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Sunday, 21 February 2016

Freedom 251: 5 major controversies around the world's cheapeast smartphone by Ringing Bells

When Noida-based Ringing Bells announced that it is launching a smartphone priced at Rs 251, little did it know the news would quite literally disrupt the mobile market and bring with it some serious doubts. Freedom 251 - an Android-based smartphone- was announced earlier this week at an event the scale of an Indian wedding. However, as soon as the so-called review units were handed to the media persons, a Pandora's box was unleashed.
From shoddily re-labeling Adcom Ikon 4 units as Freedom 251 with a whitener to bluntly denying having borrowed elements from the premium Apple iOS; here are some of the controversies surrounding the world's cheapest smartphone:
From re-labeling Adcom Ikon 4 units as Freedom 251 with a simple whitener to bluntly denying having borrowed elements from the premium Apple iOS; here are some of the controversies surrounding the world's cheapest smartphone.
1. Price
Touted as the world's cheapest smartphone at Rs 251, Ringing Bells is offering the Freedom 251 with specs that include a 4-inch WVGA IPS display, 3.2 megapixel auto-focus rear camera, 0.3 megapixel front camera, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of internal storage with SD card support, 1450 mAh battery, and Android 5.1 Lollipop OS. Given the specs, the phone is not at all a bad choice. However, it is the very price of the phone that has stirred doubts across the mobile industry.
The Indian Cellular Association expressed serious concerns over the launch of the smartphone and it has also written to Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to get into depth of the issue, saying the rate could not be below Rs 3,500 even after a subsidised sale.
Ringing Bells president Ashok Chaddha in an interview with IBNLive demystified how his company seeks to achieve this seemingly unachievable feat of selling a phone at a mere Rs 251. Basically, the company aims to set up a marketplace, the earnings of which will go into bringing down the price of the smartphone from an ideal Rs 2,300 or Rs 2,500 to just Rs 251.
2. Design
After media persons received the review unit, the first alarming thing noticed was that the Freedom 251 is actually Adcom Ikon 4 in disguise. It has a partially-erased Adcom logo on the front that the company shoddily attempted to mask with whitener. Even the Adcom logo on the back cover has been scratched off and a flag of India painted atop. Even the specifications publicised by Ringing Bells do not also exactly match the review units provided to the media.
Refuting allegations of passing off another company's phone as its own that could draw a potential lawsuit, Ringing Bells president Ashok Chaddha has said in an official statement that the review units are in fact "not the final piece," and that they "were to serve only as prototypes given FOC to a limited list of persons". He further redirected queries to Sanjiv Bhatia - the Director of ADCOM - to reveal the truth.
3. Interface
Bearing striking resemblance to the popular Apple iOS, the Freedom 251 is said to be an Android phone. On the question about being not listed as an Android partner, the company has said that it is indeed registered with Google Android Developers Platform and clarified its stance by issuing a screenshot of an order receipt from Google. Furthermore, the phone has been promised to come with pre-loaded apps for farmers and women safety, none of which are available on the so-called prototype. Chaddha has assured that these will be present on the 'Final Freedom 251' with a custom designed new UI.
4. Certifications
The phone is not listed on the BIS certifications page, but the company has said that the application is under filing and it is expected to be in place well before delivery commences on February 25. On allegations of not being registered with Qualcomm, which is a mandate for all 3G handsets, the company says that Freedom 251 runs the Spreadtrum chipset, so there is no requirement of being registered with Qualcomm.
5. Online orders
When the company announced the phone, it made live online registrations through a dedicated sitefreedom251.com. However, initially the website was not accessible without removing the standard 'www' prefix. Later the problem was resolved, but when a user clicked on the pay now button after filling personal and address details, it redirected to the main page. Ringing Bells has claimed that there were 20 lakh requests on February 18, taking the total number of registrations received on the day to 3,70,15,000 which eventually overloaded their payment gateways. Since then the problem as been fixed, according to the company.
At the time of writing, the website displays a 'bookings closed' page, saying the registrations have exceeded expectations and hence phase 1 bookings have been closed. People who have been able to book the device have complained that there has not been any confirmation about the order to which the company says PayU (Payment Gateway) has received Rs 1.75 crores against the online bookings of the handset in phase 1 and the company will claim its money only after it completes delivery on February 25 and after it submits proof of delivery.
Whether the Rs 251 Freedom 251 smartphone is a real thing or just a concept in-the-air, we shall know once the delivery begins on February 25.
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