$4 Freedom 251 smartphone is shipping, but there are issues

Mobile / Tech
Freedom 251

The good news? They have started shipping the Freedom 251. The bad news? Just about everything related to the shipping of the Freedom 251.

If you’ve been following the Freedom 251 story, you will have already seen that Ringing Bells expected to start shipping the $4 smartphone to users at the end of June. The good news? They have started shipping the Freedom 251. The bad news? Just about everything related to the shipping of the Freedom 251.

Plenty of eyebrows were raised at the proposed price of this phone in the first place. Yes, $4 for a smartphone sounds ludicrous in the US where we’re routinely paying hundreds of dollars for iPhones, Nexus devices, and all other variety of smartphones. But in a country like India where even the $50 budget phones are too much for some people to afford, a less expensive alternative is a very attractive option.

So attractive, in fact, that pre-orders skyrocketed, shooting well above initial shipping projections. Ringing Bells was very clear about their initial shipping estimate, saying that the first production run would include 200,000 units. That’s great, except for the fact that they received 75,000,000 pre-orders.

The first obvious issue is that there are significantly more pre-orders than there are phones currently available. Ringing Bells has said there is definitely a possibility that not all pre-orders will be filled. Ringing Bells CEO Mohit Goel has requested assistance from PM Narendra Modi in the form of government funds to help complete production, allowing the company to fill all orders so they can begin to recoup their costs.

We have brought ‘Freedom 251’ which we offer on ‘Cash on Delivery’ terms but we have a gap between the BOM (Bill of Materials) and the Selling Price. We, therefore, humble request government support to actualise the objective to cascade the availability and usage of smartphones all through the far reaches of our great nation.

That is already troubling, but the issues don’t stop there.

Users that have received the phone have also been charged an additional Rs 40 (about $.60 USD) for delivery, bringing the total price up to Rs 291 ($4.37 USD at current conversion rates). There were additional problems due to the discrepancy between the Bill of Materials and the selling price. The Freedom 251 is famously being sold for Rs 251, though the Bill of Materials lists the price at Rs 1250 – 1400.

Ringing Bells’ plan has always been to sell the phone at a loss, and make up the difference with pre-loaded apps as well as advertisements. Government funding would allow them to get their phones into more hands, speeding that process.

Potential users can also look forward to a random drawing for delivery of 190,000 of the initial run of 200,000 devices. Mohit Goel explained the decision for the “lucky draw” in 19 of the states of India:

We will give away 10,000 units in every state. We decided to hold a lucky draw because many people had registered for multiple phones. We want to bring it down to one phone per person.

So right now if you were on the side that said a $4 smartphone was too good to be true, you’re probably right. That’s not to say that the Freedom 251 is vaporware by any means, users are definitely getting their hands on the phone. You can check out an un-boxing of the Freedom 251 from a few lucky recipients in the video below.

What do you think about the Freedom 251 and their shipping/fulfillment woes? Are you one of the lucky few who have gotten your hands on a device? Tell us what you think in the comment section below, or on Google+, Facebook, or Twitter.

  Source: Indian Express
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