).
Ringing Bells doesn't seem to be stopping at phones, and is also planning to launch an inexpensive HDTV priced under Rs. 10,000. No specifics about the television set have been disclosed by the company, but it will begin taking pre-orders on the 25th of July with shipments starting from the 1st of August.
It remains to be seen whether the company can improve its image from the earlier debacle, and get a footing in the highly competitive Indian market with the newly announced devices.
It's tough to put much faith in the company given its dubious record so far. Ringing Bells originally published renders of its $4 phone that looked nothing at all like the devices it sent to reviewers. Those review units also had the branding of their actual manufacturer, Adcom, sloppily painted over (shown above) - and Adcom said at the time that it had no knowledge of its logo being used on the Freedom 251.
The device that Ringing Bells has recently shipped as the Freedom 251 (which you can see at the top of this article) looks nothing like the original render, or the earlier review units. Combined with the misuse of iOS icons on the earlier device, and the LG G5 lockscreen being used on the smartphones it announced this week, along with the tiny number of devices it recently shipped compared with its previous commitment, and its latest statement that it may not ship any further units unless the government gives it money, many potential buyers will no doubt struggle to take the company seriously.