Indian startup ships $4 smartphone

Indian startup Ringing Bells has begun deliveries on a brand of budget smartphones that cost a mere 251 rupees ($3.72) to buy, the cheapest price tag anywhere in the world.

Ringing Bells launched the Freedom 251 in February, but was apparently forced to end preorders after just a few days amid a flood of requests. The 3G phone runs on Google’s Android operating system and comes with a 3.2 megapixel camera.

The company says it will start by delivering 5,000 units, eventually moving a total of 200,000 phones during the first round of shipping while monitoring the market response.

Mohit Goel, one of the founders of Ringing Bells, said his goal is to bring smartphones to low-income people. He said the phones are assembled in India by outside firms. Each phone costs 1,180 rupees to produce, and Goel said the company will make up for the loss through advertising and other revenue.

Ringing Bells has faced controversy surrounding the phone. Industry figures have expressed doubts and criticisms about the device being priced purportedly too low. In addition, an Indian firm providing call center support during February’s preorders lodged a complaint against the company, alleging nonpayment for services.

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