Let’s start from the beginning, and then work our way to the part where this story could be too good to be true. Last week, we heard some very refreshing news about smartphones getting cheaper for the developing world. With what couldn’t be possible just a few years ago is something even nations of fractional wages can now begin to fathom. Providing mobile technology for a reasonable price, reasonable to the degree of just a few dollars, seemed to be the goal of Indian company Ringing Bells, who after announcing its $4 smartphone Freedom 251, received “almost 50 million registrations”. Freedom 251 was the definition of popular since gathering the world’s attention with this news, even having to shut down its website due to overwhelming traffic.
This is the part where I tell you about the reasonable spec list, and the ifs, ands, or buts about the device. I’ll do it, but only to get the whole glimpse of the story. The Freedom 251, said to sport a 4-inch screen with qHD (960 x 540) resolution, a front-facing camera with VGA quality, and rear-facing 3.2MP, was pretty much everything you could imagine in a less-than $4 package. Hardware was to include 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 1.3GHz quad-core processor from an “unnamed company”. Wonder why a company preaching their new game-changing product would leave out important details like that? Anyway, the smartphone also packed a 1,450mAh battery, and a microSD card for that additional space you are going to be forced to use. Funny to think you’ll have to buy a microSD card for your $4 phone to even function, and it will cost more than the phone itself.
If by now you’re disappointed because the smartphone sounds awful, don’t be so American, it is priced less than a cup of Starbucks. Plus, it’s already too late to analyze the Freedom 251 because quickly after its announcement, more and more signs pointed towards the entire Ringing Bells company and its product being a facade. Yep. You see, from the start, images of the “device” were different, inconsistent renders. Soon after, it was reported that early receivers of the “preview version” were dumbfounded by what they saw when opening up their packages- a glop of White-Out across the top of their phone. Underneath showed Adcom Ikon 4 branding, which is a $54 device that looked nothing like what the Freedom 251 was supposed to look like.
But wait, there’s so much more. Adcom had no idea Ringing Bells was using its casing and are “looking into it”. This Ringing Bells company, by the way, may not even be a registered company, nor is it licensed to sell its products in India. Worse, is that the operating system on the device is most likely loaded with spyware for data harvesting; and is an obvious Apple iOS rip off, so much so that this could cause some legal trouble. Even the company website is total BS, not even using HTTPS as a shopping protocol (no wonder it crashed). It seems as though this sketchy company wanted to get its impending customers as vulnerable as possible from start to finish. Good thing this criminal activity is being put to rest. Pankaj Mohindroo, national president of the Indian Cellular Association, claims “It is something we are very upset about”, and is “being investigated by various government authorities”.
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