freedom251

Ringing Bells, a Nodia-based smartphone company, has launched Freedom 251, named after its selling price of Rs 251. The booking for this phone starts tomorrow morning 6 a.m onward.

Interestingly, the phone features pretty decent specifications. It sports a 1.3 GHz quad core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB internal expandable up to 32GB and a 4” qHD 960*540p screen. However we doubt the phone really has a qHD or 2560*1440p resolution, rather we suspect it sports a 720p screen. The rest of the hardware specs are mediocre; it has a 1450 mAh battery, a 3.2MP rear camera and a 0.3MP front camera.

Other than this, the smartphone runs Android 5.1 and comes pre installed with apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, Youtube, Swachh Bharat, Women Safety, Farmer, Fisherman and others. Ringing Bells is currently offering a 1 year warranty on the phone, and claims to have over 650 service centres across the country. It also sells a few other phones, including feature phones, on its website.

Cheap smartphones: The promise of cheap smartphones for rural India has been around for a while now. However, such initiatives have failed in the past; Google’s Android One initiative for sub $100 smartphones didn’t make it beyond a few phones, neither did Firefox OS. At Rs 251, Ringing Bells provides the cheapest smartphone by far, but the quality of the phone remains to be seen. Keep an eye out for a full review if we manage to get our hands on one.

India specific OS: Last month, Bangalore-based CREO raised $3 million to develop a smartphone and an Android based OS. It said then that it would develop a proprietary software around the OS keeping in mind the Indian market. The same week, Indus OS, a mobile operating system available in Indian languages, raised $5 million in a round of funding led by Omidyar Network. The OS currently claims to support 12 regional languages and offers an app store with over 15,000 apps as a substitute for Google Play.

MediaNama’s take: The major failings of Android One and Firefox OS were that these initiatives focused on running on low cost devices and crossing the economic barrier of users being able to afford such phones, and generally failed at delivering localized content and an interface in local languages. It’s not clear to what extent Ringing Bells has localized Freedom 251, but its app lists suggests that the company put in some effort. Additionally, if functional as expected, the extremely low price of the device will go a low way to lowering the entry barrier for affording a smartphone.