An Indian company, dinkily named Ringing Bells, is launching what it claims is the world’s cheapest smartphone. The Freedom 251 will retail, Indian press reports claim, for the same price as its name: INR 251, or $3.67.
The Freedom 251 has tolerably good entry-level specs for any market – and unbelievable ones at this price point. According to the phone’s website, it has a 4-inch qHD IPS display, a 1.3 GHz quadcore processor, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory plus a micro SD slot, and Android Lollipop 5.1. All for a price point, as one Indian press source remarks, “similar to the price of a good quality screen guard.”
The Freedom 251 is up for pre-order with final delivery expected in June, so its actual quality is still uncertain. But if it does deliver on its specs and price point, it could transform communications – and literacy – in India’s still disadvantaged rural areas.
As reported earlier in TeleRead, smartphones rather than tablets or e-readers are driving ebook readership growth in India. World Bank figures put Indian’s rural population as of 2014 at 68 percent of its total 1.236 billion population, or around 840 million, and 75 percent of the population, or around 930 million, still has no internet connectivity at all. Yet mobile phones can be such an important tool for economic development, especially in rural areas, that some commentators have talked of making access to them a human right.
The potential for ebooks in India is almost as great as the need for them. And with such price points, access to digital literacy and communications could be within the reach of even the lowest levels of Indian society. And you can see how popular such phones might become in the West if they ever found their way over at similar prices. June should be worth watching for the actual arrival of the Freedom 251.