No, that’s not a typo in the title. An unknown Indian company by the name Ringing Bells has introduced what’s probably the cheapest Android smartphone for just Rs 251 which is less than USD 4 (actually $3.65 at present rates). What’s even more surprising is the looks and specs of Freedom 251. Take a deep breath and have a look at this.
Freedom 251 Specs
- 4-inch qHD screen with IPS
- 1.3 GHz quad-core processor
- 1GB RAM
- 8GB internal storage
- microSD slot for up to 32GB of external storage
- 3.2MP rear camera with auto focus
- 0.3MP (VGA) front camera
- 3G support
- 1450 mAh battery
- Android 5.1 Lollipop
The above hardware specifications look like an entry level smartphone from 2014 with no major compromises. Going by the published images, it doesn’t look bad either, at least not an eyesore that one would expect for a phone costing less than what you’d pay for a coffee at Starbucks [Update: Actual image of the phone is at the end of the article]. Still, it comes with Android 5.1 Lollipop, 3G, microSD support and 1GB RAM. There is no mention of the brand of the SoC, so we shall dig around and update as and when it will be available.
The phone is being launched today in New Delhi by the Defense Minister of India, Mr Manohar Parrikar. It’s quite possible that the phone is being subsidized by the Indian government (no official confirmation on this yet). Ringing Bells is a Noida based company and says that Freedom 251 launch is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for “empowering India to the last person, transforming India’s growth story“.
India is amongst the fastest growing smartphone markets in the world and recently overtook US as the No.2 market in the world. With greater majority of people still not having access to smartphones, initiatives like this will accelerate the smartphone penetration in the country. It remains to be seen how good and effective the Freedom 251 is, but Ringing bells claims that their smartphone is very capable. They are bundling in India specific apps like Women Safety, Swachh Bharat, Fisherman, Farmer, Medical and global apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and YouTube.
Currently, Ringing Bells will be assembling the Freedom 251 phones in India, but will soon start manufacturing in its Noida plant. The booking for the phone will start tomorrow, February 18th from 6am onwards. The actual availability details will be announced later today, so stay tuned for more details. [Update: Newspaper ad mentions that the Freedom 251 smartphone delivery would be complete by June 30th 2016]
Update: This is how the Freedom 251 actually looks like. The images used in their official site are of another device. Thanks @hiteshrajbhagat
Update: Ringing Bells, the company behind Freedom 251 now says that the government isn’t subsidizing the phone, so how does it make an economic sense to give a full fledged smartphone for less than $4? The phone looks like a rebranded version of Adcom Ikon 4 which is being sold around Rs 4000 in India. Ringing Bells says that they will be importing the components from Taiwan and will assemble the phone in India, thereby getting duty waiver by state governments of around 20-30 percent. They say selling it online only will further cut down the cost. Whatever, this just doesn’t add up to bring down the cost that drastically without any government subsidy. Also, it looks like Indian Defense Minister, Manohar Parrikkar never really made it to the launch event as they had earlier claimed. There are more questions than answers on Freedom 251.