freedom-251An 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.



  1. The price point may not be all that unbelievable. Given the lower per-capita income of India, it stands to reason there would be a lot of pressure to make things more inexpensive for that market, just as there is for things like DVDs (hence, region protection) and textbooks (at least, until Kirtsaeng). And, for that matter, automobiles. A $4 smartphone isn’t all that unbelievable.

    And as I’ve said before, an inexpensive smartphone can indeed make a quite decent e-reader.

  2. Actually, I checked this story through the original website and Indian press reports – which aren’t hard to Google. That’s what the “Indian press reports claim” part, and links, are about. And as Chris says, the INR 251, as far as it goes, is correct. The phone is obviously an unknown quantity till it arrives – meantime, Indian advertising standards authorities can take Ringing Bells to court of they wish, but so far no Indian journalist seems to have disputed Ringing Bells’ claim. If you deny a piece of technology’s RRP on the strength of the rebates and deals supporting the price, you’d have to extend this to the Amazon $50 Fire too.

    • That is a nonsensical comparison.

      The difference between Amazon and RB is that Amazon shipped a $50 tablet. They didn’t promise one and then base that promise on deals they hadn’t made yet.

      RB is less like Amazon than it is one of those Kickstarter campaigns that promises the moon which it almost certainly can’t to deliver.

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