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Can Local Companies Come Up With A $4 Smartphone?


A one-off marketing trick

We told you about Ringing Bells Freedom 251 smartphone, that quad-core processor, 1GB RAM-packing device being sold in India for a measly Rs 251, or just Php 170 bucks. Just like you, we’re scratching our heads at just how the company can sell the smartphone at that ridiculous price, and more importantly, if the same can be done by local brands like Cherry Mobile, MyPhone and Star Mobile.

Components that make up a smartphone
Components that make up a smartphone

Well, according to Tech In Asia, the company relies on the many tax cuts that the Indian government is throwing their way for the components of the device and indigenous labor for cheaper manufacturing costs. The company is also relying on selling the phone via the internet and not through traditional channels, and since the phone is part of India’s Make-in-India initiative, the company will also be enjoying further tax reductions from the government. The rest of the cost is expected to be recouped from the economies of scale.


Which is good, since the bill of materials (BOM) for the phone is quite extensive. While the company hasn’t officially made the BOM for the device public, sources from other local brands here in the PH that are familiar with the way manufacturing works paints a very expensive picture. The memory module alone is already $4, while the processor is around $11. The total estimated BOM for the phone is around $35 or Php 1600. This just covers the manufacturing of the device itself and doesn’t take account marketing or support costs. Our source tells us that you can’t even do a $4 featurephone and make a profit, let alone an Android smartphone. To put it simply, Ringing Bells is taking a loss every time it sells a Freedom 251.

Obviously we’re not going to see a device like this, priced that low in the PH anytime soon, but ultra-affordable Android devices are starting to pop up, thanks to subsidies from telcos. Because of the economies of scale and reduced prices of aging hardware, we can probably expect phones that have similar specs to the Freedom 251 to come in the PH with sub Php 800 pricetags, but only if a telcos or other companies are willing to subsidize a huge chunk of the cost.

In other words, that $4 Android smartphone is simply a marketing trick, and won’t be the norm anytime soon.

John Nieves

John is a veteran technology and gadget journalist with more than 10 years of experience both in print and online. When not writing about technology, he frequently gets lost in the boonies playing soldier.


  1. Ringing Bells Freedom 251

    4-inch (960 x 540 pixels) qHD IPS display
    1.3GHz quad-core processor
    1GB RAM, 8GB internal memory, expandable memory up to 32GB with microSD
    Android 5.1 (Lollipop)
    Dual SIM
    3.2MP rear camera with LED flash
    0.3MP front-facing camera
    3G,WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth, GPS
    1450mAh battery

    sana naman may magdala nito dito kahit 250php lang ok na ahahah 1k for 4pcs. na saan kapa…


  2. Yeah,… No. That phone’s a complete and utter SCAM! And that’s a sentiment shared by many Indian tech bloggers AND politicians.

    “There is no background and experience of the owner… It’s a ponzi company…I think it’s a new scam”, (local politician) BJP MLA said.

    The CLOSEST financially feasible option is what Smart and myPhone are doing with their 888PHP smartphone, that makes a hell of a lot more sense than this scam.

  3. kaya yan dito sa pinas malapit na ang eleksyon walang imposible para sa mga kandidato.. tanongin natin si boy kohol este binay baka libre pa

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