A LITTLE-known Indian company launched a smartphone believed to be the cheapest in the world on Wednesday, targeting a market already dominated by low-cost handsets.
Priced at 251 rupees ($5.15), domestic handset maker Ringing Bells’ Freedom 251 smartphone costs less than one per cent of the price of the latest Apple iPhone.
It has a 10cm display, one GB of ram, eight GB worth of internal memory and a dual-SIM option. It also comes with a 3.2 megapixel rear camera and a 0.3 megapixel front camera, while popular apps like Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp come pre-loaded.
Agro-commodity trading company Ringing Bells was set up in September 2015 and began selling mobile phones via its website a few weeks ago under its Bell brand, a spokeswoman said.
“This is our flagship model and we think it will bring a revolution in the industry,” she told AFP.
The company reportedly made its model with the support of the government’s “Make in India” initiative which encourages local manufacturing, but a senior official at Ringing Bells told The Times of India they were not receiving any government subsidies.
Customer demand for the $5 smartphone was so high that the company’s website promptly crashed hours after the model went on sale, forcing them to stop accepting orders
“We humbly submit that we are therefore taking a pause,” it said in an apology to customers.
“We are working on a variety of cost-saving initiatives to keep the cost of the devices lower than its approximate per unit price of 2,500 rupees,” Ashok Chadha said of the new model.
“These include local assembling in India that saves us around 400 rupees, large-scale sourcing that saves around 400-500 rupees, online sales with no on-ground staff that itself saves us around 500 rupees.
“The rest of the savings come in from an online marketplace that we create on our website by allowing other companies on the platform.”
Ringing Bells currently imports parts from overseas and assembles them in India but plans to make its phones domestically within a year, a spokeswoman said.
Cheap smartphone handsets, many of them Chinese-made, are readily available in the Indian market but domestic competitors are making inroads, with models selling for less than $30.
India is the world’s second-largest mobile market and notched up its billionth mobile phone subscriber in October, according to the country’s telecoms regulator.
But in poorer Indian states such as Bihar, “teledensity” — the penetration of telephone connections for every hundred people — is as low as 54 per cent, with a stark urban-rural divide.
The Indian Telegraph Sydney Australia