I’m sure you’ve all read about the intriguing $4 Freedom 251 smartphone that launched earlier in the month. Less than a week ago, Ringing Bells stated that they would be shipping out the 2.5 million device that had been pre-ordered on a first come first serve basis, but it turns out that there’s quite a bit more to the story.
According to the latest interview, the company has already taken payment for the first 30,000 smartphones that were bought before orders were closed on February 19th. However, the company doesn’t appear to have any finished stock to sell and won’t be manufacturing the phones in India either.
Ringing Bells, the company that sells the Freedom 251, confirmed that it will be importing components to fulfil its huge batch of pre-orders, including the first 30,000 confirmed sales, and will then be “assembling” the phones in India. The first actual Freedom 251 handsets spotted in the flesh turned out to be Adcom Ikon 4s imported directly from China. As a result, the Indian government has already become involved to investigate why the Freedom 251 does not have a Bureau of Indian Standards certificate.
“We don’t have the manufacturing unit yet, so of course we can’t start making these fully in India right now … We will be importing the parts right now, but we will assemble fully in India, and in six to eight months, we will be in a position to start making fully in India,” – Ringing Bells spokesperson
Speaking of imports, Ringing Bells had made quite a big deal about manufacturing the handset in India, making clear use of the “Make in India” tagline adopted by a number of other local manufactures. The company is clearly playing a fast and loose with its advertising, but does apparently intend to begin manufacturing handsets fully in India, once it actually has a manufacturing line setup.
The company certainly isn’t above dodging advertising, Ringing Bells had previously posted quite a misleading picture of the phone on its website, which was eventually replaced by the actual model. Furthermore, the company doesn’t have a clear answer for how it will be able to meet its 4$ price point and turn a profit, other than that it eventually hopes to avoid import duties and make use of economies of scale by manufacturing directly in India.
On the plus side, the next 2.5 million customers will be able to pay cash on delivery for their phone, at least those who haven’t already received a payment link will. Unfortunately, there’s no word on if the 30,000 consumers who have already paid can retrieve a refund if they aren’t happy with how things are panning out.
I’m always inclined to give an underdog the benefit of the doubt, but the Freedom 251 is off to a much shakier start than you would expect from a sustainable business. The whole project seems very much stuck in the concept stages.