The $4 Freedom 251 smartphone's launch has been an utter trainwreck


The Ringing Bells Freedom 251 surprised many with its dimunitive price tag of just $4, causing plenty of ruckus in its India homeland and tech circles worldwide. The device, or more likely, a pre-production prototype is already in the hands of journalists, and their impressions are nothing short of controversial. Little over a day after its online launch, the Freedom 251 seems both real, and also too good to be true. Surreal is the word, just like its price tag. Read on!

My name is what?

Unexpectedly, the Freedom 251 is emblazoned not with an original logo, but that of Indian tech vendor Adcom. Amusingly, the phone which publication Hindustan Times received, the logo was covered up with plain office whitener! But that can't cover up the fact that the device in question is the Adcom Ikon 4, a made in China smartphone that's sold across online retailers like Gadgets360, Amazon, Snapdeal, and Shopclues for around $60 (Rs. 4000). This is downright fishy, considering the Freedom 251 is supposed to be delivered under the government's "Made in India" program. Moreover, Adcom itself was unaware that its branding is printed on the Freedom 251, and claims to be looking into the matter.

Government matters

It's not just Adcom that's on the $4 smartphone's trail. Shortly after its problem-riddled launch, which we'll reflect upon later, the Indian Cellular Association wrote to India's Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, saying that the Freedom 251 cannot possibly cost less than $50 (Rs. 3000), even after subsidy. The bill of materials for the smartphone is estimated at $40, and the addition of applicable duties, taxes, distribution and retail margins would drive its retail price close to $70. “There is no visible mobile operator subsidy involved in this, which in any case is not the way the Indian mobile market operates,” added ICA president Pankaj Mohindroo.

So that's Adcom, the ICA, and... wait for it... Apple, that could be knocking on Ringing Bells' door pretty soon. Why Apple, though?

Android on iOS?

The Freedom 251 review units run an Android 5.1 build whose app icons are lifted straight from iOS. Even the one for the web browser looks like Apple’s Safari, which doesn't exist on Android in any shape and form. Moreover, the circular Home button, along with the smartphone's overall looks, pretty much pass for a cheap iPhone replica.

Apparently, Ringing Bells isn't playing clueless about ripping off Apple. Asked about a possible intelectual rights violation, the company's technical director flat out said they used the iPhone's icons because they aren't copyrighted designs. Of course, that's completely untrue, and it only takes skimming through the intellectual property guidelines on Apple's website (link) to assume Cupertino might be ringing bells in India as we speak.

Website trainwreck

As of the time of writing, Freedom 251's website has been shut down. The company's spokesperson acknowledged that servers crashed after recieving 30,000 bookings. At one point, traffic amounted to 600k hits per second. A glitch in the system made it possible for some buyers to book up to 99 smartphones in one go. As if that's not shaky enough, a crowd of 100 crowded the company's head office in Noida, screaming to be given the smartphone because online orders are impossible. “It is for farmers and fishermen, but how can they expect them to register online? Neither of us has internet access, nor we know how to operate a computer. We cannot order it online, so we are here for a unit or two,” a local resident, Vikas Kumar, told IANS.

Online or offline, the end product is supposed to be delivered to bookers by June 30, and Freedom 251 plans to sell some 50 million units. It will be interesting to see that happen, considering Ringing Bells has made a very unconvincing case for itself – so much that at least one high-profile Indian politician has flat-out proclaimed the $4 smartphone a scam.

Ringing Ponzi

MJP member of parliament Kirit Somaya stated that he's "went through all the papers of the company" and shared his concerns on Facebook. According to him, Ringing Bells is a bogus company with no "experience, financial net worth, land workshop warehouses, other infrastructure or finance." Likewise, the Freedom 251 is not subsidised, nor certified, nor registered by any government agency. This is contrary to the company's statement that the smartphone has been developed “with immense support” from the government. Convinced the smartphone is a classic Ponzi scheme (explanation), he also wrote to India's minister of Communications and IT, asking for an intervention. A copy of the document is embedded below.


Conclusion

Seriously, hold off from buying this smartphone. $4 isn't much to lose, but that's still money going towards what seem to be a bunch of scammers. We've had stuff like this happen in the past, promising too much for too little. We won't be giving the Freedom 251 any further publicity unless Ringing Bells manages to clear up the confusion and deliver on its promises.

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34 Comments

1. sip1995

Posts: 1771; Member since: Feb 07, 2014

Who didn't see that coming......?

29. HugoBarraCyanogenmod

Posts: 1412; Member since: Jul 06, 2014

It's not surprising to see the word 'freedom' or 'democracy' have the connection with the scam and fraud. Common in everywhere

2. yoosufmuneer

Posts: 1518; Member since: Feb 14, 2015

They could've kept the skin stock without the iOS alike icon pack. But then again who could complain for a $4 product lol

12. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

There is no product. The actual product will launch in 4 months, I doubt a single unit is going to ship. They took some phones from another vendor, covered the logo and gave it to press. They will take the advance money and move to Bahamas or some other place.

3. Inotamira

Posts: 173; Member since: Feb 06, 2016

Well that's....genuinely disappointing...

6. TyrionLannister unregistered

I see a scam if it's not subsidized by the government. Here's a great article on it: http://www.xda-developers.com/freedom-251-why-it-is-a-3-7-android-smartphone-and-why-it-shouldnt-exist/ BTW income tax department of India is getting into the matter. If it's a scam it's gonna uncover soon.

14. rd_nest

Posts: 1656; Member since: Jun 06, 2010

Obviously it's a scam, shameful part is that the defence minister is part of the party.

17. tech2

Posts: 3487; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

The ultra cheap price of the phone and the involvement of government sounds too fishy. Its reminds me of Kingsman :))

7. Intrepid_wiz

Posts: 28; Member since: Dec 30, 2015

Hmm, classic case of "too good to be true"...

10. Mfa901

Posts: 291; Member since: Jul 14, 2012

Lol... This happens only in India...

33. geoffphuket

Posts: 50; Member since: Feb 08, 2016

And every other country on the planet.

11. Gaurav008

Posts: 328; Member since: Jul 20, 2012

Been there, seen that with another train wreck that was Aakash Tablets.

13. Emersonwaldo

Posts: 10; Member since: Feb 10, 2016

Well what can I say...... I've got $4 to spare gimme mine:D

15. Sidewinder

Posts: 515; Member since: Jan 15, 2015

As an Indian myself, I was just overwhelmed by the levels of interest my peers and relatives have shown toward this phone. They persuaded me to book a couple of phones for them even when I tried convincing them of the suspicion. But their answer was simply "well it is just 4$ and even if we lose the money, it ain't a big amount anyway".

16. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

Just when you thought the Chinese are the worst at making fake stuff, just look at what these people did

25. techspace

Posts: 1037; Member since: Sep 03, 2012

This one appears to be a rebranded Chinese phone, so they still hold the title.

19. Trakker

Posts: 283; Member since: Feb 11, 2016

Someone somewhere in India is running away with millions of Dollars they scammed from someone.

31. pixelated

Posts: 108; Member since: May 03, 2015

I booked one for myself, but have too many doubts on its legitimacy.

32. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

all hail the iDroid

34. geoffphuket

Posts: 50; Member since: Feb 08, 2016

That's quite a catchy name. Good for when Apple abandon IOS.

35. geoffphuket

Posts: 50; Member since: Feb 08, 2016

A fool and his money are soon parted, as the saying goes. LOL

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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