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BW Businessworld

The Biggest Thing To Unhappen

Bookings for the Freedom251 phone restarted and quickly notched up to 30,000. Soon Ringing Bells rang in Rs 87 lakh. It is now thought that the company will deliver at least some phones in a bid to protect themselves.

Photo Credit :

1456300466_xF9xkX_freedom-251-870.jpg

It will take a long time for the world to forget the Freedom251 fiasco. Even longer for India.

On the announcement that India had come up with a Rs 251 smartphone, potentially connecting the poor in far-flung areas and opening up the world to them, the world’s press alighted on the news. Indian tech journalists were contacted to give their expert comments on the miracle smartphone.

Downfall came a mere heartbeat later. Everything was highly suspicious about the ‘world’s most affordable phone’ which was no miracle of manufacturing but apparently a Chinese rip-off of an iPhone brought in by the company Adcom, its logo shoddily concealed on photos with white fluid and launched by a company Ringing Bells, that apparently hadn’t seen their own phone yet. Neither did Adcom acknowledge having anything to do with it.

On top of that, the website from where one was to buy the device couldn’t accept pre-bookings because the demand was too high. So, instead of fulfilling them, it thanked potential buyers profusely and promised to be back soon. This, after full-page ads announcing the availability of the phone. People also found that, in any case, they would only get the device sometime in July.

Ridiculous as all this may have been, the unsettling part was that the phone was launched at a high profile event with BJP senior party members present, looking as if they were part of the carefully thought out introduction of a phone that could change the face of India. Tagged to the Modi’s Make In India and Digital India campaign, the phone, it is to be remembered, was just a Chinese copy. Everything about it, in fact, was lifted from Apple — the round home button, the icons, and the design. China is rife with iPhone rip-offs.

Social media soon went wild with the whole story as the Freedom251 phone trended for all the wrong reasons. One couldn’t easily find anyone who had actually managed to buy the phone, though some journalists had review units that they were later told were just prototypes and not the final product at all. A few people did have their bookings going through for not one but multiple phones in the initial opening up of the site.

The whole mess begs the question of just how well senior members of Parliament do their homework when lending their support to initiatives, and the answer is not much. Should this fiasco later turn out to be an out and out scam, it would be a shocking embarrassment for representatives of the government who were present at the launch. Irate posters on Twitter even compared it with the SpeakAsia scam of several years ago in which users signed up — with money — to answer questions in surveys and be paid for their troubles.

Bookings for the Freedom251 phone restarted and quickly notched up to 30,000. Soon Ringing Bells rang in Rs 87 lakh. It is now thought that the company will deliver at least some phones in a bid to protect themselves.


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magazine 07 March 2016 Ringing Bells Freedom251 iphone