Chinese retailers believe the device being sold in India as the world’s cheapest smartphone is a knock-off of an older version of the iPhone that was made in China but is no longer popular or readily available here.
The Freedom 251 phone, which has created a buzz with its price of just Rs 251, appeared to be the iPhone knock-off that was readily available across China, according to retailers at Zhongguancun in Beijing, one of the country’s largest electronics markets.
A similar phone is still available on the Chinese online retail platform Taobao.
Retailers described the phone as a “Shanzhai (fake) iPhone”.
Hindustan Times visited more than two dozen electronics retail shops in Zhongguancun and showed photographs of the Rs 251 phone. Every retailer easily recognised the phone, identifying it as a locally made version of the iPhone that was popular some years ago.
“I know this phone. But no longer available now. There are companies in Shenzhen (in southern China) where they probably still make these phones,” said David, a shop salesman.
Most retailers said they were willing to take bulk orders to make the same phone and pass them on to factories in Shenzhen. “At least 10,000 to 15,000 phones to start with,” said one shop owner.
Most shop owners were shocked to learn that the phone is being sold for Rs 251 in India, equivalent to 25 RMB or a cup of coffee at a Starbucks in China.
“Impossible. You cannot even get a cover for a mobile phone here for that price,” said one retailer.
Ashok Chadha, president at Ringing Bells, the company behind the cheap smartphone, dismissed reports that the device was a iPhone knock-off.
“We have not copied the design or any other part of a mobile made in China to launch Freedom 251. Our phone will be manufactured in India with most of the indigenous ingredients. Every phone has to be unique and we do not need to copy anything from China,” Chadha told Hindustan Times.