Although we’re still scratching our heads over the puzzling contradictions of Ringing Bells’ Freedom 251, the Indian company reports that they have received almost 50 million registrations since pre-ordering went live earlier this week. Ringing Bells wasn’t quite ready for such a large demand, but they will be shipping the 2.5 million devices they have at the ready on a first come, first serve basis. The company hopes to start this batch of deliveries by April 10th at the latest, and the run should be completed by the end of June.
The Freedom 251 rocked the internet when it was first unveiled, with the site having to shut down due to overwhelming traffic. The smartphone that cost less than a cup of Starbucks coffee made headlines all across the tech world, and reporters rushed to get their hands on the surprisingly well-specced device as soon as possible. Which is when things got a little… weird.
Early receivers of the “preview version” of the device were puzzled to find a glop of Wite-Out smeared across the front of their new hyper-inexpensive smartphone. Scraping the Wite-Out away revealed that the device was actually the Adcom Ikon 4 in a (very poor) disguise. Adcom has reported that they were unaware that their branding or products were being used this way and that they are looking into the matter. Since the Adcom Ikon 4 is a $54 device, speculation abounds as to how Ringing Bells is making any money off this rodeo. Some have suggested that the device may come loaded with spyware that could be useful for data harvesting.
While it’s difficult to be disappointed by something you only threw $4 at, reviewers were also let down to discover that the Freedom 251 looked nothing like what Ringing Bells had advertised on their website. Images on the page have since been altered to more accurately depict the device’s appearance.
Perhaps most mysterious of all is the fact that many of the device’s icons have been robbed wholesale from the iPhone. The stock browser, for instance, is represented on the home screen by the Safari icon. Why the company would risk possible copyright infringement accusations for the sake of homescreen icons is anyone’s guess.
Ringing Bells says that the devices seen by reviewers were just “preview versions” of the device, and that the real Freedom 251 won’t be quite so mysterious. Adding to the controversy, the Indian Cellular Association is appealing the telecom ministry and insisting that the government investigate Ringing Bells. They claim that selling a smartphone this cheap simply isn’t possible.
What are your thoughts on the puzzling Freedom 251? Some kind of bizarre scam, or the perfect solution for low-income, entry-level smartphone users? Let us know what you think in the comments below!