Bangalore/New Delhi, February 21 2016:
The four-day saga the 'world's cheapest phone' ended sometime yesterday with a banner on the company's site announcing bookings closed. It began earlier this week with the astonishing offer of an Android Lollipop fuelled smartphone for Rs 251 -- less than $ 4 in US money.
As You Like It: It offered a combo of specs including dual cameras, a quad core processor, 1GB RAM, 8 GB onboard storage (expandable), a qHD 4 inch display and the latest Android OS -- plus dedicated buttons for potential usage verticals like farmers The phone was launched in Delhi by BJP and government biggies.
The Tempest: Booking started and stopped within seconds the day after -- when the site crashed with a claimed 600,000 hits in a second. Hundreds of thousands of disappointed buyers vented their anger online -- and a few turned up to protest at the company's office.
Comedy of Errors: The Indian media unleashed its investigative journalism muscle ( egged on by incumbent phone makers) questioning the bonafides of the parent company, Ringing Bells Pvt Ltd, its corporate status, and past experience in this business ( zilch, apparently) and speculated on the business model that could offer a phone at almost give-away pricing.
Much Ado About Nothing: A few print media players, who were provided sample phones, applied their nails and polish remover to the cover to rub off the paint and reveal the Chinese origins of the piece ( the makers said these were only prototypes -- the real thing would be their own). Others lost sleep worrying on behalf of Apple and expressed outrage that the company's iPhone screen icons had been copied.
Measure for Measure: Like a Kumbhakarna woken from deep slumber, government departments charged with taxation and standards did what they do best -- conduct 'raids' to sniff out tax avoidance or illegalities and even looked for an Indian standards certification in the sample pieces provided to 'select media'.
Ringing Bells apologised profusely for customer hassles, claiming they took 60 million phone bookings in two days. By late February 20 the website announced that bookings were closed for now.
Everyone would have to wait till June 2016 -- when the first phones were promised to customers. Meanwhile it's open season for speculation about the company's game plan -- to what extent this could pass as a Make in India initiative and how they eventually planned to making money selling phones for less than the price of a phone cover. Shall we say --
All's Well that ends Well -- for now.
BACKGROUND: The official position: "We have a complete in-house product testing set-up
in India.' Our vision: Vision Empower citizens, even in the remotest rural and semi-urban
centres of India, with the latest in digital technology at incredible affordable prices and
cascade knowledge, news and current issues so that all experience the confidence of
inclusive growth and equal opportunity.....Freedom 251 smartphone has been developed
'with immense support' from the government..." claimed the makers Ringing Bells Pvt Ltd
and provided the following information regarding specifications:
All your favourite Pictures, videos and games are rendered vivid and larger than life on the
4 inch (10.2 cms) qHD IPS display.
With 3.2MP AF Rear Camera & .3MP Front camera capture best moments of your life.
Freedom 251 with its inbuilt touchless technology is Ideal for perfect Selfie. For Selfie
lovers life just got a little easier.
Freedom 251 comes with 1.3 GHz Quadcore Processor capable of fast and responsive
performance. 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory, all the space you need. SD card
support (expandable up to 32GB)
With its 1450 mAh battery, Freedom 251 gives you more time to talk, text, Play and
watch videos without needing to worry about running out of power.