A few months old Noida-based smartphone brand Ringing Bells became an overnight sensation across the world after it launched the Freedom 251 for just Rs 251 (less than $4).
However, the euphoria around the world's cheapest smartphone -- Freedom 251 -- was short lived, as reports that said the review units of phone sent to select media houses were not the actual device surfaced online. Also, many buyers were a little concerned about if they should really purchase Freedom 251, considering the long shipment schedule.
The company confirmed to have received online orders amounting to 25 lakh units and will get them delivered by June 30. Ringing Bells is also in talks with offline distributors to sell 25 lakh Freedom 251 at brick-and-mortar stores.
As of now, Ringing Bells has officially stopped taking orders, as requests for Freedom 251 have exceeded what the company planned to sell in the first phase. The second phase will be announced soon.
Ringing Bells President Ashok Chadha responded to emailed questions from International Business Times India. Here are the edited excerpts from the interaction.
International Business Times: There seems to be a problem with the payment gateway while ordering the phone from the freedom251.com website. Why is that and how soon will it be resolved? Have you stopped selling the phone permanently?
Ashok Chadha: This problem occurred in the morning of Feb. 18 consequent to the pleasant deluge of viewers where even the high performance Servers of our Payment Gateway and our main Server Providers could not cope. [There were 20 lakh requests on Feb.18 at the peak load and the total number of registrations recorded on the day were 3,70,15,000.]
We have addressed the problem on a "war footing" and with the help of our associates, we were back online by 6:00 a.m. Feb. 19. Registrations have continued smoothly thereafter.
IBT: How many handsets have been booked so far?
Chadha: 30,000 plus and these were on Day 1 reflecting the fact that our Payment Gateway could not support the transaction load. As explained earlier, the payments are deposited in the Nodal Account with the Payment gateway where the company will claim the amount only after submission of delivery proof.
We saw 3.70 crore registrations on Day 1 and 2.47 crore on Day 2 as of 19:49 hrs.
IBT: Why were promised pre-loaded apps like "Fisherman," "Farmers" and "Woman Safety" not present on the mobile handset received by the media?
Chadha: These will be on the "Final Freedom 251" with our custom designed new UI.
IBT: The user interface icons are exactly like Apple iPhones including icons like web browsers. Could this be construed as copyright infringement?
Chadha: As will be noted on a closer look, that the UI, even on the prototype, is not identical to Apple. In any case we will have our custom designed new UI for our Final Freedom 251.
IBT: The phone is not listed on the BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certifications page. Why is this?
Chadha: Application is under filing and we expect to have the certification in hand well before delivery commences.
IBT: All 3G devices are supposed to be registered with Qualcomm as part of the licensing agreement but the Freedom 251 does not show up. Why is this so?
Chadda: At present we are using Spreadtrum Chip set then why do we need to register with Qualcomm.
IBT: The phone is running on Android, but does not appear on the list of Android partners either. Why is this?
Chadha: We are registered with Google Android Developers Platform.
[IBT has received the screenshot attached].
IBT: If the actual phone is not ready why was a rebranded phone given to the media?
Chadha: When we design a concept, we produce a prototype to demonstrate the same. Then we test the acceptability from the target audience. Once this is accepted, we take this prototype to the design house to design the chipset; the mould and then we decide on the actual add-ons like the buttons, the colour and screen quality.
We did not distribute the handsets, we handed-over the prototypes FOC (Free Of Cost) to assess the acceptability and validate our concept.
IBT: Is the Indian government partnering with your company?
Chadha: The Indian Government is not partnering with the company. We will comply with all required regulations of TRAI & Telecom Authorities in India.
IBT: What about the handsets that your company launched in January, which users have complained about regarding non-deliveries?
Chadha: We have delivered Rs 1.7 crore worth of phones so far. In addition, PayU [payment gateway] has received Rs 1.75 crore against our handset's online bookings from phase 1. As we have committed, we will claim our money only after we complete delivery on Feb. 25, 2016 and after we submit Proof of Delivery.