We honestly can’t do interest rate conversions across all of Africa’s differing currencies, but anyone will agree that $3.6 is beyond affordable, actually if we’re to be completely honest, its dirt cheap for the product in question. No doubt more and more affordable brands of smartphones have come out over the years as an alternative to top of the shelf players like Apple, Samsung or even Nokia, but on Wednesday evening, an unknown Indian company launched what has to be the world’s cheapest smartphone in Delhi.
It was named Freedom 251, such a befitting name, don’t you think? Especially when you consider that it was to be sold for 251 rupees ($3.6). The company, Ringing Bells is less than a year old and Freedom 251 has been described as a 3G smartphone with specifications similar to phones 15 times more expensive. The company website, freedom251.com, was opened for pre-orders on Thursday and payments were meant to be made in full in advance, a five-day window was given for online sales and deliveries were promised by June.
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Not surprisingly, the website crashed, with a notice claiming overwhelming response at 600,000 hits per second and their intention to pause bookings for a day, their office was also swamped by thousands of potential buyers. Mohit Goel, the firm’s founder said the phone would be made locally, a part of the “Make in India” program which is promoted aggressively by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Sounds very much like the “buy Naija” campaign going on in nearby Nigeria, promoted aggressively by…well, the hapless public and a lonesome Senator Ben Murray Bruce.
According to media reports, the prototype shown were of a Chinese-made phone with its brand name, Adcom, covered with white paint. The Android-based smartphone, with a 4-inch display, looks very similar to Apple’s older iPhone 4 handset. Adcom which is a Delhi-based importer of tech products was quoted in the Hindustan Times newspaper, denying any knowledge of the company being associated with the Freedom 251 handset, despite the fact that its Ikon 4 handset, available for 4,000 rupees (about $59; £41) on Indian e-commerce site Flipkart, appears to be very similar in specifications to Freedom 251.
Add that to another report that the Indian Cellular Association wrote to telecoms minister Ravi Shankar Prasad stating that it was impossible to sell a 3G phone below 2,700 rupees and the deal with India’s $3.6 smartphone seems to have only a couple of reasonable conclusions. It’s either Kirit Somaiya, a member of Parliament from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is right and it could all be a Ponzi scheme or other scam, or else the phones are being subsidized by external source and in a last hazarded guess, the company could just have a plan to over price subsequent products and this is just a good way to break into the tough smartphone market in India.
Any of the options that turn out to be true, we’re just impressed by the “Make in India” program and its government’s spirited involvement in it and hope that same will become true of African movements.