Seller of Indian $4 Smartphone Accused of Fraud
Alexander Neil / 4 years ago
Recently an Indian company revealed that they would be selling a smartphone for only $4, however, 30,000 unit sales later, it has turned out that it may just be too good to be true. The company has been accused of fraud by congressman Pramod Tiwari, with another MP, Kirit Somaiya calling the operation a huge Ponzi scam and requested the government launch an investigation into the company. This is hardly the first trouble for the $4 smartphone too, with an early prototype of the device being uncovered as a phone belonging to another company as well as being subject to a government raid making the device seem less and less of a reality.
Set to be launched by a small company named Ringing Bells, the $4 Freedom 251 device originally impressed many by packing a decent set of specifications for the price. A 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1,450 mAh battery, 4-inch 960 x 540 qHD display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and a 3.2-megapixel camera was what it was capable of on paper, far from the expensive flagship phones launched by big companies, but for 251 rupees, it seemed incredible. Pankaj Mohindroo, the founder and president of the Indian Cellular Association told CNN that the sum cost of the Freedom 251’s components, even when using the cheapest possible, would cost at least 2700 rupees ($40) to manufacture. The device’s 3.5-inch touchscreen alone would cost more than the $4 that the entire device was to sell for.
Adding to this, at the launch event for the phone, the sample handsets given out by Ringing Bells looked nothing like the previous renders of the phone, which were later revealed to be Chinese Adcom Ikon 4 phones with the branding covered up. Ringing Bells founders Mohit Goel and Ashok Chanda claimed that the branding was present on the devices as the screen components had been sourced from Adcom and the device was a quickly put together prototype to show off.
It doesn’t stop there either, with Ringing Bells having faced a government raid on one of its offices due its lack of credentials and attempting to market a device without having a Bureau of Indian Standards certification. Ringing Bells hadn’t even begun manufacturing the phones by the time they were selling them, with the money raised from pre-orders to be put towards purchasing the manufacturing unit to create them. The final falsehood from the company is their participation in the government run Make in India program, which they were proud to be a part of. Except they were planning to make the devices in India with no subsidies and the Indian Government confirming that the company had nothing to do with the program.
With so many deceptions and inconsistencies floating around, it is hard to consider that this device could really materialize. Even now Ringing Bells has stopped taking orders for the device, reportedly to work on creating the phones already ordered. Whether those who have ordered their devices ever see them materialize, it is hard to tell, but with the release date for the handset targetted for June, we may not have to wait too long.