Ringing Bells’ Freedom 251, dubbed the world’s cheapest smartphone with Android Lollipop OS and 3G support, has generated interest but also raised some serious questions about the device and the company.
Since the launch thousands of people, 25 lakh to be precise if you go by Ringing Bells’ claim, have booked these phones at Rs 251 despite the website crashing through the two-day sale. Now the company has decided to stop taking orders.
Interestingly the Department of Telecom (DoT) has said a device cannot be manufactured for less than Rs 2,300, and BJP MP Kirit Somaiya even branded it as a scam.
Now the Noida company has woken up and come up with some answers to the questions India is asking. Here are some of the answers, which we’ve edited for clarity.
1. There seems to be a problem with the payment gateway while ordering the phone from the freedom251.com website. Why and how soon will it be resolved? Have the sales stopped permanently?
Ringing Bells’ response: This problem occurred on the morning of February 18, consequent to the “pleasant” deluge of viewers where even the high performance servers of our payment gateway and our main server providers could not cope. [There were 20 lakh requests on 18/2 at peak load and total no of Registrations received on the day were 3,70,15,000]
We addressed the problem on a ‘war footing’ and with the help of our associates, were back on-line by 06.00 hrs by morning of 19/2. Registrations have continued smoothly thereafter.
2. How many handsets have been sold so far?
Ringing Bells’ response: 30,000 plus and these were on Day 1 reflecting the fact that our payment gateway could not support the transaction load. As per guidelines, the payments are deposited in the nodal account with the payment gateway, where the Company will claim payment only after submission of delivery proof.
We have 3.70 crore registrations on Day 1 + 2.47 crore on Day 2 as of 19:49 hrs.
3. Why has Freedom 251 got Adcom branding on the front panel? Is it being manufactured by Adcom? And why was the branding covered by a whitener? What was that for? Even if it was just for demo, and a sample phone, why did the company give out another company’s product? Why could not they just order fresh samples from where ever they were trading?
Ringing Bells’ response: We just wanted to show a sample/prototype of what the handsets will look like. This is not the final piece. Hence, we obviously wanted to provide “Made in India” handsets as that is the core of our vision.
We did a quick and intensive search and located the components but regarding the Touch Plate, we faced a problem in view of the fragile nature in addition to the scratch-proof requirements of the piece.
ADCOM is an India Company and we were able to source from them. In view of the shortage of time and given that these were to serve only as prototypes given to a limited List of persons, we went ahead.
We would clearly mention that the Final Freedom 251 manufactured/ assembled in India will have identical specs – i.e. no change. There maybe some changes in curvature/ buttons placements for aesthetics, if at all.
4. Deeper media investigation suggests Adcom is a local manufacturer of IT products, and their spokesperson had no clue that their product is being re-branded and sold like this. This can be a potential lawsuit.
Ringing Bells’ response: You may speak to Mr Sanjiv Bhatia – the Director of ADCOM – and he will confirm the true version to you.
5. The promised pre-loaded apps for Fisherman, Farmers and Women’s Safety are not present on the mobile handset media received
Ringing Bells’ response: These will be on the “Final Freedom 251” with our custom designed new UI.
6. The user interface icons are exactly like Apple iPhone including icons like web browsers etc which can be construed as copyright infringement
Ringing Bells’ response: As will be noted on a closer look, that the UI, even on the prototype, is not identical to Apple. In any case, we will have our custom designed new UI for our Final Freedom 251.
7. The phone is not listed on the BIS certifications page, why is this?
Ringing Bells’ response: Application is under filing, and we expect to have the Certification in hand well before delivery commences.
8. All 3G devices are supposed to be registered with Qualcomm as part of the licensing agreement but the Freedom 251 is not showing up, why is this?
Ringing Bells’ response: At present we are using Spreadtrum Chip set, then why do we need to register with Qualcomm?
9. The phone is running on Android, but is not showing in a list on Android partners either. Why is this?
Ringing Bells’ response:We are registered with Google Android Developers Platform.
10. Can we provide a list of customer care centres promised? Media is getting queries from customers about customer care centres, only details they have found as customer support is email and phone number.
11. If the actual phone is not ready, why was a re-branded different phone given to the media. Is the much hyped Freedom 251 a concept in the air only?
Ringing Bells’ response: When we design a concept, we produce a prototype to demonstrate. Then we test the acceptability from the Target Audience.Once this is accepted, we take this Prototype to the Design House to design the Chipset; the mould and then we decide on the actual add-ons like the buttons – the colour – screen quality etc.
We did not distribute the Handsets, we handed-over the prototypes to assess the acceptability and validate our concept.
12. How is Indian government partnering with a company with no proven track record? BJP MP Kirit Somaiya has raised questions and written to both TRAI and Min. of Telecom to investigate the issue. This follows mobile industry body Indian Cellular Association (ICA) letter to Telecom Minister Ravi
Ravi Shankar Prasad yesterday to get into depth of the issue, saying the rate could not be below Rs 3,500 even after a subsidised sale.
Ringing Bells’ response: The Indian Government is not partnering the Company. We will comply with all required regulations of TRAI & Telecom Authorities in India.
13. What about the other handsets? People have been complaining about no delivery or even an order confirmation? Is this just a con game?
Ringing Bells’ response: We have delivered Rs 1.7 crores worth of phones so far. In addition, PayU [Payment Gateway] has received Rs 1.75 crores against our Handset On-Line Bookings of Phase 1 and here, as we have committed, we will claim our money only after we complete delivery on Feb 25, 2016 and after we submit Proof of Delivery.
14. Some media persons reaching the Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd Noida office found it to be deserted. Is it even a genuine company with manufacturing plant?
Ringing Bells’ response: Our Corporate Office is at B44, Sector 63, Noida 201301. All are welcome to come to our Office and we will be privileged to greet you.