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