An Indian company has launched what is being described as the world's cheapest smartphone, priced at less than $4.

Ringing Bells, a little-known manufacturer based in the northern Uttar Pradesh state, started selling the Freedom 251 on its website on Thursday. 

The phone was unveiled a day ahead of the launch and is being sold for 251 rupees ($3.66) - a price that sceptics said was far lower than what its components would cost.

Overwhelming demand caused Ring of Bells' website to crash hours after the phone went on sale, but it was back up and running on Thursday evening.

The company, based in the Delhi satellite city of Noida, was set up only last year and the launch event for the new phone on Wednesday night was attended by a senior leader from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party.

Company president Ashok Kumar Chadha said the Android smartphone would have pre-installed apps that tie into Modi initiatives such as "Make in India" and "Clean India".

The company currently imports the parts of Freedom 251 from Taiwan and assembles them in India.

The phone comes with a 10cm display and is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor and 1GB of RAM. It comes with an in-built storage of 8GB which can further be expanded up to 32GB with a microSD card.


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Freedom 251 runs on Lolipop Android 5.1 and is equipped with a 3.2-megapixel rear camera, a 0.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 3G support, wi-fi connectivity and a 1450mAh battery.

Despite the low cost, Ringing Bells claims to have received no subsidies from the government. The smartphone will be available only online initially, which will help the firm to cut costs and maintain the price.

Customers will also get several apps pre-installed in the phone including Women Safety, Swachh Bharat or Clean India, Fisherman, Farmer, Medical, Google Play, WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube.

According to a report by research firm International Data Corporation, in 2015 the Indian smartphone market grew at 28.8 percent to 103.6 million units, positioning itself as one of the fastest-growing smartphone markets in the region.

Source: Agencies