A smartphone for Rs.251 ($4), that’s at an eighth of the cost of making it. That’s what Ringing Bells, a little known five-month old company based out of Noida, announced yesterday – Freedom 251, the world’s cheapest smartphone.
There are more questions than answers at this time, though.
1. The product has to be booked on the website (freedom251.com). The website has glitches, and users were unable to make bookings this morning.
2. If unconnected consumers from tier 2/3 cities are the target audience, then this reminds us of the story of the fox who invited a crane to dinner and served it soup in a flat plate. Freedom 251 is not available in offline stores.
3. The product will be delivered after 4 months from the date of booking – a long wait with no guarantee of what will be delivered if anything at all.
4. Review units sent to media houses would not switch on and had the original Adcom branding covered up by whitener. Adcom doesn’t know why their branding was used. The makers explained that this is just a beta version. (But the back panel has the Indian flag painted on it).
5. There are copyright infringement issues with icons copied from Apple’s iPhone. Again the explanation is that it is only a beta version issue which will be resolved.
6. There are additional question marks on its performance and post sales service.
7. It is not clear who is bearing the cost of setting up the two plants that cost Rs.250 crore each. The founder, Mohit Goel, an alumnus of Amity University, kept a low profile at it’s launch and didn’t have clear answers.
What it means for mobile marketing
While these questions keep nagging us amid the curiosity surrounding the Freedom 251 smartphone, it is relevant to note that smartphone penetration in India which is at 30% will get a power spike reminiscent of the sachet revolution. Of course, if only the Freedom 251 phone is for real and the thingy is available in offline stores too. That would also mean a great deal for mobile marketers, especially for FMCG brands, who can use innovative mobile marketing campaigns to target rural consumers.
However, if it’s a myth, or if the phone is gonna be loaded with performance issues, then it would be a blow for the Make in India program. At least keep the Indian flag off of it until it’s proven.