How Ringing Bells plans to keep selling its $4 smartphone

The company on Friday revealed a new set of products -- the revenue from which it intends to use to further invest in the $4 Freedom 251.

Manish Singh
Manish is a technology reporter based in India. He covers security, privacy, piracy, gadgets, and interesting things happening in the country. At other times, you'll find him playing Forza Motorsport 5. He plays the same level multiple times to earn more points. He likes points.
Manish Singh
2 min read
Watch this: Ringing Bells' $4 smartphone is a pleasant surprise
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Ringing Bells' Freedom 251 smartphone -- named so because it costs 251 rupees in India. That equates to roughly $3.70, £2.70 and AU$5.

Manish Singh/CNET

Ringing Bells has made a name for itself thanks to its $4 Freedom 251, but it turns out that selling smartphones for the price of a drink isn't totally sustainable.

To help keep itself afloat, the company on Thursday announced a new set of products, with any profits going right back into making more Freedom 251 units.

Among the new devices are two smartphones, and they each cost much more than $4. There's the Elegance, priced at 3,999 rupees (roughly $60, £45 or AU$80), and the 4,449 rupee ($65, £50 or AU$90) Elegant. Not much is known about the models so far, but they both house a 5-inch 720x1,280-pixel display and 1GB of RAM.

The company also announced a set of feature phones, still popular in India, and a 32-inch LED TV, which will sell for 9,900 rupees (about $140, £115 or AU$195).

It costs around $20 to make a Freedom 251 unit, a company executive said. After the money it makes by partnering with software companies to preinstall apps on the device, Ringing Bells loses around $2 per Freedom 251 sale.

The world's second most populous nation, India is a home of more than 750 million people who still don't own a smartphone, said Mohit Goel, CEO of Ringing Bells. He adds that it will take his company decades to empower each Indian with a smartphone (and the internet connectivity smartphones afford) -- but that Ringing Bells could do it in years if the government lent a sufficiently helping hand.

Highly hopeful, the company is seeking a sum of around $7.4 billion from the government to subsidise its efforts. Still, executives insist Ringing Bells will continue to make more Freedom 251 phones even if they don't receive financial help.

And though some speculated that the Freedom 251 would never materialise, the company is shipping 5,000 units today. Another 195,000, it says, will be sent out in the coming weeks.