India's $4 smartphone arrives June 30th

The Freedom 251 isn't just a figment of your imagination.

AP Photo/Saurabh Das

We wouldn't blame you for thinking that the $4 Indian smartphone was just a pipe dream, but it's apparently quite real. Ringing Bells tells the Indian Express that its ultra low-cost Freedom 251 (named based on its price in rupees) will start shipping on June 30th, with nearly 200,000 units in the early batch. As before, the hardware is no great shakes. You're looking at a 4-inch 960 x 540 screen, a modest 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of memory, 8GB of expandable storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 3.2-megapixel front cam -- it's even running Android 5.1 instead of 6.0. Price really is the selling point here.

While it's good that there's a tangible product, there are still doubts swirling around its feasibility. Ringing Bells' CEO admits that his company is taking a loss on every phone right now -- it's hoping to make up for that through sheer volume. As it stands, the firm is still reluctant to offer hands-on time to the media despite a release just days away.

If this gamble pays off, though, it could change the local phone market. Even the most affordable smartphones on the market right now still represent a huge expense for some Indians, particularly rural dwellers who rarely enjoy middle class incomes. At $4, the Freedom 251 is inexpensive enough that it'd be far more attainable and help close a technological divide. The main mystery is whether or not the phone is any good. A terrible experience (say, through unreliable hardware) might sour people on the whole concept, no matter how tempting the price might be.