'Shady' $4 Smartphones Supposedly About to Ship
CEO says he feels 'vindicated' by Ringing Bell's Freedom 251 release, but others are still wary
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 27, 2016 2:19 PM CDT
A Freedom 251 smartphone, said to be priced at around $4, is shown during its release by an official of Ringing Bells in New Delhi, India, on Feb. 17, 2016.   (AP Photo/Saurabh Das)

(Newser) – Smartphones going for about $4 are said to be shipping this week in India, and the manufacturing company's head says he's pleased that they're finally coming out, even though the company will take a loss on each phone, the Guardian reports. Ringing Bells originally said it would ship 2.5 million units of its Freedom 251 phone—a 3G Android with a 4-inch screen, 8GB of storage, an 8MP main camera, and a 3.2MP selfie camera—by the end of June, per Android Authority, but now CEO Mohit Goel tells the Indian Express that's been dropped down to 200,000 shipped out by June 30, with more soon to come. There had been much skepticism over whether the phones actually existed. "We learned from our mistakes and decided to go silent till we [came] out with the product," Goel says. "Now we have a … dual-SIM phone ready for delivery. I feel vindicated."

Talk of the phone has raised disbelieving eyebrows since it was announced: In February, Ars Technica called the whole deal "awfully shady," noting that initial previews of the phone showed an unattractive, cheap-looking unit that appeared to be another company's phone "rebranded" with white correcting fluid. The Guardian notes that Ringing Bells is losing about $2.20 per smartphone, but Goel tells the Express he hopes to recoup profits in volume. "We will have a loss, but I am happy that the dream of connecting rural and poor Indians as part of the 'Digital India' and 'Make in India' initiatives has been fulfilled with Freedom 251," he says. Also reportedly to be released from Ringing Bells within the next month or so: a 32-inch high-def LED TV that retails for less than $150.