The much-hyped launch of the world’s cheapest “Made in India” smartphone was thrown into disarray on Thursday as a mad rush to book the Rs.251 (less than $4) device caused the firm’s website to crash within hours of opening up for pre-orders.
Besides utter chaos at the company’s Noida-based head office, there were also reports of copyright infringements.
Now mired in controversy for the alleged copying of Apple iPhone icon design and appearance, nearly six lakh hits per second left Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. with no option but to shut the online pre-booking offer within hours of opening the registration — with a promise to reinstate the booking within 24 hours.
Despite several tries during the day to place an order for a smartphone on www.freedom251.com, the payment gateway remained elusive for people and the website finally went down.
A visit to the company’s head office by IANS in Noida to get a first-hand experience of the situation was not very encouraging either. The scene at the head office was somewhat chaotic as a crowd of nearly 100 people, including locals, was screaming to be given the Rs.251 smartphone. Some even offered to pay double the money for booking one.
Company officials did not come out and the access points were locked from inside. Despite several attempts, no access was allowed to any company official. Hundreds of people crowding in front of the office were angry for not being able to get their hands on the cheap handset.
“The smartphone is for farmers and fishermen but how can they expect them to register online? Neither of us has internet access nor we know how to operate a computer. We cannot order it online so we are here for a unit or two,” a local resident, Vikas Kumar, told IANS.
Another local resident, Kishen Singh, said he was willing to pay double the announced price for the smartphone but complained that no one from the company was paying any heed to him.
Earlier, the photos of the smartphone in newspaper advertisements released by the firm showed that all the icons of the built-in app were almost a replica of Apple’s iOS icons.
According to the information available on Apple website, “You may not use the Apple Logo or any other Apple-owned graphic symbol, logo, or icon on or in connection with web sites, products, packaging, manuals, promotional/advertising materials, or for any other purpose except pursuant to an express written trademark license from Apple, such as a reseller agreement.”
Several attempts to speak to senior Ringing Bell executives on this controversy went in vain.
The company’s website crashed early in the morning as lakhs of people tried to log in from 6 a.m. onwards. “Dear friends, we are very grateful for your enormous response and your kind patronage and would submit that as of now we receive approx 6 lakh hits per second, as a result of which due to your kind overwhelming response servers are overloaded,” Ringing Bells flashed a message on www.freedom251.com.
“We humbly submit that we are, therefore, taking a pause and upgrading the service and will revert within or before 24 hours,” the message read.
Taking the world by surprise, the firm on Wednesday launched “Freedom 251” smartphone, priced at Rs.251, that, it said, had been developed “with immense support” from the government.
“Freedom 251” claims to have an Android 5.1 operating system, a 4-inch qHD IPS display, a 3.2-megapixel primary and a 0.3-megapixel front camera. The device also claims to have 3G connectivity, 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory and supports external memory cards of up to 32GB. To power “Freedom 251”, the company has put a 1,450mAh battery and claims to have a service network of 650 centres across India.
The smartphone would come with pre-installed apps like Swachh Bharat, Women Safety, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, among others, the company had said, informing buyers that pre-order for the phones would be booked on the company website from 6 a.m. on February 18 till 8 p.m. on February 21.
The company is also charging a shipping charge of Rs.40 and claims that the smartphone will be delivered by June 30 from the date of booking.
The smartphone was unveiled at Nehru Park here by veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi on Wednesday. The company had also claimed in its invitation for journalists that Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar would be present for the launch. However, Parrikar was not present at the event.