Ringing Bells Freedom 251 revisited: from prototype to commercial release, yet remains elusive

“The Freedom 251 has changed for good from its earlier prototype. But would you ever get your hands on it? Well, don’t be too hopeful”

Ringing Bells might not have been able to figure out the manufacturing of phones as it promised back in February, it surely has figured out how to remain in the limelight. Its Rs 251 phone, the Freedom 251 has remained an elusive smartphone which is yet to reach buyers. However, at an event yesterday, the company’s founder reiterated that it’ll be keeping its promise and the Freedom 251 will start shipping in a phase-wise manner, with the first batch consisting of 5,000 units. 

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What’s interesting however, is the fact that the commercial version of the Ringing Bells Freedom 251 is different from the model we had checked out in February. So, let’s revisit the phone and see how it’s different from the earlier model.

First impressions are lasting impressions, and Ringing Bells seems to have taken that seriously. The new model of Ringing Bells Freedom 251 brings forth an original design language, unlike the prototype unit which seemed to be Adcom’s Ikon 4, which in turn, was inspired by Apple’s iPhone aesthetics.

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The display panel dominates the proceedings at front, and is flanked by an earpiece, a couple of sensors and a front-facing snapper above and a row of capacitive keys at the bottom. Yes, the Freedom 251 has the standard set of three buttons for navigation, which aren’t backlit, but are certainly better and more practical than the single physical home button in the previous model.

The button and port placement remains standard though, with the power switch towards the right and the volume keys on the left spine. The base only features the microphone, whereas both the micro-USB port and a 3.5mm audio socket can be found up top.

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The rear panel is also quite different from the Freedom 251 we checked out in February. The new model sports a matte finish, which offers a superior grip along with keeping fingerprints at bay. It sports the primary camera along with an LED flash, and Freedom 251’s branding further below as well as a speaker grille. Prying open the cover exposes the removable battery as well as a pair of SIM-card slots and a microSD card slot.

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While the design language of the Freedom 251 has changed for good, other hardware aspects remain the same. The 4-inch IPS display bears a qHD resolution (540 x 960 pixels), which isn’t too sharp, but offers good colour reproduction and nice viewing angles.

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Under the hood, the Ringing Bells Freedom 251 comes powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor which is mated to a gigabyte of RAM. While we weren’t able to test the performance mettle during our brief session with it, the handset was able to navigate screens smoothly and switch between apps without showing much lag. For storage, it comes with 8GB of memory on board, although it’s odd that the demo unit we had offered only 1.7GB space available to the end user. It’s fuelled by a 1,450mAh battery, which seems puny, but then, we can’t really complain at the asking price.

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The cameras also remain the same – a 3.2-megapixel snapper at the back and a VGA shooter at the front for selfies. The camera app seems to be the one available on old Android smartphones, and offers basic options.

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Along with the design, the user interface has received an update in the new Freedom 251. It’s completely customised right from the homescreen to the app icons. While the demo unit didn’t have any apps preinstalled, we believe the retail model will have a lot of titles preloaded, since the company has claimed that they’ll be making some money by allowing app developers to install their apps on the phone.

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Ringing Bells seem to have a long way from the first showcase of the Freedom 251 back in February. It has tried its best to silent its critics (including us) who believe that world’s cheapest smartphone would turn out to be a vapourware. If its yesterday’s launches – the HD LED TV for less than Rs 10,000 and a range of feature phones and smartphones are anything to go by, then the company seems to have grown too fast in a short span of time.

However, call us cynical, but we still don’t have our hopes high with the device that brought the company to the fore. Ringing Bells has received more than 7 crore registrations for the Freedom 251, and it claims that it has 2 lakh units ready to be shipped. But it has already postponed the shipment of first 5,000 phones quite a few times, and the rest of the units (1,95,000) would be sent to registered users via a lucky draw. Additionally, it’s now seeking an investment of Rs 50,000 crore from the government of India to ensure the timely delivery of the Freedom 251.

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Whatever happens, one thing is for sure – the Freedom 251 saga is far from over, and whether it would go down in the annals of history as a big hit or a well-planned scam, only time will tell. We will surely keep you posted about all the updates, so stay tuned.
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