Freedom 251 smartphone: Ringing more than just a bell
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As personal technology writers, we are frequently asked one particular question by colleagues, friends, family and social media followers—which affordable phone should we buy? The answer usually depends on the sort of performance and power they require, but at the end of it all, the primary criteria remains the price. Now, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, based company Ringing Bells is pretty much redefining what a truly affordable Android smartphone should be.
With a sticker price of Rs.251 (yes, you read that right), the Freedom 251 smartphone fits right into the government’s Digital India initiative to bring a vast majority of the population under the “connected” umbrella—and this phone is “Made in India” too. According to the “World Development Report 2016”, 1,063 million Indians are still not connected to the Internet. And the best way to get them online is through a smartphone.
Back to the Freedom 251, and the specifications make for rather interesting reading. The phone will run a quad core 1.3 GHz processor, with 1 GB of RAM. The phone has a MediaTek MT6582 processor, which is powering most sub-$100 (Rs.6,800) smartphones globally. The motherboard (main circuit board assembly) will cost upwards of $30.
It has a 4-inch screen with an IPS (In-Plane Switching) panel. We do not yet know the resolution, but with a MT6582 processor, this will not be higher than 1,280x720 pixels, which is what the processor is designed to support. A 4-inch display assembly (LCD, digitizer, and front bezel) would itself cost upwards of $35.
There is 8 GB internal storage, with additional support for memory cards up to 32 GB (incidentally, a microSD card will cost you more than the phone, with the Samsung Evo Plus 32 GB MicroSDHC Class 10 card priced at Rs.676 on Flipkart.com).
With these specifications, the Freedom 251 runs on Google’s Android 5.1 (Lollipop) operating system—it would be harsh to expect Android 6.0 Marshmallow—with a no-frills interface, and is on a par with the most affordable Android phones.
There is a 1,450 mAh battery, a 3.2-megapixel camera on the back and a 0.3-megapixel camera for selfies. The cameras themselves would cost around $3.
Ringing Bells has managed to pack in 3G support as well, for better Web connectivity. Every component in the phone, such as the headphone jack, power button, vibration mechanism and charging port, all generally cost anywhere between $3 and $10 each.
It is difficult to find out the exact price of each component, since phone makers strike different deals with component manufacturers. But with the approximate price range for each, we do get a clue as to how much each unit may cost. Besides pre-installed WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Google Play, etc., the Freedom 251 comes with apps such as Swachh Bharat, Women Safety, Fisherman, Farmer and Medical, leading us to ask if this Made in India phone is subsidized by the government. But more on that later. If you add up the approximate prices for all components, the figure comes to nearly Rs.5,000, which is pretty much the entry barrier for affordable Android phones.
Bookings for the Freedom 251 are open from 18-21 February on their website—www.ringingbells.co.in . We do not know, at present, how many units the company will put up for sale in the first batch. However, Ringing Bells has confirmed that deliveries of the phone will be completed by 30 June.