$3 Smartphone From India

The release of the Ringing Bells Freedom 251 means exciting things for India, and if it goes well possibly the hacker community, too. This $3 device comes with all the things you’d expect from your standard smartphone. Considering any of the individual components alone (4″ IPS screen, cell modem, 1450 mAh battery, 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 3.2 MP front and 0.3 MP rear cameras) could cost more than the whole thing put together, some skepticism is warranted.

There is speculation about how this is possible given Ringing Bells’ claims of no government subsidies. Considering the prototype presented to the media was from Chinese company Adcom, this may be a big scam in the making. The BBC does an examination of the many ways this seems sketchy, including the lack of appropriate government approvals (like the Indian equivalent of the FCC), and the experience of the company selling it (established in 2015).

Still, consider us curious and hopeful that we may have a new tool as useful and cheap as the ESP8266 has been. That said, it will be interesting to see if the company can maintain stock and limit hardware sales to their intended market or will a curious world electronics ecosystem make them a scarce stock item.

[via BBC]

49 thoughts on “$3 Smartphone From India

        1. The “Card phone” “worlds smallest mobile phone” credit card sized is 14$ free shipping from China. It’s not a smart phone more like a flashback to 90’s Nokia with foil keyboard and monochrome oled. Why would the push for enabling the poor millions happen with a phone like that? You don’t go from donkeys to Teslas overnight!

          1. Skilled slaves is not an oxymoron, slaves that were scribes and translators was very common – it seems a reasonable assumption that there would be slaves that were skilled stone workers.

      1. Probably a prepaid loss leader. For example, you can get, say, a Lumia 640 sim-free (unlocked) for $150, or you can get an AT&T GoPhone prepaid version locked to their network for $60. They supposedly require you to have service for six months before they will unlock it, but you can actually unlock it before you ever power it on using their official online unlocking tool. It just takes a few days to process the request. Flip it on eBay or Swappa as a “new sealed unlocked phone” and profit.

        1. I just bought a Lumia 640 (astoundingly good phone) for $94 in Australia (that’s $67 god-fearing dollars). Sadly unlocking isn’t that easy on Australian networks, but it came locked to the best one anyway.

  1. Obviously a small price to pay to register that many people and gather their details.
    Think dating sites, hight, weight, hair colour, photo. Progress to social media and and people willingly chough up their day to day lives. All those “quizzes” on facebook, innocuous on their own, take for quite a personality profile when brought together.
    Practically giving away phones would be a fairly simple way to get a tracker, microphone, camera and a host of other sensors into the lives of a lot of people.

  2. may be a scam… or not. we’ll have to wait for ~4 months and see (estimated delivery date)
    the manufacturer does claim the following
    – no government subsidy
    – they are subsidizing themselves (??) i.e selling for a lower price in hope of a market establishment. no re-sellers, no brick and mortar store, only online. and taking a hit on profit for this model. (not sure how these will help)
    – accept that it indeed cost about 3000Rs/ ~43$ to manufacture to the specs
    – have a plan for revenue up their sleeve.

    either this might go well or fall flat on its face ;) have to wait and watch..

    1. My purchases that past Black Friday were completely comprised of smart phones. 14 of them at $5 each. I use them for a security system. $5 for a 5MP network camera with onboard processing. The only thing lacking is the form factor, but for $5 each I’m willing to suffer.

      1. Interesting, their battery alone is likely worth more than the phone itself. Anyone got a link for purchasing one from the EU at decent shipping rates? Just for tinkering of course, I don’t expect them to work with our telcos.

  3. Most likely planning to do exactly what telcos in other countries do, “free” phone with a two year service contract. The payments for the phone are built into the monthly bill.

  4. Well if anything, you could buy a couple of those, root them, install a debian chroot using debootstrap and then leave them at random cafe and places to use as pirateboxes
    That could be pretty good you know

  5. We read that this mobile Freedom 251 is a rebranded Adcom Ikon 4 chinese model.
    Let’s hope some web site buys this Ikon from India and does a full hardware review.
    I suppose the first web site to come up with instructions to install linux, will enjoy some traffic.
    A bluetooth module or an FTDI chip could do some I/O already. Any other toughts for I/O ?

    1. The first website to publish instruction on putting Linux on the cheapest Indian smartphone is going to be flooded by comments with simple questions about debugging the install, this particular Linux configuration, as well as Linux usage in general. India has so many smart guys and girls trying to learn programming and Linux in general, and *they’re ALL going to comment on the article*.

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