India's £3 smartphone dream apparently collapses

FIR served against Ringing Bells owner, Mohit Goel, after the firm is caught up in farcical launch of 'World's Cheapest Smartphone'.

World's Cheapest Smartphone

The Freedom 251 was billed as the 'World's Cheapest Smartphone'. After initial excitement that the technology could apparently be made so accessible and promising early signs - the product was closed for pre-orders due to high demand - the wheels began to fall off when it became apparent there was no £3 (251 rupees) device.  

Set to be shipped in June, the device was to be a 3G enabled smartphone to revolutionise India's collossal smartphone market. How could a smartphone be made so cheaply? How does it compare with Samsung and Apple devices and our expectations in the West? What were the ethical questions against the device raised by obtaining the raw materials and labour at such a low cost? These were the sorts of questions we expected to be asking if we could get hold of a unit to review in the summer.

A demo 'Freedom 251' (Wikimedia Commons)

Not As It Seems

The problem then, seems to be a simple one. From the outside it looks as though Ringing Bells is marketing and selling a phone that doesn't actually exist. Suspiscions were heightened when the company began to send out a small number of review units that turned out to be rival firm Adcom's £43 phone, the Ikon 4, with Freedom 251 branding printed and taped to the device

Ringing Bells claimed this was to give reviewers an idea of how the final phone was going to turn out, but others have 'done the math' and it turns out there are over £25 worth of components in the Ikon 4, so producing a phone like that for under £3 is definitely a bit of a stretch.

Modified Adcom Ikon 4 (Adwait Patil / The Verge)

Ringing Alarm Bells

Not surprisingly then there has been a storm brewing, with plenty of angry customers on social media and inexplicably a number of customers who claim to have already received their Freedom 251s. Ringing Bells' head office was at one point shut down and received a visit from India's Income Tax Department.

Now Ringing Bells' owner, Mohit Goel, has been served by the Noida police with a FIR (First Information Report), the first stage in legal proceedings for cheating. 

We are not holding our breath that this device will ever surface, but you never know.