The $7 smartphone that will change lives in India

An Indian woman

Indian smartphone firm Ringing Bells is to launch a new handset tomorrow that will cost just $7. The device will make it easier than ever for people to get online, lowering the entry barrier to a new level of affordability.

The Freedom 251 will be accompanied by a price tag of under Rs. 500, around $7, as NDTV reports. For Indian people living on a very low income and unable to come close to affording a pricier smartphone, the device could prove to be a game changer.

Ringing Bells hasn’t revealed much about the phone yet and is waiting to release full details tomorrow. The specifications are clearly going to be on the low side but it will be interesting to see what components $7 can buy.

The project is part of the Indian government’s “Make In India” initiative to connect more people to the Internet with low-cost hardware. The company said in a media invite that the government has provided “immense support” to make the phone a reality.

“The phone will be popularly priced at under Rs. 500 and the launch stands as a true testimony of success of the latest initiatives taken by the Government of India,” Ringing Bells said.

The launch will be attended by several key government figures. Shri Manohar Parrikkar, Union Minister of Defence, and Shri Murali Manohar Joshi, Hon’ble Member of Parliament, will unveil the device tomorrow with Ringing Bells.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to give an entry-level low-end device such a fanfare, the event will draw attention to the growing digital revolution in India. The government has repetitively expressed a desire to get the population online and is now undercutting budget smartphone brands in China with its own home-grown hardware. The Freedom 251 isn’t the first project it has endorsed or sponsored either.

In 2011, India’s government extensively promoted the Aakash tablet computer, otherwise known as the Datawind Ubislate. It aimed to provide students in the country with low-cost access to the Internet to help them in their studies. The tablet was priced at only Rs. 3000, around $45, a cost that fell further as the device aged.

Last year, Datawind pledged to launch the world’s cheapest smartphone in India, claiming it would cost Rs. 999. The device hasn’t yet made an appearance though, and the manufacturer is now going to lose its chance as the Freedom 251 undercuts it on cost by around 50 percent.

Earlier this week, Ringing Bells launched the Smart 101 4G smartphone for Rs. 3000 (about $45), including a 5-inch 480p display, 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Given the cost, the hardware is quite respectable, indicating it can be reduced to the $7-levels required for the Freedom 251. Full specifications will become available tomorrow after the phone’s high-profile launch.


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