Freedom 251: Website for $4 smartphone buckles as company explains how it is so cheap

The company says that it is able to make the phone so cheaply because it benefits from economies of scale, though some have also suggested that it might be benefitting from a subsidy because of all the 'Made in India' apps that come pre-installed

Andrew Griffin
Thursday 18 February 2016 11:57 GMT
It is believed that the phone is subsidised by the Indian government
It is believed that the phone is subsidised by the Indian government (Ringing Bells)

The huge demand for a $4 smartphone, probably the cheapest ever made, appears to have broken the company's website.

The Freedom 251, made by Ringing Bells, was revealed this week as an attempt to make a super-cheap phone and sell it to people in India. But the plan has already been hit by huge problems, including a broken website and questions over how it manages to make its products so cheaply.

The site went down becuase of the "enormous response", according to a note on the website while it was taken down. The company said that the site was receiving a huge amount of traffic and that it was being taken down so that the infrastructure could be upgraded.

Those who managed to get onto the website complained that buying the phone was still difficult. A Times of India journalist described how the site "kept on refreshing" and wouldn't allow users to purchase the phones.

The website issues came as some queried how exactly the phone can be sold so cheaply. The company's executives have claimed that it will benefit from economies of scale by selling huge numbers of the handsets.

But others have suggested that the phone is also being subsidised by the Indian government. It comes pre-loaded with a number of apps made in India, but no deal has been officially announced.

Such a deal might recall Facebook's "Free Basics" service, which gave out internet access to people in the country but only for a selection of apps. It was widely criticised and then banned, following accusations that it hurt the principle of net neutrality, whereby all internet traffic should be treated equally.

Orders for the phone opened on the morning of 18 February, and will run untl 21 February.

The company requires that all customers buy the phone through its website, which may prove a difficulty since the smartphone is intended to open up the internet for its customers. Ringing Bells has said that offline orders are expected to begin sometime after the end of June.

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