The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

Freedom 251 is a name that is sure to ring a bell, quite literally. The smartphone that was supposed to be sold by Noida-based firm, Ringing Bells, never took off seriously, as we had predicted in our coverage last month.

Launched with much pomp and show, the Freedom 251 was a smartphone that hasn't and probably never will see the light of the day, if some reports are to be believed. Recent updates to the whole scheme suggest that Adcom, another Delhi-based mobile importer, is all set to take the phone maker to court for copyright infringement.

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Let's uncover how all these events panned out over the weeks and got the company trapped into multiple court hearings that the promoters would be attending in the days to come.

The Birth of a phenomenon

The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

It all started on February 16th when all major media houses received an invite to what seemed to be a government event, most probably a collaboration of the Make In India and the Digital India projects. Everyone believed that the government was launching a new smartphone at just Rs. 251. If true, this would break all barriers in the mobile world, is what the media thought and rushed to publish the news. The first seed had been planted.

The stage of Infancy

The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

The launch conference was held at the Nehru Park, in Delhi, with multiple cultural and dance events planned for the buildup. The event, although hosted solely by Ringing Bells, was graced by the presence of a couple of Cabinet ministers. This was to give the journalists an illusion that this was a mega project; something that was hoped to be made possible through subsidies from the government.

The adolescence arrives

The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

As the party ended, it was time to do some serious dish cleaning. Many folks from the media, including us, got a hold of the device and saw that the Freedom 251 seemed to appear like a smartphone that had already been on sale, precisely Adcom's Ikon 4. More surprisingly, everyone had learnt by now that the government was not offering any kind of support and ministers were only there to make the consumers aware of such a scheme. Ringing Bells was pitching to sell a Rs. 3,600 smartphone at just Rs. 251?

Essence of the youth

The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

Despite all these hurdles and controversies popping up, Ringing Bells wasn't deterred and they planned their first online sale for the 18th of February, on their official site. The website had been registered just a week prior to the sale. Starting at 6 in the morning, smartphone enthusiasts sat down in front of their computer/mobile screens to witness a transformation in the Indian digital space. Alas, this transformation came as a reminder of the past - website crashes. No matter what technique the users applied, the website just refused to take the page further than the Shopping cart URL.

People complained and the curiosity grew. This whole thing seemed like a façade to many. Accusations started and the CEO of Ringing Bells, who goes by CuteMohit on Facebook, struck back by apologizing for the crash and initiating a fresh open sale the very next day.

Middle Age strikes even the best

The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

After opening up the site to all users, Ringing Bells now claimed that over 70 million people had successfully 'bought' the Freedom 251, even if by bought they meant 'registered for and waiting for a payment link'. The trick seemed to work; users were now ecstatic to have booked a Rs. 251 smartphone when even a simple 3G data recharge costs more than that in India.

After the promises, Ringing Bells once again got caught in the wind. No purchase links were sent to the registered buyers and impatience grew. Pulling another trick out of the bag, the CEO now proclaimed that all orders would be converted to Cash On Delivery for ease of payments.

Eventual Death?

The Curious Case of the 251 rupee smartphone: How it all Panned Out

When the rabbits themselves jump out of the hat, you only have a limited number of tricks to show to the audience. The debacle was then followed by a detailed inquiry that the government wanted to pursue after huge public pressure. Adcom also now wants to sue Ringing Bells for tarnishing their public image and using their products without prior notice. CuteMohit is an MBA by degree but his business administration seems to have failed with his pilot project. Disappointing almost a billion Indians in a single go, the Freedom 251 sadly died a violent death.

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